Colombian Air Force Announces Transformation Process
By Yolima Dussán/Diálogo July 07, 2017Three large commands and a general staff will serve as the operational foundation for the new Colombian Air Force (FAC, per its Spanish acronym) structure, laid out after a transformation process involving two years of analysis and planning. The plan was presented to the country on June 1, at the Aeronautical Museum facilities, headquarters of the FAC Center for Historical Memory. The process is part of a major renovation program being conducted by Colombia as part of Armed Forces 2030, a medium- and long-term government policy based on capability planning methodology. Under the new organizational structure, the general staff shall have the responsibility of formulating the strategy for the continual improvement of internal procedures through the work of the Air Operations Command, in charge of sovereignty protection, defense procedures, and air space control. The Force Support Command shall be responsible for handling logistics, as well as administrative and technical department procedural support. For its part, Personnel Command shall be responsible for administering human resources and the training of FAC officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers. “Through this transformation, we seek a versatile, interoperable military, with performance capability that meets international and operational deployment standards. It will be more effective and specialized, with greater control over human and financial resources, with simplified procedures, and improved threat response times,” General of the Air Force Carlos Eduardo Bueno Vargas, commander of the FAC, told Diálogo. The Air Force will not turn back “We are transforming the way we do things in order to meet international interoperability standards. We are moving on from the concept of symmetrical defense in order to boost the nation's defense capabilities,” explained Gen. Bueno. “We have changed how we organize and deploy human potential in accordance with the times. We have also become more effective in managing our human, technical, and economic resources.” FAC is a leading force in the region. Daily activities include collaboration with other countries suffering from natural disasters, as well as air control operations. This forms part of the joint United States-Colombia Action Plan, through which the two countries train pilots and air defense personnel from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic on flight interdiction. Upon completion of this transformation, the force expects to increase collaboration among the countries of Latin America. It will have improved capability to act in a simultaneous, rapid, and efficient manner. “Much of what we are now, we learned from international exercises. We will have the same standards as a squadron of U.S. Air Force F-16s, for example. Another example is that our tanker plane pilots can now provide fuel to British squadrons or United States squadrons,” added Gen. Bueno. The Harpy Eagle, a new symbol Up until now, the image of FAC was the Bald Eagle, the symbol of the U.S. Air Force, a country historically connected with the Colombian Armed Forces. FAC now moves to the Harpy Eagle as a symbol of its transformation. The bird was selected because it flies throughout South America and is especially prevalent in Colombian territory. The new symbol serves as a sign of the country's new doctrine. “We owe an immense debt to the United States, to their institutions, and to their Air Force because their support helped us gain this military victory which has ushered the country into the post-conflict era. I had the opportunity to study in United States schools, where I met many of the generals that currently command the air forces of the world,” said Gen. Bueno at the new FAC's announcement ceremony. “They taught us values, principles, a democratic vision, assertiveness, and the tools for creating a sound air campaign. For this reason, [we would like to send] a message of gratitude, admiration, and recognition to the U.S. Air Force, an eternal ally which allowed us to share its symbol.” Impacting operational security “In the face of this institutional reorganization, we must seek a dynamic equilibrium in our force which will allow us to maintain high operational standards. [We hope to do] this without losing sight, during the cultural transformation, of what will always hold the same level of importance for us - security,” Major General Ramses Rueda Rueda, the operational security inspector of FAC, told Diálogo. FAC has the highest operational security standards in the region. There were zero accidents during 2016 operations. “A security approach, strengthened by the human factor, will put emphasis on our personnel's capacity to respond, monitor, anticipate, and learn beyond the simple matter of managing errors,” added Maj. Gen. Rueda. “Obviously, the strategy is supported by other units which add value to their technological capacity, and advanced and professional technical training, which permits the development of not only investigative and preventive behaviors but also proactive and predictive ones.” The foundation of the transformation has been laid. Now the transition begins - a planned implementation over the next six months. As of January 2018, FAC will operate according to the new organizational outlines. Currently, the entity is moving forward with the required administrative and legal procedures and preparing the final performance manuals for each of the new units. “Our new evolution is built to last. It has been very well thought out in light of our new challenges. This is our answer to a Colombia which sees in our institution, not just a force which guarantees the security of our airspace, but a contingent of men and women ready to help,” said Gen. Bueno. “These are pilots who arrive in the middle of the night to rescue [someone] in the middle of the jungle, to evacuate a soldier wounded by a snakebite, or who lost a leg because of a landmine, or teams that have been trained to deal with natural disasters. We feel extremely proud of this social component. With respect to that, as well as to our constitutional mission, we respond with this transformation for the next 100 years,” he concluded.