The Brazilian Army’s Third Aviation Battalion (3º BAVEx, in Portuguese) helps combat border crimes in the western region of Brazil. From May 14-18, 2018, 3º BAVEx joined nearly 500 service members of the Brazilian Army’s Western Military Command in Operation Agatha Jauru II (Operação Ágata Jauru II) on the Mato Grosso border with Bolivia. Participating units included the Second Border Battalion (2º BFRON, in Portuguese), the 13th Motorized Infantry Brigade, the 44th Motorized Infantry Brigade, and the 13th Army Police Squad.
In addition to Army (EB, in Portuguese) personnel, about 50 experts from federal and state public safety agencies took part in the operation. According to EB Colonel Sergio dos Santos Botelho, commander of 3º BAVEx, Agatha Jauru II stands out for its interagency work. “We observe the mode of operation of each [entity] and exchange relevant information to improve the operational readiness of the battalion,” he said. “Additionally, the battalion has the opportunity to be trained in different environments and situations.”
During the four-day operation, 3º BAVEx used two Pantera HM-1 and one HA-1 Fennec helicopters. Service members conducted reconnaissance missions along the border to identify clandestine airstrips and other routes criminal organizations use, as well as illegal mining areas. The battalion’s aircraft transported troops, ensuring a faster and more efficient operation of all checkpoints.
Flights over the border
According to EB Major Thiago Bottecchia da Silva, one of the 11 service members from 3º BAVEx who participated in the operation, the three aircraft executed 29 missions and completed an estimated 40 flight hours during the operation. “The big challenge during operations along the border will always be increasing operational capacity of participating military organizations, providing air mobility, and carrying out combat missions, combat support, and logistics support missions with maximum efficiency and safety,” he told Diálogo.
Units of 3º BAVEx kicked off activities for Agatha Jauru II with intelligence work. The aircraft flew over illegal crossing points (used to transit drugs, arms, and ammunitions) to plan for the infiltration of troops, seize illegal products, and extract service members after the missions. The flights covered the entire Mato Grosso border.
During one of the missions, the HA-1 Fennec crew and a service member from 2º BFRON performed a flight to spot illegal airstrips used by narco-planes. The crew identified several unauthorized landing strips and an illegal mining site. The operation command reviewed the information gathered during the flight and will use it to take action and curb crime.
Major Bottecchia highlighted the importance of using two types of aircraft during the mission. “The HM-1 is a twin engine helicopter, recommended for the transport of troops. The HA-1, however, is a single engine helicopter used for reconnaissance and attack,” he said. “Both models operate at night and in rescue, combat, and fire missions, including disaster situations.”
The fleet of 3º BAVEx counts eight Pantera HM-1 and six HA-1 Fennec helicopters. The division, based in Mato Gross do Sul, has about 350 service members. The air unit supports EB with aerial operations, transporting service members or conducting reconnaissance, attack, and search and rescue missions for the last 25 years.
The objective of Agatha Jauru II is to increase security for the population along the border, with the presence of EB and regional public safety and federal agencies. In addition, Agatha Jauru II aims to deter cross-border crimes through interagency operations. According to the 13th Motorized Infantry Brigade’s Public Affairs Office, service members searched nearly 2,000 vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, trucks, and vessels. Five people were also searched during the operation.
In addition to the 3º BAVEx helicopters, the maneuvers counted with support from operational vehicles, drones, and a mobile command and control car equipped with communication and management systems. “More than 500 locals received medical and dental services, and 266 medicines were distributed,” the 13th Motorized Infantry Brigade’s Public Affairs Office indicated. Carried out since 2011, Agatha is based on the Integrated Border Protection Program, the National Defense Strategy, and the Federal Constitution.