The Virtual Combat Training Center of the Peruvian Air Force (FAP, in Spanish) tested its dissimilar operational capacities during exercise ECODEX VII. The training, which included 30 combat and transport aircraft and more than 500 military personnel in various fictitious maneuvers, took place May 21–June 1, 2018, in Iquitos, San Ramón, and Puerto Maldonado, Peru.
“For the first time, the combat center, which aims at maximizing flight hours, training, and real operations, took part in the virtual portion of such an important exercise,” FAP Colonel Augusto Jesús Patrón, director of the Virtual Combat Training Center, told Diálogo. “[We seek to] improve personnel capabilities, fulfill any government requirement, and be up to the task in the most important Latin American virtual exercises.”
, FAP’s most important exercise, started in 2015 and is conducted biannually. Simulation is used to instruct and train Air Force elements in high-cost tasks, such as air combat with different platforms. “This dissimilar exercise keeps crews trained in tactics, techniques, and standardized procedures to accomplish missions,” Col. Patrón said.
The virtual center participated in simulated offensive missions under the control of an officer directing interceptions in the bases of Lima, Chiclayo, and Arequipa. There were defense missions against a combat aircraft attack and simulated counternarcotic operations. The exercise also included assault and air base takeovers, parachuting, unmanned aerial vehicle maneuvers, the fight against illegal mining, search and rescue, aeromedical evacuations, humanitarian relief transport, and use of satellite imaging.
“As part of combat training, we carry out heavy force attacks—in other words, large-scale attacks with different types of aircraft flying together toward one objective, each with a different role,” FAP Major Ernesto Portugal, director of the Air Defense Group, told Diálogo. “As everything is interconnected, we were able to do the exercise from miles away.”
The Virtual Combat Training Center, in charge of the Training and Instruction Squadron assigned to the Peruvian Air Force’s Air Defense Group, is equipped with cutting-edge technology, such as a war game simulator. It also houses training centers for combat and portable air-defense system missiles.
“The military personnel learned valuable lessons,” Maj. Portugal said. “The first [lesson] has to do with how easy it is to simulate exercises of this magnitude with virtual reality simulation. Another lesson relates to improved communications between combat units to avoid losing connectivity.”
Another lesson learned: the need to increase people’s participation in exercises at the center. “We should grow a bit more and carry out real operations as well as simulated ones,” Col. Patrón said. “We realized that ECODEX exercises are an extraordinary opportunity to provide better doctrine training to our young officers.”
The exercise favored interoperability between pilots and air defense officers who controlled radars in different units. “It’s not enough for every unit to be trained; we must also be interconnected. We achieve it with these kinds of exercises,” Maj. Portugal said. “As an initial effort and simulated practice in an exercise this big, we reached our goals, so that’s why I think our participation was a success,” Col. Patrón added.
Fighting drug trafficking
Military simulation is a technique that involves software, mechanical and electronic engineering, as well as the capability to reproduce exercises. “The technique renders the personnel involved in the regional fight against transnational crime more effective,” Col. Patrón said. “Our simulator is so versatile that it enables operations different from war, such as countering drug trafficking, which is one of our biggest threats after corruption.”
FAP works to bring together the country’s armed forces with joint and combined mock exercises in a real theater of operations. “We want to increase the group of air, land, and naval components,” Maj. Portugal said. “We estimate that the initiative will become a reality by late 2019, and later on [it will be conducted] with other countries’ armed forces.”