General Bueno, Newly Appointed Colombian Air Force Chief, Attends Air Show
By Dialogo July 22, 2015Stop spending money on those airplanes [kfir] they crash on their own. Those famous updates are open to more corruption... I don't understand, lots of preparations and efficient vigilance in the skies over almost every corner of the planet, principally against drug trafficking while drugs are run openly. It's just not where they don't get used.
Just a couple of days before the opening of the seventh aeronautical fair, F-Air Colombia 2015, held July 9-12, Gen. Carlos Eduardo Bueno assumed command of the Colombian Air Force (FAC). After watching an acrobatic aerial display by a Chilean Air Force Halcón squadron and FAC AH-60 “Arpía” helicopters, plus a fly-over by a U.S. Air Force B-52, Diálogo
had the opportunity to speak with Gen. Bueno on capabilities and future plans to build an air force capable to confronting new threats, its role in a potential post-conflict scenario, and other topics.
From your point of view as the leader of the FAC, and within the context of transforming the air force, what challenges might the FAC face in a potential post-conflict scenario?
General Carlos E. Bueno:
It is clear to us that this peace process, as our president has said, sooner rather than later will end in something good for Colombia. Therefore, the Air Force and the Colombian military are preparing for their post-conflict roles, which will be many, because the country’s threats, situations, and needs are not defined only by the internal conflict. We have many things to do going forward, many things coming our way. The participation we began a few years ago in international exercises like Red Flag, like in Canada with Maple Flag, like Crucex, show that we must train every day to have credible deterrent capabilities as a nation that wants to be at peace. We have all of these ongoing challenges of the war on drugs, maintaining – as we have almost achieved – a victory in controlling our air space, keeping it free of all traces of crime, working hand in hand with the U.S. Southern Command, with the U.S. Air Force, especially with the 12th Air Force in enforcement and fighting against drug trafficking. The Air Force also has some very well organized capabilities, while its crews have a good deal of experience in evacuating persons during natural disasters, fighting fires… What we are facing are goals and challenges going forward to maintain our national security and sovereignty, and do to that, we must train a lot, we must improve our aircraft's capabilities and achieve air superiority. We are working on this, more technology, cyber space, everything that is coming down the road.
What is the outlook on the Colombian Air Force’s cooperation on technology and knowledge with the United States and other countries in the region?
This is something we really want to encourage. We can say with pride that we have been a reference point as a force, thanks to training, what we have lived through during the conflict, a very important experience for our crews when flying during the day, at night, in fighter planes, in transport helicopter and we want to maintain, let’s say, our leadership through sharing experiences with Central American air forces, while working closing with JIATF-South for all these types of activities, and we want it all to be even stronger in the future, all these international exercises with Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, and now with Jamaica, we have signed nine agreements already with those countries to battle drug trafficking and conduct air interdictions. We want that to be stronger, to improve our capabilities. So we have been working on getting involved in the unmanned aerial vehicles, UAV, which we call remote controlled aircraft or ART [for its Spanish acronym],
so we are already gaining experience and we have positioned ourselves very well.
What is the Colombian Air Force’s primary goal in organizing and leading an international fair like F-Air Colombia 2015?
This fair was born, shall we say, from an Air Force initiative, it began as all things do at the beginning: with the most basic points. It was an air show that demonstrated our capabilities to people, to whom we owe all our work and all our sacrifice, these people who have made us the most highly-trusted institution in Colombia today. So that is how it began, but later we started to see a significant opportunity to merge with civil aeronautics and turn the fair into what every fair should be: a business opportunity that generates jobs in the country, leads to technological development and business partnerships… and that is what we have seen. In this seventh fair, we are seeing a fair that is more mature, in which there are businesses, demonstrations of capabilities, sales of services, and very important developments. Our intention is to continue to support all of this development as the Air Force, as a military institution, because this means development for the country.
What is the importance of the participation of aircraft like the U.S. Air Force’s B-52?
Well, as it is known and called by our diplomats, we have a “special relationship” with the U.S., which is something that makes us feel very proud. As the commander of the Air Force – although I have only been in command for a few hours, I have served for many years – I must say that we have only gratitude towards the American people, to the United States of America, and to their military, for what they have done for our country: their support, the continual training of our officers and NCOs, their presence even in support against the different threats facing this nation… There is only gratitude, and gratitude today for what we recognize as our “special relationship.” So we are working very closely with them on many projects. For the Air Force it is their American mission, which is here with us. The support is impressive and our gratitude today to General Kelly, whom I have the honor of knowing quite well as a man who loves Colombia, who loves Colombians, who respects and values this Herculean struggle we have undertaken to destroy terrorism and achieve peace. This must bring better things for our future, and we are working on this, through studying aircraft to achieve air superiority for the Colombian Air Force, so as to maintain stable peace in the region, be a credible deterrent, and we have a number of courses to come. We also enjoy a very close relationship with General Nowland of the 12th Air Force… In sum, we are very happy as an Air Force with the special relationship of friendship and continued support, and we hope this relationship improves and becomes even more firm in the future.
Would you like this type of aircraft, the B-52s, to continue participating in future fairs, or would you prefer more acrobatic aerial demonstrations?
Well, the chance to see a strategic bomber from the United States Air Force is something anyone would find attractive. We have seen F-16 airplanes, and F-15s have been here, and we have seen extraordinary presentations like we had with the Relámpago exercises, which was a presentation by Kfir and F-16 aircraft, but they [B52s] were something very innivative for the people who enjoyed it a lot. It also sends a message of the solidarity, support, and brotherhood between our two countries. So this was a gesture that we very much appreciate.
What capabilities does the Colombian Air Force need, or how should you train to continue to protect your sovereignty on the borders of Colombian air space?
We have been working on that quite a bit in several fields. We have improved our capabilities with helicopters, mobility, and we are updating our Kfir squadron with the latest technology, too. We are improving some capabilities that we did not have before, but we are thinking about the future, as is the responsibility of every institution. The mid- and long-term plans and among those plans obviously is to consider what is becoming obsolete. It is difficult to find replacement parts and we have to look to the future, what this multi-role squadron can be, which renders many services to the nation, and inspires confidence, too, in the security and defense of the country. So with the United States and other countries, too, why not say so, we are conducting a very serious study for which we are looking to the future – we do not know for how long a time – in a very serious and professional way, to have replacements or to continue thinking about replacing these aircraft in the mid-term.