Seamen of the Argentine Navy's Naval War School (ESGN, in Spanish) and the Chilean Navy's Naval War Academy (ACANAV, in Spanish) joined efforts to face virtual scenarios, as part of the Bilateral Crisis Games 2019. The exercise was conducted at the ESGN headquarters in Buenos Aires, April 22-26.
The tabletop exercise seeks to increase interoperability between the two institutions and their response capabilities in case of a potential international crisis. The exercise also serves as a platform to exchange experiences, strengthen bonds of friendship and trust between the navies, and help improve regional cooperation.
"The situations raised during the game were an interesting combination that allowed us to observe different ways to act in each group, reaching a common understanding by consensus, as well as the desired end state to deal with the crisis," said Argentine Navy Captain Julio Gandolfo, commandant of ESGN.
In the 21st edition of the games, both delegations confronted threats in marine protected areas (MPA) and sought to resolve problems jointly. The officers focused on coordination between agencies and the execution of military operations with the virtual participation of naval units to protect maritime areas and preserve natural resources and biological diversity. The exercise included hands-on and theoretical activities, as well as a summary of lessons learned.
Besides the naval delegations, representatives of the Defense ministries of both nations, the Chilean Embassy in Buenos Aires, the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, the Argentine Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, and the Argentine National Directorate of Conservation, among others, took part in the event.
Chilean Navy Captain Julio Helmke Ruiz, commandant of ACANAV, emphasized the importance of these activities when conducting combined work. "Maritime spaces are so enormous that an individual effort cannot control them; therefore, getting used to working together helps us to be empowered and protect these spaces better."
Guardians of natural resources
According to the Argentine government, the country has 61 MPA, covering more than 84,000 square kilometers of protected territorial waters, an area bigger than Panama. Chile's 33 MPAs have a surface of more than 1 million km2, the Chilean Ministry of the Environment says on its website. The number is larger than the country's continental surface.
The MPAs, which consist of marine parks and reserves, nature sanctuaries, and protected multiple-use maritime and coastal areas, seek to safeguard marine biodiversity and protect the habitat of endemic species, establishing management and regulation measures for fishing-related activities and to prevent negative impacts. Various threats to marine biodiversity exist; however, those that most affect regional navies have to do with illegal fishing and transnational criminal groups' activities.
"The game's scenario that involved marine protected areas allowed us to visualize the problems that might arise during the formulation, analysis, and solution of international crisis situations," said Capt. Gandolfo. "Due to their nature, combined naval forces must participate in close coordination with other national and international agencies to safeguard natural marine resources in areas of interest shared by both nations."
The Argentine and Chilean armed forces have a long history of cooperation with regular binational exercises and training, such as the Bilateral Crisis Game or the Combined Naval Antarctic Patrol, both carried out for more than two decades. In 2010, they created the Southern Cross Joint and Combined Peace Force designed for United Nations missions.
"We shared great moments, not only of professional exchange, but also of honest camaraderie, which contributes to increasing […] the mutual knowledge and historic bonds of friendship among our countries and institutions," Capt. Gandolfo said.
The bilateral games, conducted in rotating, annual cycles, have focused on several maritime security issues, such as regional cooperation in case of natural disasters, humanitarian assistance, or the fight against narcotrafficking. The 22nd edition will be conducted in Chile in 2020.