The Defence Aviation and Space Fair (FIDAE) is today one of the most important military events in Latin America, and one of the biggest in the world. Although the show, as its name implies, initiated as an airshow, it has always been a showplace for all sorts of defence and security systems encompassing air, ground and naval scenarios. Even from its beginnings, the show made space for all sort of military assets. This Chilean fair began during the tenure of general Pinochet, and due to the pariah state status applied in those early days to the country, the event attracted odds and ends lacking in other similar events, transforming it into a most colorful and interesting centerpiece. Pinochet brought about stability and prosperity, transforming the nation to what it is now, a modern, industrious, prosperous and with a well accepted and cemented democracy. The show has continued to host diverse and innovative technologies, which attracts today the most important weapons manufacturers. It was not until a few years back that the show evolved to include space technologies, transforming it into a truly universal military fair.
The exhibit in 2010 was overshadowed by the February earthquake on the 8.2 Richter scale that leveled Conception, the second most important Chilean City, located less than 300 miles away from Santiago, the Capital. Soon after, the resulting tsunami destroyed towns and the most important naval base in the country. The show takes place adjacent to the International Airport and the terminal itself was badly damaged by the catastrophe. Against these odds, the event organizers decided that the country needed to come back to normalcy as soon as possible and the show was approved to go on a few days after the earthquake. It is noted that FIDAE brings into the country a financial boost to the local economy – something now crucial in the recovery.
As consequence of the disaster, there were a number of empty booths at the exhibit with some 30% of companies pulling out from the show. To complicate matters, and due to much equipment needed for logistical support being diverted to attend rescue and assistance missions, material and equipment required for the event was not delivered or arrived late. Nevertheless, the fair is so big and important that it received contribution and support from aviation companies from the U.S., Brazil, European consortiums, and Argentina. In addition, Israel, Russia, China, Turkey and many other important arms producers would assert their willingness to support the event, making FIDAE 2010 a resounding success filling all 7 hangars/pavilions.
Small Arms Showcase
The Chilean Army has been reorganizing its forces, and has established a new Special Operations Brigade, and four Armored Brigades. This has been accomplished with ambitious programs that included the purchase of German Leopard II MBTs, and Marder armored transports, but also in the acquisition of hundreds of M113 and HMMWV to allow for mobility on the battlefield. One of the new projects calls for the acquisition of the future Chilean army assault rifle to equip these new formations. This project will only complement the present arsenal since the Army will be retaining its SIG 7.62mm rifles for fighting in the Andean mountain ranges and other regions where the power and range of such caliber are preferred over the shortcomings of the 5.56mm models. However, some 15,000 new rifles are needed to equip the new armored and special forces formations; the favorite contenders are the proven German HK G36 and U.S. M16A4/M4 models. The Chilean Naval Infantry has already taken the Colt M16/M4 as replacement of the HK33 model.
Colt made its mark at the show with a line of M16 and derivatives, to include the SCW and SCW-P sub-compact weapons. The SCW-P refers to an assault pistol variant. The SCW PDW features a one-piece monolithic upper receiver, with a Colt collapsible folding buttstock. This innovative buttstock provides for an overall extended length of 30.25 inches, reduced to 28 inches when retracted, and 23.5 inches when the stock is folded. The SCW retains a barrel length of 10.3 inches and presents a lightweight compact design for maneuvering in tight spaces, making it the perfect companion for CQB engagements while retaining an overall firepower range of 400 meters. The Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) is another derivative of the M16 present at FIDAE with enhanced features for accuracy, versatility, and reliability. The IAR-6940 has a monolithic upper receiver with Mil-Std-1913 rails at 12, 3, and 9 o’clock positions, along with another rail system in the lower part of the handguard in the 6 o’clock position, allowing the placement of all sorts of combat aid systems and accessories. The IAR weights 9.5 pounds without such devices.
Nearby we found Laser Devices, Inc. displaying accessories, aiming sights, and lasers. Nightline, Inc. presented a number of night vision sights, to include the M914, M983, M973 and many others.
European small arms and infantry weapon industries were represented, among others, by Expal, Dynamit Nobel Defence, SAAB, FN Herstal and Beretta. The Swedish had a full simulator for the RBS-70 Manpad, and demonstrated the use of their superb Carl Gustav and AT-4 antitank weapons. The Chilean military has already incorporated several FN designs and gun mounts, and a number of MAG-58 machine guns were mounted on helicopters, armored vehicles, Humvees and others. The Beretta ARX160 and GLX-160 have the distinction of having been adopted by the Italian Army as a platform within the future soldier program, but it was the RX4 Storm that caught our eyes due to its traditional and yet unusual design. This semiautomatic rifle has been designed for the use of police forces rather than military ones. CZ had a large selection of its successful line of pistols, with most of them derived from their legendary CZ-75. It is noted that the pistol is produced also by FAMAE, and is standard issue to the Chilean military. Even the UK Ministry of Defence had its own stand, displaying a number of interesting items.
Chile entrust the production of most of its infantry weapons, to include SIG 540 and 543, as well as SIG 542, 542-1and 510-4, to the Army Workshops and Factories (FAMAE). This consortium has the mission of adding local value to the natonal defence, devoting resources to the research, innovation and development of weapons for local and international markets. It has three Maintenance Centres that evaluate the cycle and recycle of materials, and provides manufacturing and support to defence. The SAF-FAMAE submachine gun, based in the proven SIG 510 mechanism but chambered to pistol calibers, has become a favorite among police and some military forces. At FIDAE, we were allowed to handle the ergonomically interesting SAF-200. This is a compact free floating barrel, blow-back design, chambered in 9x19mm. In its standard fixed stock and empty, the weapon weights 2.71 kg. The SMG sports a new designed forward handle and rails that allow the incorporation of all sort of devices, such as red dot, flashlights, lasers and others. By comparison, the SAF-FAMAE sports a SIG classical lines, weighs 2.75 kg (empty and fixed stock) and employs basically the same mechanism. The MT CAL 40 is the bigger model chambered to .40 S&W caliber, with a weight of 2.80 kg empty and in the fixed stock variant. FAMAE is claimed as the principal technological platform to satisfy the demands of the Chilean Army.
The South African pavilion always delight with interesting and innovative designs. Neopup presented the Personal Area Weapon (PAW), a mobile, high performance infantry weapon system for the 21st century. This is a stand alone gas operated system, semiautomatic, with a quick reload time. It fires a 20x42Bmm round at a muzzle velocity of 310m/s, and it is fed by a 6-round magazine. The company representative at FIDAE, Craight Magill, tells us that its suppressive effect is not degraded with range. This is a very compact weapon with a barrel length of 375mm, weighing 6 kg unloaded, and equipped with Picattiny rails side by side to accommodate red dot, scopes or NVG systems. The PAW delivers PRAC/HEI/SAPHEI and APC rounds to a maximum range of 1,000 meters. This 20mm ammunition weighs 110g, having a case length of 42mm, and round length of 105mm. To our concerns over the potential recoil forces from firing a cannon caliber from such a basically light and portable weapon, Magill tells us that the weapon’s unique architecture accommodates an effective recoil mitigating system in an extremely compact envelope. It was demonstrated to us how the forward part of the weapon recoils back after each shot, and in effect the stock absorbs much of the blow back force after each shot.
The Israeli stand always has a strong presence in FIDAE, and 2010 was no exception, with all sorts of high tech items on display, to include the ORCWS turret, which will be incorporated into the new Guarani APC being developed in Brazil. Sol Oilicki, from Israel Weapons Industries (IWI) Ltd. handled for us the 9mm X95 SMG. This is an ergonomic design of the TAVOR, part of the future generation of firearms for use with Special Forces that comes either in 9mm or 5.56mm. Oilicki also demonstrated for us the Mini-Uzi, but as a reservist for the Israeli Defence Forces, she carries the TAR-21, and at FIDAE we explored the CTAR, STAR, and GTAR 21 variants. This successful bullpup design has already been incorporated in America by the Guatemalan Special Forces and police, as well as the Colombian military forces, and continues to be evaluated and incorporated by several others. IWI had displays of its Galil trademark in several different variants to include the enhanced Galil Sniper, ACE 21, 22 and 23 models, the Micro, SAR and AR models, along with Jericho 941 and Barak pistols.
Another interesting bullpup in exhibition was the A-91 small assault rifle from the Russian KBP. The rifle is actually chambered for the 5.56mm round, and it is described as a multipurpose highly-efficient automatic rifle. Spent rounds are ejected forward, therefore allowing its handling from either right or left shoulders. A special grenade launching tool is mounted under the barrel to fire 40mm VOG-25 and VOG-25P grenades. The design can fire between 600 to 800 rpm to a range of 600 m. The grenade can be launched to 400 m. The rifle has a weight of 4.4 kg empty. The smaller cousin PP-2000 is a submachine gun chambered for 9x19mm, with a 600 rpm rate of fire. This SMG weighs between 1.30 and 1.56 kg depending on the variant. The PP-90 is an extremely compact and actually foldable SMG chambered for the 9x18mm Makarov round; when folded the PP-90M looks as a small flat box. KBP’s 6G-30 refers to the Russian version of the light multiple grenade launcher to fire 40mm VOG-25 and 25P caseless grenades. This revolver type design can fire 6 grenades to a maximum range of 400m. The OSV-96, on the other hand, is designed to reach and touch anything at extreme ranges. This is a 12x107mm caliber sniper rifle with a range of 1,800 meters.
The Turkish industry pavilion had a large display of HK models and local variants built by MKE, to include a HK 33 modified (denominated T-50) with the carrying handle and sights of the HK G36, the MG3 machine gun and the Milkor MGL type. Sarsilmaz came with the new 2010 pistol models (P-6, ST-10, CM-9, and K2-45), and displayed several other successful designs, and sport and combat shotguns. One of the M212 models was displayed with a folding stock, tactical light, Picatinny rail, cooling jacket, a red dot electronic sight, and was equipped with a 7-round magazine, without forgetting to mention an unusual flash suppressor. Trabzon Gun Industry Corp came to FIDAE with the ZIG M/1911 and the ZIGANA pistol line, including the 45 Model, F, Sport, T, K and M18 models, KANUNi S and 16 models, and FATIH 13.
This is only a short example of the large displays of small arms and infantry equipment exhibited at FIDAE 2010. The show provided a window from the smallest combat devices, to Chinese made armored vehicles, Brazilian made Marrua jeeps, GM Hummers, up to the new technologies in UAVs, a mockup of the interesting Typhoon fighter, a pair of F-22 Raptors, and a huge C-17. The 2012 show promises to be brighter and bigger…only if mother earth does not interfere again.