Planning, conducting, and evaluating operational missions are the duties Vice Admiral Fernando Raúl Cerdán Ruíz has as general commander of the Peruvian Navy's Pacific Operations (COMOPERPAC, in Spanish). Since assuming command in January 2017, Vice Adm. Cerdán leads the Surface, Submarine, Naval Aviation, Marine, and Special Operations units.
During a visit to U.S. Southern Command, Vice Adm. Cerdán spoke with Diálogo. He talked about the institutional plans of COMOPERPAC, the focus of the military, international and interagency cooperation in the fight against narcotrafficking, and his organization's interoperability.
Diálogo: What is COMOPERPAC's mission?
Vice Admiral Fernando Raúl Cerdán Ruíz, general commander of the Peruvian Navy's Pacific Operations: COMOPERPAC, as a subordinate body of the Peruvian Navy, is an operational entity of the institution, whose mission is to carry out strategic operational planning, prepare, conduct and evaluate operations and logistical activities of the operational commands and naval zones assigned to their area of jurisdiction, and formulate their doctrine to contribute to fulfilling institutional objectives.
Diálogo: What is your main military focus as commander of COMOPERPAC?
Vice Adm. Cerdán: The main military focus is to act as a maritime operational command within the Armed Forces Joint Command. To prepare professional forces to act jointly, highly trained forces that are technologically equipped and have the capacity to take immediate action, observing the rules for the use of force.
Diálogo: How does COMOPERPAC contribute to countering Peru's main security threats?
Vice Adm. Cerdán: COMOPERPAC contributes to countering current threats by training and preparing our personnel, which will be sent to the special commands of the joint organization in the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley and the Intelligence and Special Operations Command to mainly confront the threats of remnants of terrorist groups linked to narcotrafficking. We also bring support to interventions in the maritime sphere against different illicit activities in coordination with the national maritime authority in a diversity of functions that includes narcotrafficking and illegal mining, among others.
Diálogo: What is the importance of being an interagency entity comprising the commands of the Surface Force, the Submarine Force, Special Operations, Naval Aviation, and the Marines? How do you coordinate your joint actions?
Vice Adm. Cerdán: Although COMOPERPAC participates in a coordinated manner with other government entities—in accordance with the policy guidelines of the government and the defense sector—it is not an interagency entity. Within the formation of the administrative organization are five operational forces, which at the time of operation, merge into one task organization to complete the mission. In this sense, the Peruvian Navy and Armed Forces Joint Command through COMOPERPAC coordinate joint actions, which make naval assets available to complement the other institutions.
Diálogo: Peru hosted UNITAS, which is known as the oldest and largest multinational naval exercise, in July 2017. What were the lessons learned and experiences that came out of this exercise?
Vice Adm. Cerdán: We took on the challenge very responsibly and were able to evaluate the professionalism and dedication of members of each participating delegation and group. The operations included the synchronization of maritime operations with amphibious operations, which on other occasions operated at different times as separate organizations, and it became an excellent test of interoperability for the different countries’ participating assets. UNITAS 58-17 was one of the most demanding UNITAS exercises with the most training in the past few years. It can be improved even more to strengthen mutual support against common threats through international coordination, a common doctrine, mutual understanding, and increasing the level of trust between our institutions.
Diálogo: How important is joint regional and international work, both with the United States and other partner nations in the region, for example in the fight against narcotrafficking with the Colombian Navy’s Pacific Naval Force?
Vice Adm. Cerdán: It is very important to work jointly with partner nations of the region. The fight against narcotrafficking is constant, and COMOPERPAC, according to national legislation, makes material and human resources available to combat illicit activity at sea, which in our regulatory regime, is led by the national maritime authority. Likewise, this effort is shared with different regional agencies, including several from the United States, such as NAS [Narcotics Affairs Section], JIATF South [Joint Interagency Task Force South], and DEA, among others. Also, we work very intensely with very good results with the Colombian Navy thanks to ties we established through the years.
Diálogo: In terms of the military’s work during natural disasters, how did COMOPERPAC participate in helping the victims of the Coastal El Niño in Peru in March 2017?
Vice Adm. Cerdán: We actively participated in helping the victims, and we deployed all our available naval and air-naval assets and resources, like the deployment of the Mobile Modular Bases, the amphibious and logistical transport vehicles, which were essential as a first response to safeguard the lives of our countrymen. Later we were in different humanitarian aid operations in affected towns, coordinating with diverse government agencies to distribute cargo and food in different ports through maritime and aerial bridges, attending to emergencies in a multifocal and simultaneous manner. Our actions during critical conditions demonstrated the versatility and multifunctional usefulness of our naval assets. We are very pleased with what we did and learned, which will allow us to improve in the future.
Diálogo: The Submarine Force, which is more than 100 years old, is recognized internationally for the readiness of its ships. What are your plans in the short and medium term for this force?
Vice Adm. Cerdán: As an officer trained in submarines, I am very proud of our Submarine Force, which today is recognized internationally for its professionalism. The marines who comprise it have demanding training and skills which makes the communion of man-machine ideal to operate in the most adverse conditions.
Our plans in the short and medium term are framed in the process of upgrading all units, both in the area of electronics and engineering, and includes research and development projects that have provided very good operational results, such as sonar and the Kallpa fire control system. Likewise, we are constantly improving our curriculum in terms of training and education of submarine personnel, with the implementation of new simulators and participation in different multinational exercises. This is the case of the SUBDIEX exercise. Since 2002, we’ve been sending a submarine to the East and West coasts of the United States to work with their naval forces.
Diálogo: What is your main challenge for 2018?
Vice Adm. Cerdán: Our main challenge is to reach the highest standards in training the force for work in multiple roles, and within that, to fulfill the operational commitments stipulated by the General Command for 2018, including the multinational exercises of the region and the world such as RIMPAC, UNITAS, SUBDIEX, SIFOREX, Dawn Blitz, Bold Alligator, among others.
Diálogo: Would you like to add anything else for readers in the region?
Vice Adm. Cerdán: We are ready, willing, and able to work together with other countries against transnational threats that threaten peace in the hemisphere and the world, and to renew our commitment to have personnel and resources ready to support humanitarian aid operations during disasters that affect different communities, whether in or outside our country.