Chile's air force command has deployed the Israeli-made RecceLite reconnaissance system but the government of President Sebastian Pinera has yet to formally announce the acquisition.
Reports of the Rafael air defense system entering the service of Chile's military establishment followed industry assessments Pinera's administration is keen to hasten modernization of the country's military, neglected for more than a decade.
The Chilean military was relegated to the background in the years after the end of dictatorial rule in the country from 1973-90 because of public sensitivity to funding or procurement measures seen to strengthen the armed forces.
The military is widely blamed for supporting authoritarian regimes in Chile, including that of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Sympathy for Chilean military's interest in upgrades and defense modernization has contrasted with bitter opposition in earlier years.
The air force's use of the RecceLite pod system wouldn't have come to light or reported through normal channels because RecceLite isn't regarded as a weapon. However, news reports said the Chilean military was one of six air forces that attended a recent conference in the Netherlands that brought together users of the Rafael system.
RecceLite is favored by air forces worldwide because it provides real-time reconnaissance and data links. Chile's reported purchase of the advanced pods is meant to supplement the air force's operations of its F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet.
Photographs of Chilean F-16s showed a targeting pod that appeared to be the Litening, the blog website for Chile's Defense and Military said.
However, defense analysts said, the Litening and RecceLite are similar in appearance opening possibilities that the Chilean air force may be using both systems. The Litening targeting pod, also designed originally in Israel, is a precision targeting pod system used with a wide variety of combat aircraft.
Chile never publicly has acknowledged deployment of targeting and reconnaissance pods.
The representatives of the air forces from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, Spain and the Netherlands met at Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands for what was acknowledged to be the third annual RecceLite users' conference.
Users shared experiences and feedback while discussing dynamic changes in operational needs. Officials from Rafael presented developments taking place to improve and upgrade the system.
Developed and produced by Rafael, RecceLite is a self-contained, self-cooled multi-sensor tactical reconnaissance system, consisting of an airborne pod based on the Litening pod, a ground exploitation station and a data link.
The system was used during NATO campaigns in Libya and Afghanistan.