Argentine Air Force Strengthens Airspace Defense

Argentine Air Force Strengthens Airspace Defense

By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo
December 18, 2018

About 500 service members trained with aircraft, helicopters, and drones during Exercise Integrador 2018, in the cities of Villa Gesell and Tandil.

The Argentine Air Force (FAA, in Spanish) strengthened its airspace defense capabilities during Exercise Integrador (Integrator in English ) 2018, as part of preparations for the 2018 G20 Buenos Aires Summit, carried out in the city of Buenos Aires, November 30th-December 1st. The event gathered the world’s main heads of state.

Between November 12th-20th, Exercise Integrador mobilized FAA service members with flights between the cities of Villa Gesell and Tandil in Buenos Aires province. Service members conducted tactical air, search and rescue, aircraft interception, and air refueling operations. The objective was to ensure airspace defense during the event, in coordination with the Argentine Army, Navy, and security forces.

“FAA honed all its resources, both human and material, to bring security that an event as important as the G20 deserved,” Colonel Juan Soto, FAA undersecretary general, told Diálogo. “About 500 people took part in the exercise, operating in their respective military branches.”

According to Col. Soto, the training sought to optimize FAA’s efforts and highlight them for such event. “Exercise Integrador is a perfect example of our operational capabilities, not only in our weapons systems, but also with our personnel,” the officer said.

Villa Gesell and Tandil

Integrador 2018 featured the A-4AR Fightinghawk, IA-63 Pampa, IA-58 Pucará, and Hercules KC-130 aircraft, as well as Bell 412 helicopters, among others. During the first part of the training, service members used Pucará aircraft and Bell 412 helicopters in Villa Gesell, conducting reconnaissance flights and operational practices. After the activities, inhabitants of the coastal town were able to take a closer look at the aircraft at Villa Gesell Airport, with free admission. On November 16th, military personnel flew to the 6th Air Brigade of Tandil to start the second stage of the exercise, which included the rest of the weapons systems.

“Pilots basically trained in airspace defense,” FAA Colonel Diego García, commander of Exercise Integrador 2018, told Diálogo. “They carried out interceptions, air refueling, navigation and reconnaissance, combat, and search and rescue tasks.” The exercise is part of the Annual Plan of Exercises of FAA’s Training and Enlistment Command. Its relevance grew due to the G20.

“The exercise enabled FAA to provide resources to the Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, which conducted the operations with a high degree of training during the G20 summit through the Operational Command,” said Col. García. “Crews flew every day, day and night, to conduct air tactics that contribute to our airspace defense.”

Drones and radars

In addition to aircraft, Exercise Integrador 2018 also used the unmanned aerial vehicles Aukan and Vigía, which FAA’s Research and Development Office designed. “We were able to use the visual information the drones obtained in real time, which went from the experimental to the operational stage and joined the exercise with the other weapon systems,” Col. Soto said.

All tasks were conducted with support from the MTPS-43 radar, a 3D long-range sensor (200 nautical miles) the state-owned Institute of Applied Research updated for the G20. “With this exercise, FAA contributes to crew training, so that the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Operational Command can conduct its operations in a timely manner,” said Col. García. To ensure airspace surveillance during the summit, FAA also used two other radars: an MTPS-43, similar to the first one, and a RAM 2, a 3D mid-range sensor (170 nautical miles).

Airspace protection

With Decree 1054/2018, published on November 16, 2018, in the Argentine Republic’s Official Bulletin, President Mauricio Macri established airspace protection rules. For example, an aircraft flying below minimum altitude or flying erratically, an aircraft keeping on route toward a forbidden area after a warning, or an aircraft performing aggressive maneuvers against intercepting means or using firearms will be considered “hostile or belligerent.”

FAA follows a grading protocol that starts with a warning against air incursions. “The idea was to guarantee absolute security within the airspace during the summit,” Col. Soto said.