Armed Forces of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil Conduct Amazonas I Exercise
By Yolima Dussán/Diálogo August 14, 2017With the goal of reducing and stopping transnational threats in the border area between Brazil, Peru, and Colombia, the three countries armed forces conducted the Amazonas I Multinational Aerial Interdiction Exercise. There were five days of simulations using different protocols aimed at stopping common crimes that impact the area often: drug trafficking, illicit exploitation of mineral deposits, arms trafficking, illegal immigration, people smuggling, damage to the environment, and contraband. The exercise, held June 19th-23rd, was the result of cooperation agreements signed by the three countries, and the first in the area to include the participation of all three countries at the same time. Each of the countries used around seven aircraft on average, including search-and-rescue aircraft, interdiction aircraft, interceptors, platform airplanes and others. Fifty individuals participated in each air-force crew and another 100 on ground support. Peruvian Minister of Defense Jorge Nieto Montesinos was present at the inauguration venue in Iquitos, Peru, along with officers from the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym), the Peruvian Air Force (FAP, per its Spanish acronym) and the Colombian Air Force (FAC, per its Spanish acronym). The exercise required a year of preparation and coordination by the Amazonas Air Group. “There have been binational exercises in the region but this is the first time that the three countries are participating. This is something new for Peru, for Brazil, and for Colombia. It entails using the capabilities of the three air forces, which are permanently in communication with the technological teams, in a combined way,” Montesinos stated in a press release. “The objective is to prevent the borders from becoming [a place] to take refuge and a way to evade justice,” he said. Exchange of resources and technology The activity was focused on five training missions in mock detection, identification, interception, and transfer operations of irregular air traffic in the border cities of Iquitos, Peru; Tabatinga, Brazil, and Leticia, Colombia. FAC used aircraft available in the area such as the A-29 Super Tucano, SR-560, UH-60 Black Hawk, Caravan C-208, A-37, C-26B, and Bell-212, among others, for the different missions. Other surveillance- and early-warning assets were also employed in the Amazon region to conduct interception, tracking and transfer tasks for simulated targets of interest along the Sao Gabriel de Cachoeira, Brazil–Iquitos, Peru route. “This exercise was in line with the Standing Operations Plans within the framework of regional cooperation agreements with significant results”, Colonel Jorge Saavedra, the director of Air Defense for FAC, told Diálogo. “We are reviving our cooperation on information, our exchange of resources, and technology acquired by each country, which translates to information with a view towards anticipating the movement of illegal groups and stopping them.” Capacity development The main objective of Amazonas I was to conduct the exercises to prevent any air space from being violated. Along with drug trafficking, the most noticeable threat - environmental destruction - received special attention. All three countries are aware of the Amazon’s importance as the lungs of the planet and a reserve of humanity. Therefore, along with the aircraft, other ground equipment and radar systems were used. To improve capacities, the first step is to identify flaws. During missions on the first day of Amazonas I, the three countries’ air forces detected deficiencies in communications, in the speed of information transmission from one country to another. They immediately made corrections to improve this capacity and expand it. “For us as FAC, this is not training; we treat it like a real operation. The country invests a large amount of money in these exercises. Our commitment is deep,” Col. Saavedra indicated. FAC contributes its experience in interdiction, a capacity it has developed greatly on account of its tireless fight against drug trafficking over the past 25 years. “We have a lot of experience; we have accumulated great success in the area of interdiction. We’ve had the support of powers like the United States, and we were the only ones to access help with materials and equipment that we know how to handle,” Col. Saavedra said. Amazonas I also included the community “The community experienced an enormous sense of security. It was able to see that the forces are interacting, that they are at the forefront of the region’s security, fighting crimes that interfere with the legality of the three nations and working so they are left in peace,” FAC Colonel Julio Gómez Lince, the commander of the Amazonas Air Group, told Diálogo. On the Colombian side, a large part of the coordination of the exercise fell on his shoulders. The air forces of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil decided to make the most of the cooperation and the structure of the exercise to involve the civilian population in this activity. That’s why they had a development aid day that benefitted more than 500 individuals in Islandia, Peru; Tabatinga, Brazil; and Santa Sofía, Colombia, whose residents require state presence. During the development day, medical care was provided in different specialties like pediatrics, gynecology, dentistry, and general medicine, among others. There was space for recreation and to hand out free gifts to the community. There was also a veterinary care day. The final result couldn’t have been better. The three countries share a common language: that of cooperation. “Amazonas I was an exercise through which the three air forces standardized their procedures. This is of enormous importance,” Col. Gómez said. “Being coordinated means stopping illegal groups from having the chance to be successful in their operations. The shared procedures we arrived at thanks to these training missions are our path forward to act in a coordinated and safe manner in our duty to protect the borders of the three countries from transnational threats,” he concluded.