The Brazilian Air Force’s (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym) C-105 Amazonas, H-60 Black Hawk, and A-29 Super Tucano aircraft could be deployed on United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions. UN representatives were in Brazil to visit FAB air units, where they ascertained readiness of the available assets and elevated the country to level two on the United Nations Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (UNPCRS). However, in order to effectively begin operations, it must reach level four, which could happen before the end of 2017.
“When we receive a UN invitation to take part in a certain mission, and when we begin drawing up relevant agreements, we will be elevated to level three,” said Air Force Colonel Gerson Cavalcanti de Oliveira, the head of the International Cooperation Systems Section of the FAB Joint Staff. He said that the UN is expected to extend the invitation sometime in the second half of this year.
“Only after the agreements are signed will the country be elevated to level four, and then it will have 90 days to deploy its assets on the assigned mission,” said Col. Cavalcanti. However, there is a long way to go before air assets can be effectively deployed. “After the visit, the UN submits a request to the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations (MRE, per its Portuguese acronym) for the use of Brazilian air assets on a certain mission. MRE analyzes the request and, if it agrees, it informally consults with the Brazilian Ministry of Defense (MD, per its Portuguese acronym) in order to analyze the operational feasibility of the mission,” he added.
Col. Cavalcanti also explained that after the consultation, MD submits a request to FAB to evaluate the mission and issue an opinion to MRE, which would include the costs of deployment. MRE, in turn, will ask the Brazilian Ministry of Planning and Lower House of Representatives whether the necessary funding exists. If approved, MRE will then formally reply to the UN request. After voting and approval by the Lower House, the formal documentation is submitted for the president’s approval. “If the process goes smoothly, the plan is for these aircraft to be deployed in the second half of 2018,” he said.
Air units visited
Three air units were inspected: the 7º/8º GAV (H-60L Black Hawk), the 1º/9º GAV (C-105 Amazonas) in Manaus in the state of Amazonas, and the 2º/3º GAV (A-29 Super Tucano) in the city of Porto Velho in the state of Rondônia, both located in the northern region of the country. Personnel from the MD, Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center in Brazil, the Readiness Command, and the Brazilian Air Force Joint Staff also participated in the visits, which were held at the end of April.
During the visit, Pakistani Army Colonel Humayun Chohan Zia, the leader of the UN delegation, stated in an interview with the Air Force Agency that it is quite probable that Brazil will deploy its air assets to Africa and other missions. “Brazil has already made a considerable contribution to the United Nations with its support in Haiti (to the MINUSTAH), and it also has had significant individual representations on several missions as staff and observers,” he said.
Col. Cavalcanti explained that the air units to be visited were chosen because of the geographical proximity among them, which facilitated the inspection process. “That does not mean that the aircraft to be used will only come from the visited squadrons. Both aircraft and crews may be drawn from any FAB unit that operates those particular pieces of equipment.”
One of the aircraft models offered by FAB to participate in UN peacekeeping missions is the H-60 Black Hawk, which is used in more than 80 countries worldwide. These aircraft can transport up to 12 people and can get security troops to areas that are otherwise difficult to access. They can carry an external payload of up to four tons and have a complete team and the necessary equipment for aeromedical assistance and evacuations, search-and-rescue missions and, if necessary, even aerial defense.
According to FAB, two squadrons operate the aircraft in Brazil. In addition to the Harpia Squadron (7º/8º GAV), the Pantera Squadron (5º/8º GAV), which is based in Santa Maria in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, also deploys the helicopter. This means that a grand total of 16 aircraft with 65 pilots are capable of operating on UN peacekeeping missions.
The A-29 aircraft is used on air defense missions by four squadrons: Grifo (2º/3º GAV); Escorpião (1º/3º GAV), located in Boa Vista in the state of Roraima; Flecha (3º/3º GAV), in Campo Grande in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and Joker (2º/5º GAV), in Natal in the state of Rio Grande do Norte. The tactical and weapons capabilities were some of the advantages of the aircraft presented by FAB during the inspection. “These aircraft could provide the peacekeeping forces with vital information, thus increasing their situational awareness,” Lieutenant Colonel Luiz Ângelo de Andrade, the commanding officer of the Griffin Squadron, said to the Air Force Agency.
The C-105 Amazonas, on the other hand, could be deployed for tactical and strategic airlifting, air dropping of paratroopers and payloads, and medical evacuations. They can also perform search and rescue missions, drop vaccines, food, and potable water into hard-to-reach areas, transport the sick and wounded, and provide support during natural disasters. According to FAB, Brazil operates 11 C-105 aircraft, and 51 pilots are trained to fly them.
Col. Cavalcanti emphasized the operational gains FAB would obtain by deploying its air assets during UN peacekeeping missions. “Many of the basic aerial roles and missions that FAB is trained for could be executed during peacekeeping missions,” he said, adding that such missions will enable it to increase its logistical and operational capabilities within what is established for strategic FAB operations. “The UN covers the cost of fuel and maintenance for the aircraft and their deployment. Furthermore, peacekeeping missions involve simultaneous operations with several other air forces,” he concluded.