The strategic importance of the aviation of the Chilean army in Magallanes and the Antarctic (with photo gallery)

The Army Aviation Platoon N5 Punta Arenas, founded on April 13, 1982, is a unit of the V-Division that supports this combined arms unit and advises on aviation. Recall that Army Aviation has been the cradle of military aviation in Chile since it was born in 1913, interrupting its functions like naval aviation in 1930 and creating the air force. Due to its own institutional aviation needs, it was finally reactivated from 1970 and until now has established the Army Aviation Brigade (BAVE) based at La Independencia airfield in the city of Rancagua in the OHiggins region.

The BAVE is a combined arms unit that depends on the land operations command and provides precise air support to the land forces with their rotating and fixed wings that are effectively and efficiently used for deterrence. It was also used in the areas of security and operations international cooperation (East Timor and Haiti) as well as in various emergencies at national level, which is a mobile operating system with clear availability and which is operated jointly or operationally with other units such as It is the Special Operations Brigade independent with objectives of tactical to strategic importance, which above all ensure national sovereignty, the preservation of territorial integrity and the protection of the civilian population, essential principles of the army from Chile.

The Aviation Brigade has deployed the Army Aviation Platoons in each of the divisions across the state to provide air support to these Combined Arms Units so that the institutional employment areas are strictly adhered to as they are. Defense, international cooperation, national emergencies and disaster control, contribution to national development and government action, and finally to security and territorial interests. In this context, there is the N5 Aviation Platoon in the city of Punta Arenas, which plays a strategic role as it provides air support for the V division in four of the five areas of activity of the Chilean army.

This unit currently owns a CASA 212 Series 300 aircraft, a medium-haul aircraft manufactured in Spain by Airbus Militar.

Its capabilities are typical of a multipurpose aircraft. The STOL properties (short take-off and landing) allow use on regular airfields and unprepared runways for cargo transport, passenger traffic, parachute and / or cargo take-off, aircraft evacuation and finally electronic support with a maximum capacity of 23 passengers or paratroopers (free or military) as well as 12 stretchers that can carry a total of up to 2500 kilos of cargo.

Its cruising speed is 150 knots (270 km / h). With an autonomy of 06 flying hours, it can be used in the entire Magellan region from the southern ice field to Cape Hornos and covers the 132,300 square kilometers of the land and sea surface of the continental region in flight.

To these tactical capabilities it must be added that since 2015 Army Aviation has started a process of electronic modernization of the cabins of its fixed-wing aircraft, starting with the CASA 235 (Nurtaneo) aircraft, followed by the Cessna 208 (Gran Caravan) and culminating in the CASA 212 line, which the aircraft belonged to in flight in Punta Arenas today.

The cabin upgrade was a qualitative and quantitative advance in terms of visual flight skills, but especially in terms of flight procedures under instrument conditions, or IFR, as the equipment that the CASA 212 Series 300 aircraft now possesses gives you status. state-of-the-art technology for this type of process in aviation, making it a sustainable aircraft and extending its useful life by several years.

The modifications to the navigation and communication systems focused on exactly two main pieces of equipment that form the basis of this complex technological revolution in aviation.

The first was the integration of the Garmin Integral Navigation System (GTN-750), which performs the functions of satellite navigation (GNS), the receiver of signals emitted by directional radio beacons and signal receivers for precision landings, as well as a transceiver for aviation communications UHF- Frequencies.

With this equipment, flights can be carried out using the RNAV (Random Navigation) method, an aerial activity in which radio aids are combined with the navigation itself. This is supported by the location of the aircraft, thanks to the satellite integration that is reflected on the screens and a friendlier and safer air operation, even in marginal weather conditions. Added to this are the procedures for arrivals and approaches to runways of the RNAV category, which are much more precise than conventional procedures, with minimum visibility and a much lower cloud cover to ensure arrival on a runway. Any aircraft that has this equipment. In the southern zone, due to the extreme climate, it is not necessary to explain the importance of assistance for air traffic control and arrival on slopes with bad weather.

The old analog navigation instruments were then replaced by the G-600 Txi system (GDU 1060), which are two independent 10.6-inch LCD touchscreens (pilot and copilot) that make up all of the navigation equipment – Time information from the old basic flight instruments, observation of speed, altitude, vertical speed and angles of rotation, including a synthetic view of the terrain, obstacles, airfields, runways, flight paths, cartography, weather radar and position of other aircraft.

The PAVE N5 with its C212 series 300 aircraft, which has been in Magallanes since 1999 (before there was a C212 series 100), was used on its flights throughout the southern zone for the aforementioned institutional actions, starting in the Region of defense, security and territorial interests actively participating in various military operations in the air, mainly in support of instruction and training of special forces, parachute or cargo launches, aero-medical evacuations, logistical supply of units, especially those who are in Tierra del Fuego, like the motorized division of Caupolicn, also cooperates in activities in the field of electronic warfare and in the use of semi-prepared airfields or runways in certain circumstances.

In terms of contributing to national development and government action, the Aeronautical Train has used its funds in support of the Military Work Corps, part of the Army Engineers Command, which is today doing a transcendental work on the construction of the path that will connect the southernmost section of the large island of Tierra del Fuego, from Pampa Guanaco to the Beagle Channel, which from 2025 will enable the arrival of motorized vehicles on Navarino Island with support and crossing by barge, land to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in Chile.

Finally, in the field of national emergencies and civil protection, PAVE N5 has been an important support for heterogeneous events which undoubtedly required the assistance of aircraft with the characteristics of CASA aircraft. For example, the introduction of cargoes (feed and groceries) in much of the region for isolated families in rural areas when the so-called white earthquake struck in 1995. With the arrival of the CASA 212 Series 300, a number of citizens who needed an aero-medical evacuation from Porvenir or, as in the early 2000s, were convicted with a serious accident in the three-hour birth race.

Alluding to the unfortunate and recent disasters, it is inadmissible to evade the essential role of the C212 Series 300 of the PAVE N5 in assisting the search for the C-130 plane that crashed on December 9, 2019, and its Disappeared 38 passengers, in the Drake Pass sector. The Army aircraft was a key element in the logistical support of Puerto Williams, the first search meeting point, a place where fuel was transferred for Naval Aviation aircraft as well as other items of great importance to Air Force helicopters, all of which were used in the Tracking the destroyed aircraft.

Today the scenario is very different from what a strategist could have suspected or planned, with a pandemic, COVID-19 keeping the whole world in check, and with a situation that could collapse social stability to the point that it poses a danger to people’s lives. In this regard, Chile is in an exceptional condition where all armed forces and law enforcement are deployed to help the citizens.

This new emergency clearly demonstrated the importance of having a versatile, flexible air environment in Magallanes with unique capabilities that have been re-used in support of or in conjunction with other government institutions that have also been implemented, combined with flights designed for The V Army Division was essential. With this in mind, maneuvers were carried out ranging from the transfer of personnel in other regions of the country to the transport of logistic elements for the benefit of the region’s own military personnel. Sample transfer flights were also carried out in coordination with the regional health authority.

But undoubtedly the air operations during the pandemic with the transport of relief supplies such as humanitarian aid that have covered the provinces of Tierra del Fuego and Last Esperanza, thus reaching a total of four municipalities that are isolated and at a distance of more than 500 kilometers. Obviously, and with the characteristics of this health emergency, the use of this air medium will be essential in the short and medium term for this southern region and its community.

In summary, Army Aviation is a Combined Arms unit that prepares its resources, supports the armed forces, plans their operations, and operates its aircraft quickly and effectively, thereby emulating each of the essential functions of the Chilean army. Until 2020 the unit was dependent on the V-Division and was integrated from December last year by the Army Aviation Platoon N5 Punta Arenas depending on the Army Aviation Command.

It is a unit that, although smaller, has used its resources to achieve strategic importance and this has resulted in two bitter events in the past few months that have forced it to operate without consideration. in one of the most complex areas to fly in the world, but that a multifunctional aircraft such as a C212 300 series aircraft has been exploited to its maximum performance in order to achieve the goals set in pursuit of duty and, in particular, in securing life of every Chilean living in the Magallanes region and in Chilean Antarctica.

Text and photos of the Circulo Acton Chile.

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