Brigadier General José Luis Sauceda Sierra, commander of the Honduran Air Force (FAH, in Spanish), is dedicated to safeguarding the Honduran airspace. Airspace control, humanitarian aid, as well as joint and combined work with the military forces of his country are some of the strategies he carries out to protect Honduran skies and curb the acts of transnational criminal organizations.
Brig. Gen. Sauceda took part in the LVIII Conference of Chiefs of the American Air Forces (CONJEFAMER, in Spanish), held in Panama City, Panama, June 19-21, 2018. The military leader spoke with Diálogo about the importance of regional integration and the progress made in the fight against narcotrafficking, among other topics.
Diálogo: What’s the importance of FAH’s participation in CONJEFAMER?
Brigadier General José Luis Sauceda Sierra, commander of the Honduran Air Force: This conference of the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA) enables us to be connected and communicate in case of any situation a member nation may face. It’s important because we consolidate cooperation, trust, and bonds of friendship, among the commanders of the air forces, hence facilitating work among our forces. This work may be tactical training with our units, human transport, and even the preparation of each force in areas that might be required for diverse scenarios, not only virtual but also real, such as natural disasters.
Diálogo: Why is it important for your country to be part of SICOFAA? What are the benefits?
Brig. Gen. Sauceda: SICOFAA’s benefits are clear. From 1961 to date, this benefit has been for the whole region, not just because of the participation itself but because the training we receive is fundamental. Some countries can be trained at the troop, auxiliary, officer, and noncommissioned officer level—for free—and we can provide support in case another country needs to pass through our territory, in case a logistics base is required. We can operate in the whole region with the training, with our rescue units, with our trained personnel in area operations, in search and rescue, and instrument flight procedures. We participated in different countries of the Americas as instructors and as guests in exercises and courses. In addition, we have integration, bonds of friendship, and trust.
SICOFAA is an apolitical system of cooperation—that’s the main thing—and we always pursue our nations’ wellbeing, putting it ahead of any personal or institutional interest. As a system of cooperation, our goal is to be united as partners. We brought support to Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, lending our support in different countries and situations.
Diálogo: What’s the importance of the combined work among the air forces?
Brig. Gen. Sauceda: SICOFAA has brought us together in Latin America. Aviation is the fastest means of transport to provide support to different countries in case the need arises. We’re not talking conflicts but rather what’s happening with the environment: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, search and rescue, or situations that might occur in the future. In these cases, aerial means of transport can be mobilized immediately.
Diálogo: What joint and combined operations does FAH carry out with its sister forces to neutralize narcotrafficking and reduce organized crime operations?
Brig. Gen. Sauceda: Within the Honduran Armed Forces we have air, land, and naval shields. As a team, we work to protect the airspaces over maritime and land areas. We work jointly with the Navy and Army, and carry out maritime interceptions with the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance System of interactive voice response communication platforms. We overfly and intercept vessels and support the Army with transport of its special forces to areas of insertion. We are identifying all these illegal aircraft attempting to enter Honduran territory and monitor them under legally established rules and procedures.
Diálogo: What advances were made in this fight?
Brig. Gen. Sauceda: We decreased the number of aircraft entering our territory by destroying clandestine landing areas. We work to consolidate new strategies, as criminals also work on new means to continue their misdeeds. We provide and receive support from other units, not only FAH, but the whole country of Honduras.
Diálogo: How does FAH work with its Northern Triangle partners to counter security threats?
Brig. Gen. Sauceda: We communicate through Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández; Honduran Minister of Defense Fredy Díaz; and Major General René Orlando Ponce Fonseca, head of the Honduran Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff. This means the air forces have direct communication. We carry out exercises, and when we know about an aircraft, speedboat or anything illegal at the border, we have the communication so that task forces can take action and counter illegal activities.
Diálogo: What modernization projects is FAH working on?
Brig. Gen. Sauceda: We have a project to upgrade UH-1H helicopters with glass cockpits and Garmin 650 GPS systems, and the new project with 412 Bell helicopters. Little by little we will analyze heavier air transport acquisition.
Diálogo: What is your message for the air forces of the region?
Brig. Gen. Sauceda: To keep strengthening partnerships and bonds of friendship at SICOFAA. I would like to thank partner nations, because our country is ready to help others, as others have helped us when we needed it.