Spotlight: A Conversation With Our Leaders

Argentine Air Force, Ready to Help and Cooperate

Argentina’s Air Force moves ahead to adapt to the demands of the 20th century.
Geraldine Cook/Diálogo | 13 August 2018

Brigadier General Enrique Víctor Amrein, chief of the Argentine Air Force’s General Staff, stresses the importance of SICOFAA’s humanitarian relief approach for natural or man-made disasters in the region. (Photo: Geraldine Cook, Diálogo)

Brigadier General Enrique Víctor Amrein, chief of the Argentine Air Force’s (FAA, in Spanish) General Staff, focuses on modernizing the fleet, developing new technologies, and establishing alliances to consolidate FAA as a force in line with the requirements of the future.  

Brig. Gen. Amrein attended the LVIII Conference of Chiefs of the American Air Forces (CONJEFAMER, in Spanish), held June 19-21, 2018, in Panama City, Panama. During the event, Brig. Gen. Amrein spoke with Diálogo about the process of modernizing the air fleet, international cooperation for disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, and other topics. 

Diálogo: What’s the importance of FAA’s participation in CONJEFAMER?

Brigadier General Enrique Víctor Amrein, chief of the Argentine Air Force’s General Staff: CONJEFAMER has been very important to us since its inception. The second conference was held in our country. Air force commanders are pioneers in global integration.

Diálogo: What is the significance of being part of the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA)?

Brig. Gen. Amrein: SICOFAA is very important to our country. And now, considering SICOFAA’s new direction, I think that we’ve made a qualitative leap in the importance of the system of cooperation between our air forces, especially in terms of humanitarian assistance for natural or man-made disasters. 

Diálogo: One of FAA’s main tasks is humanitarian assistance. What’s the importance of FAA’s combined and interagency work with other air forces to provide humanitarian relief?

Brig. Gen. Amrein: Humanitarian assistance is a complementary mission for our air force, and it’s fundamental to our government. I’d like to stress that with SICOFAA’s new direction we can come to the aid of countries affected by natural disasters, and we can do it immediately, with our own means. Due to its characteristics, air travel is the fastest means to transport supplies and people and provide humanitarian assistance in general to countries in need.

Diálogo: How does FAA prepare for future responses to natural disasters?

Brig. Gen. Amrein: FAA adapted its planning and training, as well as enlisting procedures, to bring humanitarian assistance when necessary. Every two years, FAA conducts virtual exercises called Cooperation, in which we plan our forces’ participation in humanitarian relief. FAA also developed software to work on humanitarian response aspects. Likewise, we combined general staff courses for humanitarian assistance, which are taught in our country, and we plan to teach them in other locations through an agreement with the Inter-American Air Forces Academy.

Diálogo: FAA is retrofitting and modernizing its air fleet. What improvements were made so far?

Brig. Gen. Amrein: The new government [of President Mauricio Macri] granted us permission to start modernizing our fleet, which had been postponed. Based on priority, our initial investments were in pilot training; hence the acquisition of U.S. Texan II aircraft, which already started operating in our country, stands out. We are in the process of modernizing the C-130 aircraft by implementing innovations and removing obsolete features. Out of five aircraft, three were already upgraded in cooperation with the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program of the U.S. [Department of Defense]. We also acquired four Bell 412 helicopters this year.

Diálogo: What improvements were made with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for the surveillance, control, and search and rescue operations FAA conducts?

Brig. Gen. Amrein: In this field, our country decided to conduct its own projects through research and UAV development. FAA is a pioneer in this, but there are also improvements in this area with the Argentine Army and Navy. We made satisfactory progress in class I and II vehicles, which are currently in operation and in the final certification phase.

Diálogo: What kind of international collaboration exists between FAA and the U.S. Air Force?

Brig. Gen. Amrein: In addition to the relationship we have as SICOFAA members, the U.S. Air Force and FAA have a history of exchanges since their beginnings, when they were created as independent elements in the 1940s. Also, I’d like to mention the State Partnership Program (SPP) [of the U.S. National Guard/Department of Defense] with the Georgia Air National Guard, a program that was just signed last year [2017]. I think this partnership is very important for the cooperation and integration that we have with the U.S.

Diálogo: FAA’s El Palomar First Air Brigade was recognized during CONJEFAMER. What was the reason for this honor?

Brig. Gen. Amrein: Each year, we select air bases to be awarded in the areas of security and accident prevention within SICOFAA. The performance of the First Air Brigade, home to the C-130 aircraft, was excellent in 2017 and 2018, and it earned this recognition for two consecutive years. This brigade flew more than 3,000 hours with these aircraft in activities conducted in Antarctica, as well as other operational activities. The brigade has modernized aircraft that demonstrated our people’s full capacity to operate at the highest standards of security.

Diálogo: What cooperation operations does FAA conduct with neighboring countries to curb transnational organized crime?

Brig. Gen. Amrein: Our countries and forces count on binational norms to exchange information about illicit flights, our responsibility, for many years. We have them with Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil, and soon we will sign an agreement with Bolivia, as these are neighboring countries located in hot zones in terms of illegal flights or irregular aircraft. These binational norms enable information sharing about any irregular aircraft detected in a country that intends to cross the border toward another. According to the protocol, the information is then transferred immediately, so that it’s possible to anticipate and detect or intercept the aircraft if necessary.

Diálogo: What are the outcomes of these international cooperation operations?

Brig. Gen. Amrein: We had positive results. We generally carry out exercises every year, but in reality, this exchange of information comes up every day, especially with Brazil and Uruguay, as this is key to exercise airspace control.

Diálogo: How is the joint and combined work among the Argentine Armed Forces?

Brig. Gen. Amrein: One of our state policies involves integration and joint military action among our country’s three armed forces. Undoubtedly, the main challenges concern logistics support for the problems security forces face, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, and all the issues that are currently addressed. However, we have precise orders to move further with training and combined operations with our partner nations and allies’ armed forces, according to the strategic priorities set by their countries’ foreign policy.

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