Twelve M-109A5 howitzers were delivered to Punta Arenas in Southern Chile Dec. 8 as part of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command’s foreign military sales program.
Declared excess defense articles, the howitzers proved a win-win for both the Chilean army and the United States. EDA are equipment that are excess to Army requirements or no longer part of the Army inventory and have been designated available to approved international partners through the FMS process.
Using the FMS process to divest the U.S. of these items has numerous benefits — building partner capacity in a low-cost and effective manner; saving on potential storage and demilitarization costs; and offering opportunities for modernization, repair, renewal, and refurbishment work of EDA and FMS by public-private partnerships at U.S. depots.
“As our Army gets smaller, we have high-quality, serviceable equipment that we no longer need, so we are able to offer some of these items to our partner nations as an EDA grant or at a reduced price,” said Col. Steve Smith, director of SOUTHCOM regional operations at USASAC. “This helps our partners fill a significant capability gap while providing us numerous benefits that include interoperability with U.S. systems and the creation of American jobs through the refurbishment process.”
Smith said the Chilean Army’s recent howitzer purchase was a major upgrade for their land forces and one of many steps they’ve taken over the last five years to modernize their military. He said the howitzers will be fielded to a brigade, drastically extending their army’s artillery range.
Smith called the interoperability advantage invaluable, noting that two armies working with the same equipment is critical during both peace time and war.
“If we ever needed them to assist us, or if we became part of a coalition, we know that the equipment is interchangeable, resulting in fewer repair parts we’d have to have on the battlefield; we both have Soldiers who know how to use that equipment; and we can join with them to conduct artillery shoots and other training.”
USASAC Southern Command Program Manager Lenard Dotson said the December delivery was the second batch of 12 howitzers delivered to the Chilean Army under FMS, bringing the total number of the U.S.-provided combat support weapons systems to 24. He said the case was historic because it was the Chilean Army’s first major FMS case with the United States. As part of the FMS process’s total package approach, USASAC also provided training and coordinated the delivery of spare parts for the howitzers.
“This purchase really opened the door for future FMS business between the Chilean Army and the U.S. government,” said Dotson, “but more importantly, it provides the camaraderie and trust that we and our global partners rely on to accomplish missions.”
Dotson and Smith will travel to Chile in the spring to witness a live-fire demonstration hosted by the Chilean army. The live-fire will give Chile’s senior military leaders a firsthand glimpse at the unit’s proficiency with the new equipment.
The live-fire demonstration will follow a senior leader engagement conducted late last year. USASAC Commander Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald met with military and government officials in the South American coastal nation.
“This is a great example of what makes USASAC successful,” said Dotson. “From the very beginning to the end of a case–from the point when our military leadership is building relationships abroad, and we receive requests for equipment or services from our allies, to the point where we’re negotiating a contract, delivering items and following up to ensure outstanding customer service.
“There’s a high level of trust generated when our allies see how dedicated we are to partnering with them and helping them grow their capabilities,” said Dotson. “What we do is centered on trust and partnership. And we’ve got a pretty good model.”
USASAC, known as the Army’s Face to the World, boasts more than 4,650 foreign military sales cases with a combined program value of more than $142 billion dollars. With support from AMC, DoD agencies and U.S. industry, the command provides materiel, training, education and other services to help 145 friendly countries and multinational organizations strengthen their defensive capabilities, deter aggression, achieve regional stability, and promote democratic values.