New Chilean Army Special Operations Command Put to the Test

New Chilean Army Special Operations Command Put to the Test

By Guillermo Saavedra/Diálogo
August 06, 2021

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In late June and early July, the Chilean Army carried out Exercise Teifún 2021 to monitor the integration capabilities of its special brigades that make up the institution’s new Special Operations Command (COPE, in Spanish). The 12-day exercise took place with participation from 400 COPE personnel, as well as a group of the Chilean Navy’s Special Forces Command and Chilean Air Force assets.

The exercise consisted of a simulated contingency operation in an adversary country, “where the U.N. had committed to peace enforcement and [the parties] were not complying,” Chilean Army Lieutenant Colonel Patricio Villaroel, communications officer for the Special Operations Brigade, told Diálogo.

Faced with this scenario, authorities summoned a multinational force consisting of Chilean Army special forces and intelligence components, whose mission was to infiltrate the area, set up a command control center, and quickly regain control of the situation, putting an end to the internal conflicts that threatened the country.

COPE units observe the ground from an AS532 Cougar helicopter during Exercise Teifún 2021, a simulated exercise the Chilean Army conducted in the Metropolitan region, in late June. (Photo: Chilean Army)

“This was a great experience […]. With Teifún 2021, we were able to appreciate how our special forces are beginning to advance with intelligence capabilities, enabling us to give added value to the Special Operations Command: It is a synergy,” Chilean Army Colonel Raúl Rosas, chief of the Intelligence Department at COPE’s headquarters, told Diálogo.

COPE began operating in December 2020, bringing together all of the Army’s special forces units — the Lautaro Special Operations Brigade, the Army Aviation Brigade, and the Intelligence Brigade — under a single command. With the creation of COPE, the Army seeks to strengthen interoperability among the brigades that integrate it and to project a functional, more efficient, and highly qualified Army able to deploy in traditional military operations, as well as to provide humanitarian support and disaster response.

In an interview with the Army magazine Armas y Servicios, Chilean Army Major General Carlos Castillo Villarroel, COPE commander, explained the advantages of the command’s creation. “It is a qualitative leap for special operations in [terms of] employment, doctrine, and culture, because separately each one sees their own space; but in an integrated way, substantial improvements occur regarding the use of means and greater efficiency in the use of resources,” the officer said.

“With COPE, the Chilean Army is betting on two things. First, on achieving greater efficiency in joint operations from a tactical point of view, coordinating different Army units in terms of command and control, communications, and intelligence. Second, on using all of its differential logistics capability to be able to operate in combined operations with forces from other countries,” Guillermo Holzmann, Chilean defense analyst and professor at the University of Valparaíso’s School of Economics and Administration, told Diálogo.

Concerning training, Maj. Gen. Castillo pointed out that it seeks to ensure that brigades and their members know each other and work in a synchronized way, so that “when there is a real operation, both in times of peace and war, there is a close mutual understanding among all those involved in the operation […].”

Exercise Teifún, COPE’s first field exercise, served as a preparation for a more complex exercise coming up in October, Col. Rosas said.

“Training is essential,” Maj. Gen. Castillo told Armas y Servicios.