Monday, February 15, 2016

Living in Peru: Peru’s military industry: FAME signs deal with UWS

"Peru's Military Industry: FAME signs deal with UWS"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Living in Peru
February 15, 2016
Originally published:

The Peruvian defense industry is known for making bizarre decisions, and this latest deal with a US weapons company is a little shady.

The Peruvian military industrial complex keeps expanding. This past December, the Peruvian Fí¡brica de Armas y Municiones del Ejército (FAME S.A.C.) selected the U.S. company Unified Weapons Systems (UWS) as the winner of a competition for new rifles. FAME and UWSwill manufacture assault rifles caliber 7.62×51mm and 5.56×45mm; the exact quantity of said rifles is still unknown, but a FAME press release states that they will be manufactured in the industry's facilities in Peru. This is an important detail because not only will the Peruvian military get brand-new rifles, but Peruvian technicians will learn how to manufacture modern rifles. Hopefully this will mean that FAME will be able to produce other weapons, without having to rely on foreign companies, in the near future.
A word must be said about Peru's military industrial complex; in the last couple of years, it has scored a number of important achievements. In particular, the Peruvian Navy's Servicios Industriales de la Marina , is producing new equipment for the country's maritime forces. In a July 2015 commentary for Living in Peru, I discussed the construction of the BAP Union, the pride of the Peruvian Navy as it is the largest-sail vessel in any Latin American Navy; it was manufactured by SIMA's shipyard and was put in the water in a 2014 ceremony. The BAP Union will train generations of new Peruvian naval officers.
As for FAME, the company has been around for quite some time, but it suffered a severe setback during the Alberto Fujimori dictatorship (1990-2000), as it was essentially 'œcannibalized,' as a retired Peruvian Army officer told me. Production came to a halt asFAME simply did not have the machinery to continue its operations, as they were taken away by Fujimori and his cronies. After the Fujimori dictatorship came to an end, FAME slowly began to rebuild itself and in recent years it started producing ammo (like 9×19mm bullets) and bulletproof vests. Hence, the FAMEUWS deal is important as it will help FAME regain its lost status and expertise.
A word of caution is necessary: UWS does not appear to be a major weapons manufacturing company. In my research for this commentary, I visited UWS's website: it does not provide a phone number and the only way to contact the company is via an online form to send a message. The company is based in Tampa, Florida, but when I put the address in Google View, it shows a medium-sized warehouse. Nevertheless, UWS' website claims that it has facilities totaling over 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space and over 500 employees. In other words, UWS may produce various types of reliable rifles, but personally, I would not compare it to more reputable and globally-known companies such as FN Herstal, Colt, Beretta, among (many) others.
Sadly, the Peruvian defense industry is known for making bizarre decisions. Just this past year, FAME signed a similar cooperation agreement with a Czech weapons company, Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ), to manufacture guns. Nevertheless, this past December Peru announced an agreement with the U.S. via which Lima will purchase some 28 thousand 9mm guns, from the company SIG Sauer Inc, for the police. It is unclear what will be the future of the FAME-CZ agreement given the deal with SIG Sauer which in theory makes the former deal unnecessary (unless Peruvian policymakers plan to produce guns for the military and have surplus for the police).
The relative obscurity of UWS and the bizarre FAME/CZ and Lima/Sauer deals means that there may be, unfortunately, some shady aspects to the FAMEUWS deal.
In late 2015 I drafted a report about Peru's weapons industry for the Argentine think tank Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales (CAEI). In the report, I discussed that, in the end, the most important fact for any Peruvian soldier fighting narco-insurgents is to have the most reliable weapon possible in his hands. Hence, in the end it should not matter if FAME teams up with a relatively unknown company if the end-product is of high quality. Moreover, if UWS is professional and efficient, FAME technicians will have valuable new training so that they can build Peruvian-made weapons in the near future. The problem is that these are a lot of 'œifs.'

Hopefully this new agreement will be mutually beneficial but, as any military knows, we have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

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