New Air Capabilities for Natural Disasters

New Air Capabilities for Natural Disasters

By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo
December 08, 2017

The Brazilian Air Force possesses unique air capabilities that help victims in the event of natural disasters.

Brazilian Air Force General Carlos Vuyk de Aquino, commander of Aerospace Operations, follows military doctrine verbatim. For him, humanitarian aid missions to alleviate human suffering in the aftermath of natural disasters are a point of pride for the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym).

Gen. Aquino gave a presentation on FAB’s capabilities in natural disasters and humanitarian aid missions during the South American Air Chiefs Conference, held at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, October 31st–November 3rd, 2017. A tactical mobile hospital and communications equipment are among the disaster response capabilities FAB has at its disposal. Gen. Aquino spoke with Diálogo on the air force’s role in disaster response, international cooperation, and the institutional outlook for 2018.

Diálogo: Why is it important for FAB to participate in the South American Air Chiefs Conference 2017?

General Carlos Vuyk de Aquino, commander of FAB Aerospace Operations: It is very important for all in South America to participate, because it’s essential to have a good understanding of each nation’s capabilities to assist in the event of natural disasters and how we can come together to bring mutual aid.

Diálogo: Why is it important for air forces to collaborate to respond to natural disasters?

Gen. Aquino: Air forces have greater mobility and greater capacity to go anywhere. Generally, during natural disasters, towns are cut off and highway conditions make it hard to reach them. It’s quite typical for air forces to be activated to carry out the first rescue contacts.

Diálogo: What is your assessment on the level of integration among South American air forces in natural disaster response?

Gen. Aquino: It’s very good. We have the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA, per its Spanish acronym), which is a very good tool for initial coordination in natural disaster emergencies. When disaster strikes, people of South America are very gracious, helping with donations and using their air forces to provide a rapid response and deliver specific necessities. Every time requests for help come in from a country, all nations with rapid response resources react immediately.

Diálogo: What is your assessment of the conference?

Gen. Aquino: Today, we have a better perspective of our nations’ capabilities and how prepared we are to respond when faced with an individual need and the needs of other nations. If we’re all prepared, the response, if an event [a natural disaster] occurs, will be much more efficient.

Diálogo: What are FAB’s disaster response capabilities?

Gen. Aquino: One really good capability we have is our tactical mobile hospital. Usually, when responding to natural disasters, many victims have specific needs but there is no medical care nearby, so the option of setting up a hospital on-site is very helpful. We also have very good communications equipment, which is essential to coordinate our operations.

Diálogo: How does FAB work with Brazil’s other service branches during natural disasters?

Gen. Aquino: In Brazil, the Ministry of Defense has various plans that piece everything together. The Ministry of Defense coordinates the efforts when a specific need arises and deploys our forces.

Diálogo: How does FAB help counter national security problems?

Gen. Aquino: We have Operation Ostium, which creates a barrier to control illegal transnational transit of all kinds of materials, drugs, etc. FAB maintains that barrier, and today, we employ all our resources, such as radar planes. We will apply more intelligence to the process to get a better idea of where to do our operations at the right moment.

Diálogo: What were FAB’s net results in 2017?

Gen. Aquino: FAB is going through administrative and operational structure changes. We’re transforming the air force so that it becomes more effective at a lower operational cost. FAB will turn 100 in 2041, and we’re already preparing for that. We’re now in a process we call “Air Force 100,” and we began the transformation to get to an air force that can meet all the needs of the Brazilian government by 2041.

Diálogo: And what are FAB’s plans for 2018?

Gen. Aquino: In 2018, we’ll have several exercises in the operational area. We hope there aren’t any natural disasters. We planned exercises to which all South American nations are invited. For example, we have the Cruzex exercise planned for late 2018, with the participation of the United States, Canada, France, and other countries, because we know that only through joint mission integration will we truly be ready to address potential events in the world. Cruzex is more than a big exercise; it’s our approach to be prepared to address all needs.

Diálogo: What is your message to air forces of the region regarding responding to natural disasters?

Gen. Aquino: We need to keep exchanging more information about our capabilities. At this conference, I gave a presentation on Brazil’s capabilities. The idea is that someday SICOFAA may have a regional database with all our assets and capabilities, etc. My message is that air forces can count on FAB when needed.