As 2017 drew to a close, aircraft of the Peruvian Air Force (FAP, in Spanish) thundered across the skies in the north of the country, putting the FAP’s operational capabilities to the test. Fighter jets broke the sound barrier, while combat, transport, and reconnaissance aircraft engaged in a variety of mock missions.
The Dissimilar Operational Capacities Training Exercise (ECODEX, in Spanish) took place December 4th-7th at Talara Air Force Base in the Piura region of northern Peru. The sixth edition of ECODEX brought together main FAP units for technical ground training, simulated scenarios in the air, aerial maneuvers, and live-fire practice.
The objective of ECODEX is to keep FAP personnel qualified in operational tactics and weapons systems use between units. The exercise also allows them to work as members of a unified air force and sanction the use of the different equipment in their inventory.
“The exercises ECODEX brings forth were created so everyone would learn and know that they aren’t just playing around in their own backyard, but that other parties are in play at the same time, and that the boss watches them all,” said to Diálogo Major General Carlos Chávez Cateriano, commander of the FAP Maintenance Service. “So, everyone has to observe proper discipline to complete the tasks safely and efficiently.”
More than 80 hours of flight time
The training began with a presentation of ECODEX VI’s objectives and missions to be completed, as well as accident prevention measures. The exercise continued with fighter aircraft maneuvers, such as Mirage 2000 fighter jets and Cessna A-37B Dragonfly light attack aircraft. Units also evaluated their responsiveness in personnel recovery ops using transport aircraft.
“We did electronic and photographic reconnaissance missions and aerial refueling drills,” Lieutenant General Raúl Hoyos de Vinatea, commander of FAP operations, said to Diálogo. “We wrapped up the exercise with search-and-rescue and CSAR [combat search and rescue missions] missions.”
A total of eight types of aircraft participated in ECODEX VI, along with more than 100 FAP service members who logged more than 80 hours of airtime. The exercise used FAP’s communications and monitoring networks based on multinational experience. “Everyone who took part in the ECODEX game meets the requirements, which are part of the international game,” said Maj. Gen. Chávez.
ECODEX, initiated in 2015 and held twice a year, has become FAP’s most important national exercise. With two firsts, 2017 was a special year for the force’s training.
Held in July 2017, ECODEX V stood out with the simultaneous deployment of the five FAP air wings from five different bases. More than 800 FAP service members participated in the exercise with simulated air interdiction, attack, and rescue scenarios.
ECODEX VI was held for the first time at Talara Air Force Base, which was in the midst of renovation. As the home base of Air Force Group No. 11 under Air Wing No. 1, Talara is the lone military presence in this area of the northern Peruvian coast.
“Talara is strategically located in Peru,” explained Lt. Gen. Hoyos. “This is one of the country’s most important oil-producing regions. It has a refinery that is being modernized, and the area is emerging from an economic depression.”
Talara is also located in the Piura region, which borders Ecuador and faces threats from narcotrafficking and illegal mining. The area is used to move and store cocaine—Peru is the world's second largest producer, behind Colombia—and illegal gold between both countries.
According to the 2016 report Organized Crime and Illegally Mined Gold in Latin America of Swiss organization The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, the value of Peru’s illegally mined gold exports exceeds that of cocaine. Annual profits of this business, the report indicates, would be more than $3 billion. Annual profits from cocaine trafficking are estimated at $16.5 million.
By conducting ECODEX VI in Talara, FAP sought to get closer to the local population and build bonds of trust. “The area is developing and requires constant government presence,” said Lt. Gen. Hoyos. “The base is always at the service of the population. If it weren’t for FAP, they wouldn’t receive much of the support they have.”
Two ECODEX exercises (VII and VIII) are slated for 2018, though exact dates haven’t been set yet. The first will be a nationwide exercise involving FAP’s five air wings. According to Lt. Gen. Hoyos, the exercises will include mock natural disasters and civic actions to support those devastated by the coastal El Niño weather phenomenon that impacted Peru from December 2016 to April 2017.
“The 2018 operational plan sets aside time to support the reconstruction plan,” concluded Lt. Gen. Hoyos. “We have already planned a number of hours, financed to serve the State and aid government agencies.”