The Brazilian Navy conducted the 38th edition of Operation Dragon (Operação Dragão), November 30th–December 9th, 2017. The exercise simulated an amphibious assault—a naval operation launched from sea onto a hostile shore area—to ensure the Navy’s ability to protect power on land. Dragon’s objective is to keep the Fleet Marine Squad (FFE, per its Portuguese acronym) units trained. About 2,800 service members and 13 Navy ships and vessels, as well as 12 aircraft, four from the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym), participated in the exercise on Itaoca Beach, on the coast of Espírito Santo, in southeastern Brazil.
D Day for the operation was December 6th. Ships set sail from Rio de Janeiro on December 3rd. According to Brazilian Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Fábio Montenegro Delmas, an officer with the Ground Control Group, the operation simulated a conflict situation whose objective was to neutralize enemy troops and take a portion of the shore in the enemy country by way of an amphibious operation.
For Lt. Col. Montenegro, important aspects were put to the test from the planning phase to the execution of the exercise, such as, the interrelationships between the tasks of the Landing Force (ForDbq) and Naval Force, and establishing parallel chains and levels of command appropriate for each rank within the Amphibious Task Force. “It’s an opportunity to practice the Landing Force’s capacity to operate independently from other forces on the ground and also to coordinate between surface and air operations with the use of aircraft—mainly those involved in close air support,” he said.
According to Brazilian Marine Corps Lieutenant General César Lopes Loureiro, commander of FFE, an operation as complex as Dragon allows to train troops, especially members of Special Operations, on final preparation of the landing area. “The following is carried out: surface ship and helicopter movements ashore—with assault troop landing from the ForDbq forces—ground operations to take the beachhead while maintaining the initiative and keeping the operations moving quickly to achieve final objectives and put the defense plan in place before enemy reinforcements arrive; and provision of naval and air fire support and logistics support, following the principle of opportunity with the necessary coordination,” Lt. Gen. Loureiro explained.
“Operation Dragon is the high point of the Marine Corps’ annual training schedule,” Lt. Gen. Loureiro said. Amphibious operations, he said, are FFE’s raison d’être, and this exercise includes all phases of an amphibious operation and includes naval and naval air assets in addition to those related to marines. “We can train on planning, boarding, rehearsal, transit, and assault,” he said.
FFE follows an annual training cycle that begins in February and runs to December. “These training exercises allow for troop readiness, qualifying them to operate in diverse types of conflicts, from armed conflicts to operations of a humanitarian or peacekeeping nature,” Lt. Gen. Loureiro said. “Operations Formosa and Dragon sustain these trainings, with Dragon representing the high point of the force training schedule,” he said.
According to Lt. Col. Montenegro, the planning process that began in September saw the coordination of certain aspects, such as compatibility between communication assets used by all units involved in the operation, including the exercise’s Control Group. “We need to adapt our planning for marine assets that will embark on the ships as part of our plans for landing, loading, and shipping of the equipment,” he said.
The challenge during the exercise is coordinating communications and synchronizing operations among naval, naval air, and marine assets, as well as with FAB. “Another concern is maintaining the logistics flow, which is ship-based, as well as maintaining tactical integrity compatible with carrying out the duties required to complete the mission, given the operation’s peculiarities,” Lt. Col. Montenegro said.
Lt. Gen. Loureiro expects the 38th edition of Dragon to expand interoperability among the troops and naval and air assets. “This training allows the Brazilian Navy to maintain its capacity to carry out amphibious operations and for our marines to maintain their morale high when carrying out their ultimate goal,” he said. “According to the National Defense Strategy, marines must remain in a permanent state of readiness for immediate deployment. Dragon and other exercises contribute to such readiness,” he said.