Brigadier General Hernán Araya Santis is in his third year as director of Research and Projects for the Chilean Army. The reason may be because of his academic background. Brig. Gen. Araya holds a bachelor’s degree in Military Engineering Sciences from the Military Polytechnic Academy; a master’s degree in Weapons and Vehicle Systems from Cranfield University, United Kingdom, and a master’s degree in Military Sciences with a special mention in preparation, evaluation, and management of private, corporate, and defense projects from the Chilean Army Military Polytechnic Academy. Diálogo visited Gen. Araya in his office in Santiago to discuss current and future projects, especially those being developed by the Chilean Army in conjunction with the U.S. Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM).
Diálogo: What is the main function of the Chilean Army Research and Projects Directorate?
Brigadier General Hernán Araya Santis: The Research and Projects Directorate is an organization within the Army General Staff, whose main function is to advise the commander in chief through the Army’s chief of General Staff in two main areas: the implementation of military capacities through projects and second, coordinating research and development applied towards new military capacities to be incorporated by the Land Force.
Diálogo: What is your biggest challenge as director of Research and Projects for the Chilean Army?
Brig. Gen. Araya: Basically, there is the challenge of planning and coordination to make sure the executive bodies carry out their specific functions. For example, in this organization, all planning is geared towards implementing a military capacity, a weapons system in the Army. There is another body that executes that system’s implementation into the Army. That is, the project is formulated in this organization and implemented in another. The same thing happens with respect to research. Directives are generated in this organization and guidelines and schedules are given so that the research centers, which do not answer to this directorate, can conduct the studies or the research that the Army is interested in, to contribute to a certain system in particular that exists already or that they want to implement in the Army.
Diálogo: Can you tell us about some projects that are currently being developed?
Brig. Gen. Araya: There are several projects. In general, there are communication projects, command-and-control projects, and electronic warfare projects. Other projects are related to equipping soldiers, equipping medical facilities, clinics, and also modular hospitals that are deployed in the field. Basically, this is what is being worked on right now in this directorate, in planning projects that should be forthcoming in the near future. We are also working to implement virtual shooting ranges and also combat shooting ranges in training centers within the Land Force. Also, there are some other initiatives that have to do with infrastructure, construction of military barracks in remote areas of the country, especially in our nation’s southern zone.
Diálogo: Do you have any contact with other armies in the region to develop joint projects?
Brig. Gen. Araya: In terms of sharing facilities, sharing knowledge or experience of use, there is a lot of contact with Argentina through a United Nations standby force called Southern Cross, which is a joint combined brigade-level force, in which there are capacities that are shared between the two armies.
Diálogo: What about the United States?
Brig. Gen. Araya: I would say that is one of the countries where there is the most exchange in research, education, and training, including in the area of medicine. For example, people have come from U.S. Southern Command to give classes on trauma for doctors and combat nurses. There is a lot of assistance and support provided by SOUTHCOM to Chile in the area of medicine. The training is conducted in the School of Services, where combat nurses are trained in the Chilean Army, and where we expect to make progress in the area of medical training simulation with the U.S. Army’s RDECOM.
Diálogo: The Chilean Armed Forces are very involved with humanitarian aid, especially when there is a disaster in the country and also in neighboring countries. You are developing something in this area, especially because you have been through a lot in these past few years with earthquakes, tsunamis...
Brig. Gen. Araya: Yes. Everyone knows Chile has always been subject to the harshness of nature, I would say in every area. In Chile, we have all kinds of natural disasters. The land movements, heavy rainfall, snow, floods, avalanches, fires – such as the ones we had just now in the country in January and February – tsunamis, etc. The truth is that we have a bit of everything, and in effect, the Army, as a permanent institution in Chile and under the Ministry of Defense, works in aid of the population, of our compatriots, cooperating when an emergency is declared and also in some later stages. The Army has the capacity to provide assistance during emergencies and/or disasters through the Combined Arms Units, which are spread throughout Chile. For example, there are health care posts that are deployed with the unit’s resources, with personnel, doctors, nurses, and all their medical items. Our systems are versatile, providing care to military forces where they are deployed and also to the civilian population during an emergency. They work in close coordination with the Health Ministry to anticipate disasters and get their resources ready before they occur. They also work closely with the National Office for Emergency (ONEMI, per its Spanish acronym), which is the government body that directs and coordinates all the related entities when they are faced with a disaster. This work is permanent, with coordination, training, and support for decision making, and later in the use of resources. With respect to that, in terms of humanitarian aid, the Army is readying medical and engineering resources, as the Chilean president announced at a United Nations forum a year and a half ago, to be deployed under a United Nations command in Africa. The specific place and date haven’t been defined yet but it may be after 2018, as part of the country’s contribution to global security through the United Nations.
Diálogo: Is the Directorate of Research and Projects exclusive to the Army or do the other military branches have something similar?
Brig. Gen. Araya: Every defense institution has an organ that directs the implementation of naval or air capabilities, as is the case with the Navy and the Air Force. They are not exactly the same, but they are similar. They are concerned with doing studies to implement new capacities. On the other hand, in the specific area of research studies to support the implementation of capacities related to the United States, the Armed Forces have a permanent place for information exchange. We see this at the joint level during the periodic meetings of the Subcommittee on Science and Technology, a body functioning under the bilateral defense meetings between the U.S. Department of Defense and the Chilean Ministry of National Defense. Both in this subcommittee and at the institutional level, the Chilean Army has a relationship with its U.S. counterpart, specifically with the U.S. Army’s RDECOM. We have been working in several areas, with an increased focus during the past four or five years and with a very good outlook in the near future. This is because the two countries, the United States and Chile, have created agreements that allow these good intentions to be implemented. It has already been more than 10 years that there have been agreements between the U.S. Department of Defense and the Chilean National Ministry of Defense, such as the agreement for the exchange of engineers and scientists between the two countries, known as ESEP. In this area, the Chilean Army has generated more exchange with its U.S. counterpart. In fact, we have received five professionals from the U.S. Army to date. Up to now, three military polytechnic engineers have gone to RDECOM to work in three research centers: ARL, CERDEC, and ATSD. We are eager to send a fourth in 2017, ideally to TARDEC. There is also a Master Agreement, which allows the exchange of information between research and development centers. To date, the Army has implemented two information-exchange agreements and is reviewing another two annexes. Finally, very recently, Chile became a party to the most significant agreement in the defense sphere, the Research, Development, Test and Evaluation agreement (RDT&E), signed in October 2016 by the U.S. Secretary of Defense and the Chilean National Minister of Defense. This important agreement will allow for the creation of information exchanges not only in specific areas, but it will allow conversations that have been started to move to the next level, which is to create joint research projects that allow for development in a specific area between two armies, such as bolstering the area of medical simulation, constructive simulation, and virtual training systems, among others.