New talks to broaden military science, tech research collaboration between U.S., Chile

October 16, 2012

Story Highlights

  • Chilean Army and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory start talks to study behaviors of weapon systems and material varying environments.
  • RDECOM's Forward Element Command in Santiago helps facilitate discussions beneficial to the Chilean and US governments.
  • Chile is helping the south central region become one of the fast-growing S&T nations and placing it among other leaders China, Singapore and India.

Discussions are underway between the Chilean Army and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to study behaviors of weapon systems and material varying environments, particularly desert and cold.

Both say advanced research in those areas would increase equipment functionality currently stifled by dry air, condensation, visual interference from falling snow or blown sand, or frozen grounds which make it hard for Soldiers to effectively and efficiently operate weapons and platforms.

The mutual interest was cemented Sept. 24 during a day-long visit of ARL's Weapons and Materials Research (WMRD) and Vehicle Technology directorates as part of ongoing efforts to build long-term relationships with Chile. The trip was organized by the Research, Development and Engineering Command's International Technology Center and ARL's International Program Office.

Dr. Patrick Baker, director of WMRD, told the delegation of six from Santiago the directorate's research focus is able to maintain a high-level technical competency by serving as a bridge between the academic and industrial communities and the Army, and providing transition opportunities of technical solutions created by the lab and its partners.

"As we move forward with the current economic climate, we need to look at all potential partners – where we can bring value and where the partners have value (to us)," Baker said.

Brig. Gen. Ricardo Martinez, who leads the Chilean Army's Research and Projects Directorate, wants to become one of those ARL partners. He said the Chilean Army's main focus today is on solutions that result in capabilities needed for land forces, and to get there, their army will need to engage more with Chilean universities and government offices to tap organic S&T expertise.

"Within the context of South America, we have a leading role. The Chilean Army has a really good prestige," Martinez told ARL, "but I insist that we need to create a culture that (the Chilean Army does) not have."

Chile's indigenous technology development is quickly contributing to the south central region's notoriety, placing it in company with other fast-growing S&T nation leaders China, Singapore and India. Chile's modern democratic practices loosened previously government-controlled commerce and industry, and now make way for government-backed incentives for privately-run "homegrown" start-up companies and requirements for foreign offices there to hire – and grow talent – locally.

Also, Chile has the largest astronomy capacity in the world with many new and powerful astronomy labs being built there.

Martinez wants to see Chile's Army in particular work "more strongly" with research level organizations, he said.

"In a country like Chile, we have to face decisions in solving problems in allocating resources and finding solutions probably five to 10 years out. There's a natural inclination to solve the everyday problems but we need to make an effort to look more mid-term and long-term," he said.

During the tour to ARL and other RDECOM organizations during his visit, he said he hoped to collect ideas that will allow the Chilean Army to synthesize resources and find projects that mutually benefit the U.S. and Chile.

The delegation toured research areas that focused on lethality, survivability and readiness – a catch-all category that covers Army critical structural materials and manufacturing science research to achieve affordable modernization and sustainment.

In 2008, Maj. Enrique Quinones, a chemical engineer in the Chilean Army, began a two-year assignment within WMRD's Propulsion Branch at Aberdeen Proving Ground through the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP). He was the first Chilean military member and one of the first military personnel from Latin America assigned to ARL under ESEP, a DoD effort to promote international cooperation in military research, development, and acquisition through the exchange of defense scientists and engineers.

Brig. Gen. Martinez expressed a strong interest in additional ESEP exchanges between the two nations.


Last Update / Reviewed: October 16, 2012