Chile Purchases Vehicles to Expedite Disaster Response
By Carolina Contreras/Diálogo May 15, 2017The Chilean Army performed the largest overhaul of its field vehicle fleet by adding 313 new and modern multipurpose trucks with a service life of 15 to 20 years. The vehicles will be used to improve response capabilities during natural disasters and to deploy aid in peacekeeping operations outside of Chile. “The possibility of unforeseen events is constant. In light of that fact, the only serious response is to improve and refine the capacity of our institutions to react,” President Michelle Bachelet said on March 10th during the official presentation ceremony for the vehicles. She highlighted this investment as “necessary for the Chilean Army, not only for its defense duties but also to lend support in situations that impact the country.” “[With our old vehicles], we were having problems with reliability, availability, obsolete technology, and properly deploying our land forces,” Lieutenant Colonel Raúl Rosas, Army communications section chief, told Diálogo. These new transport vehicles, which represent an investment of $79 million, are part of projects Alfil and Cahuelmó, and were built to replace field vehicles at all of the Chilean Army’s combined arms units in service for 25 to 30 years. In fact, it was the president who made both projects a top priority in March 2015 following the flood that impacted the Atacama region in northern Chile. During a visit to the area, she witnessed the Armed Force’s work on the ground and “saw that our vehicles were not fulfilling their purposes as they should,” Colonel Claudio Orellana, from the Chilean Army Projects and Research Department for Project Alfil, told Diálogo. The other project, Cahuelmó, has been up and running since the earthquake that rocked the country in 2010. This project also included the purchase of machinery and tactical vehicles for Army Corps of Engineers battalions. “This is the most important overhaul in recent years, equivalent to 15 percent of the Army’s nationwide fleet,” said Col. Orellana. Multipurpose resources The 313 field vehicles were chosen for their operational capabilities to transport cargo and personnel, and to gather resources and take them to secure zones. They were tested in complex geographical environments such as in the high Andean plateau in the north and deep south of Chile. Project Alfil acquired 278 state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz trucks: 138 UNIMOG 4000s, 134 ATEGO N1023 4Ks, and six ZETROS 1833s with low, medium, and high tonnage, respectively. The 6x6 trucks have all-wheel drive, reduced traction, and locking differential systems – properties that allow the vehicles to grip surfaces and give it a high level of independent cargo stability. They can travel over snowy, flooded, and rocky terrain and are equipped with the emissions technology required by today’s international market for the type of fuel they use. Meanwhile, Project Cahuelmó finalized the purchase of 35 Mercedes-Benz trucks, between Actros 2632 6x6 dump trucks, Actros 3344 for transporting machinery, and off-road Zetros 1833s, as well as the procurement of 154 vehicles for engineering work such as bulldozers, excavators, front-end loaders, graders, 4x4 backhoe loaders, vibrating rollers, forklifts, crushers, and compressors with pneumatic tools. These machines are used for road building and/or replacing roads and bridges, among other operations carried out by Army Engineering Battalions throughout the country. With these new acquisitions, “the Army has incorporated a new multipurpose dimension into its investments and its overhaul of this equipment,” Col. Orellana said, since it will now be able to properly complete missions in its three strategic areas (defense, security and international cooperation, and Army and society). “We can develop, train, and maintain our land forces with a range of capabilities for efficiently carrying out military operations other than warfare,” Lt. Col. Rosas stressed. During the month of April, the military personnel in charge of operating and maintaining these new trucks received theory-based and hands-on training. Once this phase was completed, the vehicles were released for use. It should be noted that these new vehicles are from the same manufacturer as the old, decommissioned vehicles, which gives continuity to the maintenance, training, and capacity-building processes already mastered by military personnel. Units benefited Currently, all of the vehicles are available in the Army’s 34 combined arms units deployed from Arica, in the north, to Isla Grande in Tierra del Fuego, in the south. The number of trucks assigned to each unit was based on a prior analysis of the specific characteristics of their areas of use. Thus, for example, the Army Artillery School in Region VII had 15 of its tactical 4x4 vehicles replaced. In accordance with Army regulations, the retired vehicles are removed with all of their equipment by the Chilean Army in order to be demilitarized. They are then sent to public auction. Proceeds from the sale are used for maintaining the new vehicles. The Army has readied all of its 2017 annual training plans for its professional troops and conscripted soldiers, and the new trucks stand ready for these training activities at the Army’s various units. “We have modern and reliable equipment that affords Chile security,” Col. Orellana concluded.