With almost 30 continuous days of rigorous military activity in the region of Brazil’s border with Colombia, including the use of live ammunition, Operation Agatha marks the start of a new decade of the twenty-first century with the consolidation of the Amazon Surveillance System (SIVAM), an intricate network of radars, meteorological sensors, digital satellite communications, and advanced air-traffic-control software, among other technological advances available to Brazilian Military personnel.
Since the mid-1990s, Brazil has progressively absorbed the lessons learned in operating the system and has at the same time worked to renew its transport aircraft, improve its landing strips, and transfer more troops to the Amazon region, in a slow and constant process of sending infantry and logistics units, supersonic fighters, and new transport, attack, and assault helicopters, in addition to Marines, new river vessels, and functional improvements in the Special Border Squads, which will double in number by 2020.
Nevertheless, the largest demonstration of operational advances was provided by the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), which deployed new tactics and methods of fighting using RQ-450 remote-controlled aircraft. These aircraft will be assigned the mission of locating illegal airstrips used by criminal gangs along the border. Operating in conjunction with sophisticated E-99 Guardian planes, they will locate objectives for A-29 Super Tucano fighters flying in darkness.
These turboprop planes will target the clandestine landing strips with 230-kilo bombs, with extremely high accuracy provided by night-vision systems and computers capable of continuously calculating the bombs’ point of impact.
Northrop F-5EM fighters from Manaus, deployed in Tabatinga, will be responsible for providing air superiority in the region. Special Forces and jungle infantry units will cover actions on land, in which the Federal Police and Brazilian Government law-enforcement agencies will participate, with the support of Navy, Army, and Air Force helicopters, operating jointly.
The helicopters used by the FAB also demonstrated improved firepower, especially in the case of the Black Hawks, which are also being used by Army Aviation in Operation Agatha. The A-29 Super Tucano fighters, combat-tested by neighboring Colombia against the FARC, are repeating their success in operations in difficult conditions in the Amazon region, both by day and by night.
The complex logistical base and center of expeditionary operations set up in Tabatinga, a city on the border with Colombia (across from the city of Leticia), enables Brazilian commanders to have access to high-speed digital communications, a field medical center, complete combat support, and constantly updated high-quality intelligence.
In practice, the three branches of the Armed Forces gave proof of their capacity for joint operations in what is considered difficult terrain, effectively using new technologies and deployment doctrines.