Within the framework of existing agreements, the Joint Staff of the Uruguayan Air Force (FAU, per its Spanish acronym), and its counterparts from Argentina and Chile are holding a bilateral meeting. Different topics of common interest are being analyzed to strengthen bonds of friendship that have historically characterized these South American nations. Uruguay has bilateral agreements with several countries in the region, including Brazil, Colombia, and Paraguay, in addition to the ones already mentioned. The challenge for air forces in the region is to acquire new technologies for their defense and to fulfill the tasks delegated to them by their respective country's constitution and executive authority.
Chronologically, the first meeting was held between the joint staffs of Uruguay and Argentina, followed by a meeting between those of Uruguay and Chile. The agenda for these meetings is established ahead of time, and topics addressed include the exchange of experiences between the two nations and support for different activities, among other things. “One of those [activities] is helping fight forest fires, and also planning a future exercise called 'Cooperación,' which is about coordinating all of our resources to help countries with issues like tsunamis, earthquakes, and fires, among other things,” Brigadier General (Aviator) Ismael Alonzo, the chief of FAU General Staff, told Diálogo.
The bonds of friendship and cooperation between Uruguay and Argentina, and particularly between Uruguay and Chile date back to the last century. In 1915, the forerunners to Uruguay's military aviation wing trained at the Chilean aviation school. The opportunity to exchange ideas is vitally important since it leads to acquiring more experience. “During these meetings, topics related to knowledge and specialization courses for pilots and airmen in Chile and Uruguay are also addressed. With Argentina, we analyze the same topics and issues, since both of our air forces have the challenge of committing to new technologies for our defense and to fulfill the tasks delegated to us by the constitution and our executive authority,” Brig. Gen. Alonzo added.
These bilateral meetings take place every other year with each country taking turns to host. They facilitate reciprocity and allow both forces to strengthen bonds of fellowship, professional traditions, and technical capacities. The meeting between the air forces of Uruguay and Paraguay was held on August 30th in Montevideo, Uruguay. The Colombian Air Force held its meeting with its Uruguayan counterpart September 12th-16th in Bogota, Colombia, and the cooperation agreement previously signed with Brazil was reactivated.
Examples of the agreements endorsed during the meetings include combined exercises such as the one called “Cooperación V,” which had been scheduled for September 25th in the Chilean cities of Santiago and Puerto Montt, as well as the Greater Island of Chiloé. The exercise was suspended to respond to emergencies in the Caribbean and Mexico caused by the recent natural disasters. The exercise would have simulated an earthquake followed by a tsunami and volcanic eruption. The 20 countries of the region comprising the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces would have sent personnel and aircraft to participate, with the purpose of supporting the affected area through humanitarian aid and search-and-rescue air operations. The 1,200 troops, which had planned to establish an air bridge with the support of almost 30 heavy-lift and light-transport aircraft and helicopters, were mobilized for disaster response and humanitarian aid efforts in the Caribbean after Hurricanes Jose, Irma, and Maria.
Another example is the “Tanque” exercise, to be held in November between the air forces of Argentina and Uruguay. Uruguayan combat aircraft with mixed crews will be refueled in-flight by a C-130 Hercules.
Bilateral accord outside of the region
Uruguay has various agreements in place with other governments in the area of defense cooperation. This was evidenced by the arrival of three A-37B attack aircraft in the air base at Durazno, Uruguay, in 2014. The planes were donated by Ecuador, which had decommissioned them. “These agreements are always an opportunity. When we arrived at the Ministry of Defense, there were agreements that were practically unidirectional,” said Uruguayan Minister of National Defense Jorge Menéndez. “Today, we have broadened the range of possibilities for South American countries, also in Europe, and, to that effect, we have agreements with France, Spain, and Portugal and have just now signed an agreement with Italy. We have a few lines of negotiation which are not spontaneous, which generate work, which have to do with the acquisition and exchange of materials, and also reciprocal training, which is very important for our country,” Menéndez highlighted, adding that he is optimistic that, over the medium term, new possibilities of this type will emerge for acquiring materials for the armed forces.