About 600 service members from the Brazilian Army’s Western Military Command (CMO, in Portuguese) deployed to strategic areas along Brazil’s border with Bolivia and Paraguay for Operation Agatha Steel II (Operação Ágata Aço II), June 18th–21st. The operation included road patrols and vehicle inspections to prevent and stop common cross-border crimes in the area, such as drug and arms trafficking.
The interagency operation included participation from Federal Police and other agencies of the intelligence and security sectors. Agatha Steel I took place April 2018. According to CMO’s press office, operations requiring quick response over a short period of time must be more frequent in the second iteration. “Another point to highlight is the increase of intelligence operations, thanks to the potential of the Integrated Border Monitoring System [SISFRON, in Portuguese],” CMO’s press office stated.
SISFRON consists of fixed and mobile radar, optical equipment (such as night vision binoculars), radios, computers, and other communication devices. Service members use the tools along the 650-kilometer border that separates the state of Mato Grosso do Sul from Paraguayan territory—the area serves as the border-monitoring program’s pilot project. The area falls under the oversight of the Fourth Mechanized Cavalry Brigade (4ª Bda C Mec, in Portuguese), headquartered in Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul, one of CMO’s key military divisions.
Test and practice
SISFRON communication equipment was primarily used during Operation Agatha Steel II. Service members used information from fixed and mobile radar that monitor parts of the border to devise strategic operations.
“SISFRON’s equipment is used to detect activity in the area, monitor the flow of vehicles and people, and confirm data accuracy on certain facilities and terrain. In other words, the equipment aims to increase the brigade’s sensory and processing capacity,” said Brazilian Army Colonel Marcelo Rocha Lima, chief of 4ª Bda C Mec’s General Staff. With Agatha Steel II, the military concluded a series of tests conducted with SISFRON equipment.
Among the test runs of early 2018, Col. Rocha Lima highlighted Operation Hurricane (Operação Furacão), carried out May 14th–25th. The operation brought together 850 service members from 4ª Bda C Mec, using SISFRON to its full potential. “The operation was unique and simulated various situations the brigade might encounter—both war and non-war scenarios,” Col. Rocha Lima said.
During the first week of the operation, service members carried out combat simulations for technical diagnostics. They performed load, radio, and other tests, in addition to equipment configuration. Service members, then divided into groups, concentrating on exercises with separate missions. The goal was to justify the use of SISFRON equipment and train the troops. “Essentially, we add mock combat situations to the technical data to verify the operational use of the equipment,” Col. Rocha Lima said.
Service members from the 10th and 17th Mechanized Cavalry Regiment, under 4ª Bda C Mec, carried out zone reconnaissance among the missions. Five hundred service members made way along federal and local roads for the city of Laguna Carapã, Mato Grosso do Sul. Carapã is 65 kilometers from Caarapó, location of the command post, and about 380 km from Paraguay. Troops made the trip in 148 vehicles equipped with communications gear, including radios and radar. “The system was tested within its capabilities for the brigade, and it was a great opportunity to use the system and train the troops,” Col. Rocha Lima said.
Despite the shortage of resources for the Brazilian Armed Forces in recent years, Col. Rocha Lima said all operations scheduled for 2018 so far took place. In addition, 4ª Bda C Mec already received new SISFRON equipment and not only carried out operations, but made corrections to the program’s pilot project based on evaluations performed in 2017.