The Argentine Air Force is uniquely committed to plan and execute combined air operations to help mitigate the effects of natural disasters. With such statement, Argentine Air Force Lieutenant General Oscar Charadía, commander of Enlistment and Training, opened his presentation at the South American Air Chiefs Conference, held at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, October 31st –November 3rd, 2017.
At the conference, Lt. Gen. Charadía spoke to Diálogo about his participation in the event, international cooperation, and the challenges his institution faces in 2018. Among the highlights: The Air Force—with a staff of about 1,800 officers, 8,000 non-commissioned officers, and 6,000 civilian agents—has become a more effective organization to manage humanitarian aid. Humanitarian aid and rescue missions during natural disasters are one of the Air Force’s core duties.
Diálogo: Why is it important for the Argentine Air Force to participate in this conference?
Lieutenant General Oscar Charadía, commander of Enlistment and Training for the Argentine Air Force: It’s extremely important because, in addition to getting to know each other, it allows me to get up to speed on each air force’s progress on humanitarian aid during natural disasters. It’s very important because you learn new things, new techniques, ways to coordinate, and you learn how to mitigate the pain of a natural disaster through humanitarian aid. We all have a common denominator, which is that air assets give us speed and versatility, allowing us to get to many places that other assets might not reach. In these meetings, what we analyze is precisely how to reevaluate our assets and the operations we can do together. At this conference, a synergy of efforts is formed to amplify the aid and get to victims with the support they require.
Diálogo: Why is it important to work with other air forces to respond to natural disasters?
Lt. Gen. Charadía: Most of the air forces’ secondary missions are humanitarian aid. Our core mission is to maintain control of our sovereign airspace, but, when you are trained for that main mission, you have the capacity to face secondary missions. In the case of the Argentine Air Force, we have the logistics support necessary to assist people with humanitarian aid, whether domestically or abroad. Therefore, to be able to offer assistance is of vital importance.
Diálogo: What is your assessment of regional cooperation among air forces?
Lt. Gen. Charadía: Each air force’s capacities vary according to each nation’s resources. Smaller air forces can learn a lot from the larger ones, as is the case with our host, the U.S. 12th Air Force, which has more assets, more personnel, and equipment. The work of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces [of Argentina] is extremely important to plan and execute humanitarian aid. In that sense, the Argentine Air Force is a pioneer in terms of the work of our Joint Chiefs of Staff to organize a combined force, composed of different forces to conduct humanitarian aid operations.
Diálogo: What is the Argentine Air Force’s level of participation in the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA)?
Lt. Gen. Charadía: Today, SICOFAA, which has already been in place for many years and has many member nations, serves as a tool to train our most valuable assets, which the “Cooperation” exercises—held annually and in their fourth edition—show. The Cooperation IV exercise was held in Argentina in 2016. It was a war game in which nearly 300 people participated, and it unfolded through a software program the Air Force had designed, the Unified Logistics Area Module or MULA to manage all air assets, from the distribution of cargo or aid to fuel needs, as well as aircraft’s capacities and flight plans.
Diálogo: During your presentation on the Argentine Air Force, you spoke about the different types of combined air operations to respond to natural disasters. Could you expound on that topic?
Lt. Gen. Charadía: We conducted several exercises to train on disaster response. For example, in late April , we had a natural disaster in the city of Comodoro Rivadavia [in southern Argentina], during which heavy rains fell—for a short time and with a lot of water—causing rivers to overflow and flood a large percentage of the city. The rain cut off important land routes, such as the route that connects the region of Patagonia from north to south. So we had to create air and sea bridges. We used C-130 Hercules and SAAB 340B planes for the air bridge. We transported all kinds of cargo and passengers. Then, we helped in a road tragedy, a bus crash in the city of San Rafael, in the province of Mendoza. That incident caused deaths and injuries. Most of the victims were minors and young adults, and the tragedy shook the nation.
Diálogo: How does the Argentine Air Force prepare to respond to natural disasters in 2018?
Lt. Gen. Charadía: In 2018, the Pegasus 2018 exercise is planned for the third quarter of the year. It’s a combined humanitarian aid and emergency support exercise. This is an international exercise, and all the air forces that comprise SICOFAA have been invited.
Diálogo: What is the purpose of the exercise?
Lt. Gen. Charadía: The exercise will train air forces in humanitarian aid. It aims to counter isolation, evaluate the combined doctrine we have to deal with the planning and execution of such events, but, above all, it offers Argentine government agencies, such as the Civil Defense, the Ministry of Health, and other agencies that will make their own contributions, a way to be part of the exercise.
Diálogo: How does the Argentine Air Force help to address the security problems the country faces?
Lt. Gen. Charadía: We have a problem that afflicts us, which is narcotrafficking. To address this situation, the Air Force controls the nation’s airspace in the northern zone for illegal and irregular flights. Irregular flights don’t represent crimes but violate regulations and cause infractions for not declaring themselves. And we also have illegal flights. In this case, the Air Force uses its radars, planes, and personnel deployed in northern Argentina, and we do so in support of ground forces and the judiciary. The Air Force detects the flight and either identifies it through communications or sends fighter aircraft to identify it, and from there, we force it to land, in coordination with ground forces.
Diálogo: What is your main goal?
Lt. Gen. Charadía: Resources are always scarce, especially in military aviation. It’s an extremely expensive activity. The different budget adjustments put a big dent in our training and preparation, both for our planes and our personnel. Our goal is to counter this situation. We’re working to try to optimize to the maximum our flight hours, training, simulators, and courses so that our personnel maintain the best level of training possible.
Diálogo: What is the level of female participation in the Argentine Air Force?
Lt. Gen. Charadía: Women have been present for quite some time. Women began in the non-commissioned officer ranks, and have made it their entire career, reaching the top rank of sergeant major, and for the last 14 years, we’ve had line officers graduating from the Air Force Academy in specialties such as pilot, engineer, etc. In addition, we have the female officer corps, comprising medical professionals, dentists, lawyers—basically all careers that are not of command but are valuable contributions to the Air Force’s activities. In this regard, I can attest that women are fully integrated in the ranks of the Argentine Air Force.
Diálogo: What is your message to the air forces of Latin America?
Lt. Gen. Charadía: Today, air forces cannot work alone. We have to work together, united. We have to respect each other without losing our sovereign identity in our decisions. In other words, we have to achieve synergy to manage a large team when time comes to mitigate natural disasters.