Colombia and the Dominican Republic Conduct Counter Drug Trafficking Aerial Exercise 

Colombia and the Dominican Republic Conduct Counter Drug Trafficking Aerial Exercise 

By Marian Romero/Diálogo
September 07, 2016

Officers of the Colombian Air Force (FAC, as per its Spanish acronym) and the Dominican Air Force (FARD, as per its Spanish acronym) conducted a set of simulation exercises from August 1st-5th in which the partner nations’ air forces exchanged interdiction experiences and put into practice established procedures for combating transnational crime. To slow illegal aerial traffic throughout the Caribbean corridor, both countries' officers developed detention, identification, and transfer operations for irregular, unidentified air traffic within the 883-nautical-mile airspace covering the two nations. "This exercise is of great importance to reaffirm the skills that we have developed jointly to ensure control of our airspace. Caribe V was an opportunity to continue standardizing our doctrine and to update our interdiction tactics, which results in us having fluid and efficient communication," said Colonel Iván Darío Bocanegra, director of Air Defense for the FAC and Caribe V Coordinator in Colombia. Caribe V in detail The inauguration of the exercise took place in the city of Barranquilla, Colombia, and the closing was in San Isidro, Dominican Republic. During the five-day event, officers from both air forces trained and applied procedures established by Ongoing Operational Plans which allow for greater efficiency in combating transnational air crimes. "Caribe V was a space to exercise communication links between air defense systems belonging to the FAC and the FARD, which will be used permanently, to establish better control over our shared borders. In addition, it allowed us to bring officers closer together and exchange experiences that will lead to the continuous improvement of our procedures," said Colonel Edgar Tiburcio, Commander of the FARD's Air Defense Command and Caribe V Coordinator in the Dominican Republic. The exercises were conducted on the FARD's A-29B planes and the FAC's C95 and SR-560 planes. This last aircraft has systems on board which allow for the tracking of aircraft, as well as the command and control of other elements. The SR-560 was responsible for detecting illegal traffic, identifying it visually, and determining what type of aircraft was illegal, etc., while the A-29B served as a target. One new thing about the Caribe V in comparison with past exercises was the use of the Horus System, software developed by the FAC specialized for command and control and adapted to the operational needs of the institution. This equipment has the capacity to integrate information from multiple sensors as well as aeronautic information from new modules and tools. "With the Horus, we can track aircraft live throughout the entire flight from Colombia to the Dominican Republic. This new system gives us total control of the route on a screen at the control base," Col. Bocanegra explained. Another new aspect of the Caribe V exercises was the incorporation of the Dominican Republic's Armed Forces into the exercise. This was due to new modalities used for drug trafficking. "One of the challenges we face is the method of launching illicit goods from planes to the sea, where they are received by vessels that camouflage them and bring them to their destination. That is why it was important to involve the Navy, which participated in the exercises, and now we can have better control in those cases," said Col. Tiburcio. Results of the Caribe exercises The relationship between the air forces of the two countries was established in 2010 with the establishment of an aerial interdiction agreement. This agreement calls for combined operations training and for cooperation in border zones. Since then, there have been five exercises of this type called Caribe and numbered consecutively. Since the agreement was signed, the effectiveness of the exercises and the standardization of doctrine have been proven. Once past the adjustment period, the illicit use of airspace between these two countries began to significantly decrease. "In 2011, there was a spike in illegal movement in this corridor, but it's something we've been reducing every year. In 2015, there were a few cases, so that's why we decided to resume the Caribe exercise, the last version of which had been in 2013. So, we made the relevant adjustments and trained personnel that had been rotated," Col. Bocanegra said. Benefits of the agreement in the Dominican Republic "The interdiction agreement against drug trafficking with Colombia is very beneficial. It gives us the opportunity to have continuous training in operations which the FAC has a lot of experience with. Maintaining standard interdiction procedures is crucial for the success of the operations. Thanks to that, we avoid setbacks and mistakes," Col. Tiburcio. According to Col. Tiburcio, the presence of aerial drug trafficking began to increase in the Dominican Republic in 2005. Thus, the need to look for strategies and allies arose. Thanks to the agreement with Colombia and other measures implemented in the country, it has been reduced by 98 percent since 2010. "Although I wasn't in charge of this division before the agreement with Colombia, I would be so bold as to say that communication didn't flow adequately between the two countries' Air Forces in those days. There wasn't a direct line of communication that would allow information to be exchanged for interdiction operations. Each country managed its intelligence separately, and, without the exchange, it was difficult to arrange an interdiction operation," Col. Tiburcio said. "Now, every move is made in a coordinated manner, following a uniform doctrine that works for both Air Forces." The importance of agreements and interdiction simulation exercises The FAC has had impressive success in terms of reducing illegal flights both in and out of Colombia. Since the 2003 signing of the Air Bridge Denial (ABD) Agreement between the FAC and the U.S. Government for air interdiction of drug trafficking, Colombia has reduced the illegal use of its airspace by 99 percent. With each passing year, Colombia has been strengthening its interdiction abilities. With time, the FAC became an example for the region, with enough experience to become a trainer for other countries that need to get stronger in this regard. These achievements prompted the establishment of agreements with other countries in the region in order to achieve airspace control throughout the hemisphere. "The interesting thing that Colombia has in its training programs, apart from its vast experience, is the opportunity to give courses and exercises in the same language. That creates closeness and allows for smoother work," expressed Col. Tiburcio. Colombia and the Dominican Republic practice an aerial interdiction exercise during the Caribe V Binational Exercise, which took place August 1-5, 2016. (Photo: Colombian Air Force)
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