Militaries worldwide face a challenging array of responsibilities. Fighting insurgencies, securing national resources, protecting borders and carrying out humanitarian missions are some of the tasks they are charged with. When trusted allies use the same tools, military gains can be magnified exponentially.
A COMMON FRONT
In the fights in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, key coalition partners have found success by using the same equipment, often made available by grants from the United States:
CANADA: Modernized its lift capability with U.S. Army Chinook (CH-47D) helicopters. The purchase included training and support to help transition from Iraq to Afghanistan alongside other coalition forces.
UNITED KINGDOM and AUSTRALIA: Enhanced their aviation programs with unmanned aerial vehicles purchased from the U.S. as well as night vision capabilities. Australia’s forces also boosted its ground capability to protect its troops by using U.S. Army M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks. “This capability will be increasingly important as widespread proliferation of cheap, high-tech and lethal anti-armor, anti-personnel weapons could pose an increasing threat in any future conflict,” said Australia’s former Defence Minister Brendan Nelson.
One of the biggest advantages to using similar equipment among partner nations is the exchange of knowledge between armed forces. “There is a common knowledge on the battlefield,” said Keith Webster, deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Army for defense exports and cooperation, during an interview with Diálogo. “Military-to-military engagement leads to discussions about common operating tactics in the battlefield.”
Beyond the Middle East battlegrounds, William J. McKeever, deputy chief for the Americas division, U.S. Air Force international affairs, also sees the use of similar equipment as a key component to military collaboration. “It is a very strong link from pilot to pilot and technician to technician, very important to security cooperation,” McKeever told Diálogo. “Without common factors, how would we know their tactics, how would they know ours?”
The use of the same equipment during operations also leads to a common logistics capability. If a need arises during an operation, spare parts are easily accessible to borrow or buy from partner nations. “Equipment commonality is the cornerstone of cooperation,” said McKeever. While McKeever underscored the importance of having common equipment, he also stressed the value of military-to-military interactions, such as military exercises and exchanges where the equipment is put into practice and relationships are fostered.
STATE SOVEREIGNTY AND DISASTER RELIEF
Containment of insurgent groups and the ability to carry out humanitarian missions can go hand in hand with modern military equipment. States can also fend off other criminal entities.
NIGERIA: Seeking to protect its natural resources, Nigeria strengthened its naval capabilities by acquiring four 54.86-meter buoy tenders from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) in the early 2000s. These vessels are used to patrol the Niger Delta and protect against oil theft. An additional 15 response boats were acquired to patrol the oil rigs off the coast. Most recently, the Nigerian Navy acquired Thunder, a 115.21-meter high-endurance cutter complete with a helicopter flight deck. The Nigerian Sailors received U.S.-based training prior to sailing the cutter back to Nigeria.
SAUDI ARABIA: The Military modernized its helicopter fleet with an investment in three helicopters from the U.S. Army. This will give its Military and National Guard a modern helicopter capability, with U.S. programs support, until the program is retired in the next 30 years.
SINGAPORE: Its current Military capability serves as a stabilizing force to support the autonomy of the state and for humanitarian purposes. A long-standing partnership and military base agreements between Singapore and the U.S. allow for a portion of Singapore’s CH-47 fleet to be stored in the state of Texas. After Hurricane Katrina in the U.S., Singapore assisted with evacuations in New Orleans by deploying its Chinook (CH-47) helicopters to the area.
SRI LANKA: In 2004, the Military acquired a 64-meter medium-endurance cutter, the Samudura. The ship’s size enabled the Sri Lankan Navy to extend its reach off the coast and stop the influx of weapons that the terrorist organization, the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam, was bringing ashore. The ship also has been able to help stranded fishermen.
m UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: The country expanded its air missile defense capability through the Patriot Missile Program. The multibillion dollar program includes training, maintenance and assistance from U.S. forces in setting up the capability in a long-term military-to-military relationship.
YEMEN: Its Coast Guard fleet was modernized to better patrol territorial waters. The USCG has supported the Yemen Coast Guard in advising, training and providing assets during the past decade. In 2011, the USCG transferred two 26.52-meter patrol boats to Yemen. Yemen Coast Guard crews received U.S.-based training on specific systems on the patrol boats and general training and sea trials in the state of Louisiana, where the newly acquired boats were built.
Sources: U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, www.news.com.au, Sri Lanka Navy
The Tools to Combat
Diálogo spoke with Rear Admiral Joseph W. Rixey, director of the U.S. Navy International Programs Office (IPO), about how his office supports the region against the common maritime threats in the Americas.
Diálogo: What are the shared maritime threats in the Americas and how does the Navy IPO help address some of those?
Rear Admiral Joseph W. Rixey: Most of them are obvious, counternarcotics and counterterrorism, freedom of the seas, counterpiracy, counter illicit activity, protection of the economic activity zone, and the fifth, which we like to highlight, is the humanitarian crisis and natural disaster.
We assist them [partner nations] in acquiring whatever equipment and training and capabilities they need to address these threats; we facilitate partner capacity. We coordinate with the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard acquisition commands to meet our ally requirements.
Diálogo: What are the most important factors of maritime partnerships?
Rear Adm. Rixey: The first thing you start with is trust, and mutual respect for each other’s capabilities. We know the threats, and we identify common objectives. What ends up happening is that you come to a design or a capability that meets that, and of course, what is important about maritime partnerships is interoperability. So that when a threat emerges, any emergent situation, they can expect assistance right away, and that assistance would be seamless and coordinated.
Diálogo: How are aircraft and ship transfers facilitating interoperability with Latin American and Caribbean partners?
Rear Adm. Rixey: The mechanism is that if you trade like products, if you use similar communications data links, interoperability can occur with common military equipment. Mostly, interoperability is associated with the ability to communicate and develop joint interoperable tactics, techniques and procedures in coalition operations. One such example is in humanitarian relief that we saw in Haiti, the ability to establish communications; that is an interoperability mechanism.
Diálogo: Can you explain what “cooperative development” looks like in the Americas?
Rear Adm. Rixey: We use a mechanism called a master information exchange agreement between the countries, and what these master information exchange information agreements permit is a reciprocal, or bilateral, exchange of research and development information.
So, what we do is exchange information, engineers and scientists exchange programs, and basic discussions which lead sometimes to cooperative development of products.
We have been doing a lot of information exchanges. [For example,] a cooperative program with Brazil, with green energy, the way that they do green energy, the way they use their biofuels and manufacture their biofuels and we want to learn from that.