Budget Diverted to Pandemic Mitigation Programmes
Despite US approval of the Chilean request for an upgrade and modernisation programme for its F-16 fleet (see MON report as recently as 29 July), a government minister has now publicly denied the project.
Finance Minister Ignacio Briones used Twitter to announce “I deny information on spending of US$600 million for the improvement of F-16 aircraft. The Ministry of Finance has not approved such spending, which was suspended months ago,” adding that in April a law was promulgated postponing the contribution of $936 million (€792 million) to the armed forces’ Strategic Contingency Fund. “Today the spending priorities are in Covid,” he stated categorically.
Undersecretary of Defence, Cristian de La Maza, also came out to give statements in which he pointed out that, although the Chilean Air Force F-16 modernisation project had been technically approved since 2012 and was awaiting allocation of budget, a decision was mafe in early 2020 to postpone the due to the health emergency and the need to prioritise state resources in other more urgent areas. He also explained that the costs indicated in the statement from the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) are reference data and are higher than those considered by the MoD project, which incorporated phased and partial payments over a period of more than nine years.
The modernisation programme would include at least 24 line items, according to a statement released by the DSCA. Among them are 19 Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS); 44 LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS (EGI) integrated navigation systems; 49 Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radios (MIDS JTRS); plus new IFF, joint mission planning systems, ARC-238 radios, new radar altimeters, weapon support and maintenance components, components for bombs, software modernization and various test and integration equipment.
The first F-16s arrived in Chile over 14 years ago and the Air Force plans to keep the type in service well into the 2030s – modernisation of the fleet is therefre an important step in keeping the capability current and relevant. Chile’s current economic plight, however, will impose a delay on the plan.
Santiago Rivas and Florencia Lucero Heguy in Buenos Aires for MON