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Air Force


Figure 16. Administrative and Operational Structure of the Air Force, 1993
Source: Based on information from Daniel Prieto Vial, Defensa Chile, 2000, Santiago, 1990, 249.

The world's fourth oldest independent military air arm in existence, the Chilean Air Force (Fuerza Aérea de Chile--FACh) predated its United States counterpart by seventeen years and became the most United States-oriented of the three Chilean Armed Forces. With a total strength of 12,800 personnel and 120 combat aircraft, the FACh is organized into the Combat Command, the Personnel Command, and the Logistical Command. FACh aircraft are deployed among four air brigades with a total of five wings (alas) and twelve groups (grupos de aviación) or squadrons. The Combat Command controls all combat units (see fig. 16). In early 1994, the FACh began studying the replacement of its fleet of thirty-two Hawker Hunter aircraft, of which only ten were operational (see table 45, Appendix).

The Air Brigade (Brigada Aérea) is the main operational formation. Each wing, an administrative unit generally concentrated at a single base wing (ala base), includes an Antiaircraft Artillery Group (Grupo de Artillería Antiaérea--GAA). An antiaircraft artillery regiment in La Colina serves primarily as an administrative headquarters and training school for the five dispersed antiaircraft artillery groups. The First Wing (Ala 1) and Fourth Wing (Ala 4) each also include an Electronics Communications Group (Grupo de Comunicaciones Electrónicas--GCE).

The First Air Brigade, headquartered at the Los Cóndores Air Base, Iquique, covers northern Chile from the Peruvian border to the Río Huasco in southern Atacama Region. It controls both the First Wing--based in Cerro Moreno, Antofagasta, and comprising the Seventh Group (Grupo 7) and Eighth Group (Grupo 8)--and the Fourth Wing, in Los Cóndores, which consists solely of the First Group (Grupo 1). The First Wing includes the Cerro Moreno Liaison Squadron (Escuadrilla de Enlace Cerro Moreno) and GCE 31. The Seventh Group and the Eighth Group are located at Cerro Moreno. The Eighth Group includes inventory that formerly equipped the nowdefunct Ninth Group (Grupo 9). The Fourth Wing includes the Los Cóndores Liaison Squadron (Escuadrilla de Enlace Los Cóndores), GAA 24, and GCE 34. The First Group in Los Cóndores serves as a combined light-strike and combat-training unit. In early 1992, the First Group began replacing its Cessna A-37B Dragonflies with a mix of Enaer/CASA T-36 Halcón trainers, locally built in a joint venture between Spain's Aeronautic Constructions, S.A. (Construciones Aeronáuticas, S.A.--CASA) and Chile's National Aeronautical Enterprise (Empresa Nacional de Aeronáutica--Enaer), and A-36 light-strike aircraft.

The Second Air Brigade, based in Los Cerrillos, Santiago, covers the region southward from the Río Huasco to the Río Bío-Bío and consists of the Second Wing (Ala 2), which combines the Second Group (Grupo 2) with the existing Tenth Group (Grupo 10) and Eleventh Group (Grupo 11). The Second Wing includes GAA 31 and GCE 32. The Second Group in Los Cerrillos is a special unit operating Canberra PR-9s in the Reconnaissance Squadron (Escuadrilla de Reconocimiento) and Beech 99As in the Electronic War Squadron (Escuadrilla de Guerra Electrónica). The Tenth Group, based at Pudahuel Airport, Santiago, is the FACh's main transport unit. The Eleventh Group, in Los Cerrillos, is primarily a refresher training unit for flying personnel previously assigned to nonflying duties. The Second Group's inventory includes the two Gates Learjet 35As of the Aerial Photogrammetric Service (Servicio Aéreo de Fotogrametría--SAF) that are based at Los Cerrillos. The Eleventh Group controls both the Piper PA-28-326 Dakotas of the FACh Specialists' School and the Extra-300s of the "Los Halcones" (The Falcons) aerobatics team.

The Third Air Brigade, headquartered at El Tepual Military Air Base, Puerto Montt, covers the region between the Río Bío-Bío and Cerro San Valentín in southern Aisén Province. It consists of the Fifth Wing (Ala 5) at Puerto Montt, which in turn consists of the recently reactivated Third Group (Grupo 3), a light-strike unit based at Temuco, and the Fifth Group (Grupo 5), a light-transport unit based in Puerto Montt. The Fifth Wing also includes GAA 25 and GCE 35.

The Fourth Air Brigade, based at the Carlos Ibáñez Military Air Base, Punta Arenas, covers the region southward from Cerro San Valentín to Cape Horn. It consists of the Third Wing (Ala 3), which is made up of the Fourth Group, the Sixth Group, and the Twelfth Group, all based at Punta Arenas. The Sixth Group (Grupo 6) is a special operations unit. This brigade also controls the Nineteenth Antarctic Exploration Group, based at Lieutenant Marsh Military Air Base on King George Island in the Chilean Antarctic Territory. The Third Wing, at Chabunco, includes GAA 23 and GCE 33.

Data as of March 1994

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