The tri-border area navies continue with a long-standing training tradition in the Amazon River.
In early September, the navies of Brazil Colombia, and Peru concluded BRACOLPER 2018, an annual, multinational naval exercise, after two months of training in the Amazon River. The exercise, in its 44th edition, began in Leticia municipality in the Colombian Amazon, continued in Iquitos, Peru; and ended in Manaus, Brazil.
Hundreds of navy service members assigned to the Amazon, as well as marines and naval aviation aircraft of the three countries took part in the exercise. Brazil featured the Roraima and Raposo Tavares river patrol ships, as well as the Oswaldo Cruz hospital ship. Colombia set out with the ARC Arauca ship, while Peru deployed the BAP Castilla and BAP Clavero river gunboats.
The objective of the exercise is to train personnel in combined riverine operations to fight narcotrafficking, which uses rivers and their tributaries to transport drugs. The exercise also seeks to increase forces’ capabilities to counter other illegal activities, such as illegal mining and trafficking of flora and fauna.
“The BRACOLPER operation represents an effort from the Brazilian, Colombian, and Peruvian navies to maintain naval collaboration in the Amazon,” Peruvian Navy Vice Admiral Silvio Alva Villamón, commander of Amazon Operations, told Diálogo. “It evolved progressively, from basic combined riverine operation activities to procedures and doctrine developed to facilitate more complex exercises, adapting to the threats of illegal activities and expanding spaces and mechanisms for information exchange.”
BRACOLPER 2018 participants conducted landing, sailing, transit, river control, shooting, and communications exercises. In addition, units participated in rapid-response operations and tactical maneuvers, simulating scenarios featuring the most common crimes troops face.
“The main scenario comprises the combined work of the three navies during river control in the Amazon basin to counter criminal action, as well as the combined marine landing and the naval fire support exercise,” Peruvian Navy Commander Roy Pino Huamán, commander of the Amazon Riverine Units Fleet, told Diálogo. “The main challenges were the river control maneuvers and rapid response exercises due to the river’s conditions—current strength, shallow waters, and weeds.”
During the exercise, naval aviation teams simulated an air assault with helicopters and a counterattack response by riverine units. The exercise also evaluated crews’ capabilities in immediate response procedures.
“The threats that armed forces face in the Amazon involve criminals of different kinds who travel through vast areas,” Vice Adm. Alva said. “[These threats demand] of the armed forces a high degree of collaboration, coordination, and intelligence exchange, and sometimes require direct support from neighboring countries’ armed forces to close off spaces, continue with chases, make interventions, or facilitate means for medical evacuations, among others.”
The exercise is an opportunity to conduct combined training to confront common situations, and exchange knowledge and experiences that strengthen interoperability. The collaboration also reinforces ties of friendship among neighboring countries.
“Participants in this process know how to keep up with the pace of integration,” Vice Adm. Alva said. “The integration and communication bridges developed at every level of command, and personnel are essential for the trust achieved and contribute every year to the great expectations of this exercise.”
BRACOLPER 2018 took place in three phases, including coordination meetings to hone the final details before carrying out the exercises, and debriefings. Critical evaluations not only highlighted the participants’ achievements, but also contributed beneficial ideas for the three countries—such was the case in the second phase, which focused on rapid-response exercises with marine participation.
“When this phase was over, service members held a debriefing to evaluate the river control methods each navy carried out, and each navy gave a presentation about the capabilities of its marine corps,” Cmdr. Pino said. “It was recommended that we study the possibility of conducting professional exchange visits to marine detachments of participating nations.”
The annual exercise is held without interruption since 1974, when the tri-border navies opted to combine their efforts to counter regional challenges. The exercise also serves as a cause for celebration, as its three phases coincide with the independence days of Colombia, July 20th; Peru, July 28th; and Brazil, September 7th.
Upon completion of the exercise, the navies started to plan for BRACOLPER 2019, with teleconferences and in-person meetings. According to Vice Adm. Alva, the planning is assigned to the Brazilian Navy’s Ninth Naval District, the Colombian Navy’s Southern Naval Force, and the Peruvian Navy’s Amazon Operations Command.
“We developed channels of ongoing communication at the command, operations, and intelligence levels,” Vice Adm. Alva said. “We are aware that border areas are porous, allowing for a flow of all kinds of crimes, and combined patrols, information exchanges, and mutual support [consolidate] each country’s operations.”