By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Jan. 30, 2006) -- The delivery of two new F-16 Peace Puma aircraft from the United States to Chile Jan. 24 kicks off a promising era of interoperability between the two nations.
Over the next 10 months, the Chilean air force will receive eight additional F-16 C and D model aircraft from the contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. The 10 aircraft sale, munitions and maintenance -- all part of the "Peace Puma" program -- is worth $547 million.
The Air Force worked with the Chilean government, the Chilean air force and the defense contractor to broker the aircraft sale as the latest improvement in the long-term relationship between the two nations' air forces, said Bruce S. Lemkin, Air Force deputy undersecretary for international affairs.
Included in the purchase are joint direct attack munitions, or JDAMs, AIM-9 heat-seeking missiles, and advanced medium range air-to-air missiles, or AMRAAMs.
The Air Force will conduct F-16 flying training with Chilean pilots. In addition, "train-the-trainer" instruction will enable the Chileans to train their own pilots. The Air Force and contractor will also provide maintenance training, Mr. Lemkin said.
"These are state-of-the-art aircraft and will provide great capability for Chile, and will also provide interoperability with us. These are the same airplanes the U.S. Air Force flies," he said. "These F-16s will become the centerpiece of a 30-year or more relationship between the U.S. Air Force and the Chilean air force."
The long-term relationship comes not only from operating common hardware, but also from the experiences of Airmen working together throughout their careers, Mr. Lemkin said.
"We will be training together, operating together, flying together and learning from one another," Mr. Lemkin said. "There is no substitute for the relationship that results when a captain from the Chilean air force is in F-16 training with a captain from the U.S. Air Force, and 20 years later they are both generals. That becomes the most essential element of an air force to air force relationship -- the human element."