Ecuadorean Air Force Bolsters Strategies To Counter Illicit Flights

Ecuadorean Air Force Bolsters Strategies To Counter Illicit Flights

By Geraldine Cook
December 09, 2019

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Diálogo interviewed Lieutenant General Mauricio Campuzano Núñez, commander of the Ecuadorean Air Force (FAE, in Spanish), during his participation in the South American Air Chiefs Conference, held in Tucson, Arizona, November 4-8.

Diálogo: What’s FAE’s greatest contribution in its 100 years of existence?

Lieutenant General Mauricio Campuzano Núñez, commander of the Ecuadorean Air Force: The greatest contribution is to have fulfilled our mission of defense and territorial sovereignty. We have helped the population, particularly with our humanitarian response efforts after the calamities that natural disasters produce. We have also contributed to the nation’s social and economic development and carried out social welfare programs such as Wings for Joy (Alas para la Alegría), Wings for Health (Alas para la Salud), and Wings for Education (Alas para la Educación).

Diálogo: During your presentation about FAE you talked about the opening up of military relations with the United States. What is new in that regard?

Lt. Gen. Campuzano: We have resumed all kinds of military cooperation with the United States, and we are very satisfied with the results so far. For example, we have resumed the deployment of personnel to the Inter-American Defense College, and now we have representation at the Inter-American Defense Board, as well as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and military attachés. At the operational level, FAE shares operations with U.S. P3 aircraft and AWACS that conduct air and maritime reconnaissance to support the naval force. In the future, we will have radars that will help us improve air and maritime surveillance with communication systems.

Diálogo: How did the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA, in Spanish) respond to Ecuador’s request for assistance after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador in 2016, which killed more than 650 people and injured 16,000?

Lt. Gen. Campuzano: We were the first air force to activate SICOFAA by requesting this emergency assistance. Their response was immediate upon our request for humanitarian assistance with food, medicine, rescue personnel, and air transport. FAE has also been a part of SICOFAA since its creation. We have participated very actively, and we are present at the Conference of American Air Chiefs, known as CONJEFAMER

Diálogo: Are narcotrafficking organizations creating new drug routes in your country?

Lt. Gen. Campuzano: Ecuador is not a drug-producing country, and consumption is minimal; however, the large amounts of drugs coming out of Colombia use Ecuadorean routes, which change constantly. That’s why we remain firm in this fight, which is a direct responsibility of the police, but we provide support with surveillance of illicit flights, as whenever we have information about an illicit flight we try to intercept the plane and make it land.

Diálogo: What are the results of the combined air interdiction exercises Andes I and Andes II, carried out between Ecuador and Colombia?

Lt. Gen. Campuzano: The mission of these exercises is to bolster strategies to counter narcotrafficking at the border, with the main goal of transferring illicit flights when they attempt to cross our border. During the exercise, our planes simulate interdictions of illegal aircraft, forcing them to land. If this objective is not achieved, the idea is that the neighboring country’s air force is waiting on the other side of the border to capture it. These exercises also focus on updating procedures and standardizing tactics to achieve effective communication, and they have yielded excellent results to prepare our personnel on this matter. Therefore, we want to continue (the exercises) and plan new ones with neighboring countries, such as the one we have planned for the first half of 2020 with Peru.