Colombia - Navy (Armada República de Colombia [ARC])
In 2008 the National Navy (Armada Nacional) had a total of 30,729 personnel, plus about 14,000 marines and 146 naval aviation personnel. In 1988 the National Navy had about 10,600 personnel, including approximately 5,000 marines, 1,500 coast guard personnel, and 500 conscripts. Personnel under the command of the National Navy represented 12 percent of the country's total military forces. Naval reserve personnel in 1988 were estimated at 15,000.
By 1970s the small Colombian navy of 7,100 men had only limited surveillance and control capabilities in nearby waters. Its major units were three destroyers and one high speed transport. The navy also had five MAP-supported gunboats capable of limited internal security and civic action work. The Marine battalion was capable of counter-insurgency operations or of assisting the police in riot control in coastal cities.
Naval headquarters are in Bogotá. The country's principal naval base is at Cartagena. In addition, the navy maintained a minor base at Barranquilla, the site of one of Colombia's shipworks. In 1988 a new naval base was reported to have been completed at Bahía de Málaga.
The navy operated in three naval forces and four commands. The naval forces are the Caribbean Naval Force, with its headquarters at Cartagena; the Pacific Naval Force, with headquarters at Buenaventura; and the Southern Naval Force. The latter consists of the Southern River Fleet, which controls and guards the Caquetá and Putumayo rivers. The first of the four commands is the Marine Infantry Command, which operates on land along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, on the island territories, and on the country’s rivers, where its amphibious capabilities can support the naval forces as needed. The second command is the Coast Guard Corps Command, which operates two task forces, one along the Caribbean coast and one along the Pacific coast. The third is the Naval Aviation Command, which is equipped with some small airplanes and helicopters. The fourth is the Specific Command (Comando Específico) of San Andrés and Providencia; it consists of the General Headquarters of the Specific Command, Naval Base No. 4, and a unit attached to the Caribbean Naval Force.
In 1979 the navy organized the small Coast Guard Corps (Cuerpo de Guardacosta) to carry out coastal patrol duties and operate some aircraft. In 1988 a naval air arm was being established to reduce the service's dependence on air force support. Although the navy has maintained its traditional mission of defending the nation’s maritime waters, the evolution of the internal conflict during the 1990s also led to the development of new objectives. The navy not only participates in antinarcotics activities through the detection and interception of boats suspected of drug trafficking, but its Marine Infantry Command also became directly involved in the counterinsurgent effort through a buildup on the nation’s coastal and internal waterways. The navy also has two Gaula units.
The commander of the navy is assisted by a chief of naval operations and an inspector general. The Marine Infantry Command and seven headquarters (jefaturas) report directly to the navy’s deputy commander. Naval Education oversees the Enap, the Naval School for Noncommissioned Officers (ENSB), and the Marine Infantry School (EFIM). Logistics Operations is responsible for the four largest naval bases, in Cartagena, San Andrés, Málaga, and Puerto Leguízamo on the Río Putumayo. Naval Operations commands the Caribbean Naval Force, the Pacific Naval Force, the Southern Naval Force, the Coast Guard Corps Command, and the Naval Aviation Command. Other jefaturas include Plan Orion, naval intelligence, naval matériel, and human development.
The two task forces of the Coast Guard Corps Command operate on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The Caribbean task force, under the command of the Caribbean Naval Force, maintains five stations based in La Guajira, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Coveñas, and Turbo. The Pacific task force is under the operational authority of the Pacific Naval Force and maintains stations in Buenaventura and Tumaco. An eighth Coast Guard station is located in Leticia on the Amazon. The Naval Aviation Command conducts logistical support missions for the navy.
The navy’s General Maritime Directorate is responsible for Colombia’s maritime policies and programs, the Merchant Marine, and maritime signals. It also manages port authority for ship registration and titles and the development of research and maritime cartography. The Corporation for Science and Technology for the Development of the Naval, Maritime, and Riverine Industry is in charge of the shipyards in Mamonal and Boca Grande, near Cartagena. This entity is responsible for the design and construction of the Coast Guard’s fast patrol craft and riverine supply vessels.
Colombia - Navy Counter-Narcotics Operations
The streets of America are still awash in drugs, and have been for a long, long time. More than ever before, greater volumes of illicit drugs from Colombia and the Andean Region are transmitting into Central America, Mexico, and on into the United States. While having the smallest portion of the Colombian defense budget, the Colombian Navy continue to have their country's highest seizure rate.
The cost of using Colombian ships and airplanes is significantly less than using United States ships and planes near Colombian waters. Due to the distances which they must operate from their home ports and bases, and because of the time required to be deployed. The magnitude of the trip constitutes a significant challenge to the caballitas of the Colombian Navy. For this reason, the Colombian Navy has concentrated a substantial part of its operational, logistical intelligence and budget for detection and maritime interdiction of these narcoterrorist threats to the Colombian seas.
The strategy of cooperation between the Colombian Navy and the United States Marine Forces is expressing the bilateral maritime agreement signed in 1997. The interdiction success achieved has been the most successful ever obtained in combined operations against drug trafficking. Collective success is evidenced by the seizure of 435 tons, metric tons of cocaine between January, 1997 and October, 2005. Sixty-three percent of these seizures are the results of combined operations; 30.5 percent seized exclusive of Colombian Navy operations; and 6.5 seized in joint operations with the Colombian Armed Forces including the police. The operation of labor has increased the average daily rate of seizures from around 51 kilos per day in 1997 to 322 per day in 2005. This quantity of drugs seized in this 9-year period has an estimated street price in the American open market of $17.4 billion. Similarly, this volume is equal to approximately 2,174 million personal doses, representing a street value that exceeds $65 billion.
Between fiscal years 2000 and 2007, the US State and Defense Departments provided over $89 million to helpsustain and expand Colombian Navy and Marine interdiction efforts. According to Defense, from January to June 2007, an estimated 70 percent of Colombia’s cocaine was smuggled out of the country using go-fast vessels, fishing boats, and other forms of maritime transport. State and Defense support for the Colombian Navy is designed to help improve their capacity to stop drug traffickers from using Colombia’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts to conduct drug-trafficking activities.
State and Defense support for the Colombian Marines is designed to help gain control ofColombia’s network of navigable rivers, which traffickers use to transport precursor chemicals and finished products. According to Colombian Ministry of Defense officials, the number of metric tons of cocaine seizedby the Navy and Marines represented over half of all cocaine seized by Colombia in 2007. US State and Defense assistance to the Colombian Navy provided for infrastructure development (such as new storage refueling equipment for the Navy station in Tumaco), the transfer of two vessels to Colombia, eight “Midnight Express” interceptor boats, two Cessna Grand Caravan 45 transport aircraft, weapons, fuel, communications equipment, andtraining.
State assistance also helped the Colombian Navy establish aspecial intelligence unit in the northern city of Cartagena to collect anddistribute time-sensitive intelligence on suspect vessels in the Caribbean. In 2007, the unit coordinated 35 interdiction operations, which resulted inthe arrests of 40 traffickers, the seizure of over 9 metric tons of cocaine,and the seizure of 21 trafficker vessels including one semisubmersiblevessel. The U.S. Embassy Bogotá credits this unit for over 95 percent of allColombian Navy seizures in the Caribbean, forcing traffickers to rely moreon departure sites along the Pacific Coast and areas near Venezuela and Panama.
The Colombian Navy faces certain challenges. First, it generally lacks the resources needed to provide comprehensive coverage over Colombia’s Pacific coastline. For example, according to Colombian Navy officials, the Navy has only three stations to cover all of Colombia’s Pacific coastline. Second, according to U.S. Embassy Bogotá officials, these services lacked adequate intelligence information to guide interdiction efforts along the Pacific coast. According to embassy officials, the United States was working with the Colombians to expand intelligence gathering and dissemination efforts to the Pacific coast, in part by providing support to expand the Navy’s intelligence unit in Cartagena to cover this area. Third, by 2008 traffickers had increasingly diversified their routes and methods, including using semi-submersibles to avoid detection.
The seizure of semi-sumergibles, with which traffickers seek to evade maritime control to transport your merchandise has been fundamental. Since 1993, when it was detected the first semi-submersible, Navy joint, coordinated operations and maritime interdiction, has succeeded in neutralizing 54 artifacts by 2010, eight of which have been seized in the Caribbean and 45 in the Pacific area. During the four years 2006-2010, they have been detected and neutralized semisumergibles 47, with a capacity to accommodate approximately 10 tons of cocaine each. These results have avoided close to 47,000 pounds of the alkaloid coming to other Nations, which prevents some $ 1,175 million coming to the finances of narco groups.
A breakthrough in this area, has been the adoption of the Act on July 9, 2009, that judicializa with sentences of 6 to 14 years in prison and a fine of 1,000 to 70,000 statutory minimum salaries per month, to all those that finance, build, stored, marketing, transporting, acquiring or using semisumergibles or submersible. The proposal for the amendment of the criminal code, arose from problems to trial this crime, taking into account that criminal organizations used the semisumergibles for the transport of large quantities of narcotics and when they are surprised by the authority, destroy the evidence, sinking the artifact.
For the Colombian Marines, US State and Defense provided support for infrastructure development (such as docks and hangars), 95 patrol boats, weapons, ammunition, fuel, communications equipment, night vision goggles, and engines. Colombia’s rivers serve as a vital transport network and are used to transport the precursor chemicals used to make cocaine and heroin, as well as to deliver the final product to ports on Colombia’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts. According to State, up to 40 percent of the cocaine transported in Colombia moves through the complex river network in Colombia’s south-central region to the southwestern coastal shore. According to U.S. Southern Command officials, the key challenge facingthe riverine program is a general lack of resources given the scope of the problem. By 2008 the Colombian marines maintained a permanent presence on only about one-third of Colombia’s nearly 8,000 miles of navigable rivers. U.S. embassy planning documents set a goal of helping the Colombian Marines achieve a coverage rate of at least 60 percent by 2010.
Colombia - Navy Modernization
The Colombian Navy is a modern, disciplined, and well-trained military service performing the constitutional mission to defend the integrity of the Colombian maritime territory and enforce government policies concerning the use of the sea. Today the strategic fleet fulfilling these duties bears normal aging problems threatening the execution of the Colombian Navy's mission in the near future. The country's fiscal situation is tight and no funds are budgeted to support a contract acquiring new ships. The Colombian Navy will need to replace its strategic surface ships in order to upgrade its tactical capabilities to new technology. The most viable option is the acquisition of second-hand ships available on the international market.
By the mid-1970s the Colombian Ministry of Defense had placed a high priority on getting fast, ocean-going patrol vessels for the navy, to be used against highly organized contraband and drug smuggling activities concentrated off the Caribbean coast. Expanded-range patrol craft would improve the Colombian coastal patrol and defense posture, bridging thecurrent gap between the larger ships and the relatively small river patrol boats. In early 1976 Colombian naval officers undertook a trip to France, West Germany, Israel, and the US, with a purchase decision expected within two to three months. The Soviets reportedly offered Colombia up to 12 vessels and favorable credit terms, with delivery in six months to a year. The offer might be accepted even though defense planning supposedly called for buying US military equipment. Colombia had highly favorable coffee credits with the Soviet Union and bloc countries, and from a foreign exchanqe viewpoint, the proposal appeared "almost too good to refuse." But in the end, nothing came of the Soviet offer.
The major vessels of the Colombian fleet in 1988 included four submarines, four frigates, four large patrol ships, two fast attack craft, three river gunboats, two coastal patrol vessels, and eight river patrol craft. The navy also had four survey/research vessels (one a former Honduran ship that was confiscated for smuggling), five transports, one floating dock, a sail training ship, and ten tugs. Two destroyers that had long been part of the fleet were decommissioned in 1986.
Observers regarded the navy as capable of patrolling and defending Colombia's offshore waters in the Pacific and the Caribbean but unable to project its seapower on a subregional basis. During the 1980s, the incorporation into the fleet of a number of ships purchased from West Germany -- a decision spurred by renewed concern over conflicting maritime territorial claims with Venezuela and Nicaragua -- appeared to have somewhat strengthened this capability.
The submarines included two West German-built Type 1200 diesel-electric patrol submarines [purchased in 1975] equipped with torpedo tubes and two Italian-built Type SX-506 midget submarines [purchased in 1974], each capable of carrying up to eight attack swimmers and two tons of explosives. Colombian Armada submarine A.R.C. Tayrona completed joint training with several U.S. Navy ships in early November 2006, during a brief deployment under the Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) off the coast of Mayport. The DESI program, established in 2001, has engaged several diesel South American navies with submarines to provide a series of programmed stateside deployments. The goal is to support fleet training exercises and tactical development events.
During the period 2007-2008 was brought forward a process of study of the international market for the repowering of oceanic submarines, with requests for offers to companies of Germany, Korea, France, Chile and United States, resulting in selected company HDW MDFI Germany, original Builder shipyard of the submarines of the Navy, who signed the respective contract, pursuant to article 79 of the Decree and article 2 of law 1150/07 2474/08.
In 1988 the four Type FS 1500 frigates were among the newest vessels of the Colombian fleet. The four frigates — Almirante Padilla, Antioquia, Independiente, and Caldas — are each equipped with one Bo–105 utility helicopter, two B515 ILAS–3 triple 324mm antisubmarine torpedo launchers, each with an A244 light-weight torpedo, two quad—eight, in effect, each with one MM–40 Exocet tactical surface-to-surface missile—and one 76mm gun. The vessels also were equipped with radar, sonar, and electronic countermeasures. The navy's BO-105 helicopters were used on the frigates.
The Almirante Padilla class frigates play a special role in the Colombian Navy. They patrol Caribbean and Pacific waters in order to safeguard nationalresources and to counter piracy, smuggling and terrorism. Built by the Howaldtswerke-DeutscheWerft GmbH (HDW) in Kiel, the Colombian Navy vessels were launched between October 1983 and July 1984. The four 20-cylinder MTU main propulsion units on each ship underwent major overhaul in the mid-1990s. At the end of 2008, the Colombian Navy decided to repower its Almirante Padilla fleet with new MTU engines — a prudent,long-term decision for a number of reasons. Especially with well-maintained ships in this class, it made solid sense to fit the propulsion systems with state-of-the-art engines. In contrast to a repeat overhaul, which could take up to a year, the re-power option means that vessels can be back on duty after just a short time. The repowering exercise also increases the time between major overhauls from 9,000 hours with the previous engines to 24,000 hours with the new units. That means the engines will only be due for a complete overhaul in around 20 years’ time when the vessels are at the end of their lives. Thanks to their compact design, the new engines fit perfectly into the engine room. The work was carried outat the COTECMAR Colombian Naval Dockyard. The Colombian Navy wanted to get the most out of the existing facilities.
Four large patrol ships operating in the 1980s were former United States Cherokee class vessels, commissioned in 1943 and sold to Colombia in 1979. During the mid-1980s, the navy reportedly planned to replace these vessels with four Exocet-armed corvettes. Two fast attack craft, former United States Asheville-class craft, were commissioned in 1969 and transferred by lease to Colombia in 1983. The fleet's three Arauca-class river gunboats were Colombian built, as were the coastal and river patrol craft. Most of these vessels, however, were commissioned in the 1950s. By contrast, two of the survey/research ships were new vessels acquired in the early 1980s. One vessel was employed in fishery research and the other in geophysical research. The survey/research ships were under the authority of the navy's Maritime Division (División Maritima -- Dimar). The Dimar was the principal naval authority in charge of hydrography, pilotage, navigational aids, and port authorities.
Due to the increasing age of the deepwater fleet after 30 years of service, and due to mounting, costly maintenance requirements, the WMEC-628 Durable, a B-Type Reliance Class 210-Foot Cutter cutter, was scheduled for decommissioning. The US Coast Guard decommissioned the venerable cutter on 20 September 2001. In 2003 she was transferred to the government of Colombia. The 210-foot cutters were added to the US Coast Guard as part of an effort to upgrade the aging fleet of World War II-era cutters. The Coast Guard's Naval Engineering Division designed these cutters for search and rescue and law enforcement patrols of a "medium endurance"--i.e. they could conduct patrols of up to three weeks without requiring replenishment.
WLB / WAGL / WIX-290 Gentian, was a 180-A Class cutter in the US Coast Guard. Built during World War II, these vessels measured 180 feet overall and had a beam of 37 feet at the extreme, with a displacement of 935 tons and a draft of 12 feet. During Gentian's service as the Caribbean Support Tender, she made a total of 155 visits to 23 countries, bringing donated supplies and parts totaling $3.9 million. The Gentian also trained more than 5,500 people and refurbished and donated to U.S. allies 26 confiscated go-fast boats. She was formally decommissioned on 23 June 2006 at Causeway Island, Miami Beach and was mothballed at the Coast Guard Yard. Gentian was transferred to the Colombian Navy on 15 October 2007.
On 09 May 2011, Fassmer formally handed over the 40m Coast Patrol Vessel (CPV40) „ARC 11 de Noviembre“ to the Colombian Navy. The 40m Coastal Patrol Vessel contracted in late December 2009 has already satisfactorily completed Sea Trials in the North Sea on 22 April. In such trials the vessel exceeded contractual performances in speed, noise reduction and range; among other parameters. After two weeks of training and exercising in the shipyard and at Sea in the German Bight, the vessel was handed over to the Navy. The CPV-40 unit, arrived at Cartagena de Indias in the last week of June, reinforcing the operations of maritime interdiction in the Colombian Caribbean. This unit has a Typhonn MK 38 Mod 2 of 25 mm cannon, its length is 40 meters, and a displacement of 245 tons.
After the incorporation of the „ARC 11 de Noviembre“, ARC CT Jorge Enrique Márquez Duran of the PO-43 class Lazaga was deactivated. Her twin, the ARC CT Pablo José del Porto, had been deactivated on 15 August 2006, leaving pending the deactivation of the ARC Espartana of the Cormorant class by the end of 2011. Thus, by the end of 2011 the Colombia Navy had two units of the class Toledo, the ARC José María García and WP-113 Toledo, Juan Nepomuceno Eslava WP-114, two units Swiftship 110 ARC José María Pallas and ARC Medardo monsoon Coronado, two Swiftship 105 ARC Rafael del Castillo and Rada PM-102 and ARC TECIM Jaime Cárdenas Gómez PM-115 units. The ARC Jaime Gómez Castro PM-105 and the ARC Juan Pena Siabato PM-106 are also active. Of the units of the Ashville class, ARC Quitasueño WP-112 has been converted into a training ship and ARC Albuquerque WP-111 was deactivated on 11 September 1996.
The tall ship Gloria is the official flagship and sail-training ship of the Colombian Navy, and her home port is Cartagena. Built in 1968 as a sail-training ship in the Celeya shipyard in Spain, the Gloria is over 56 meters (257ft) long - one of the biggest tall ships still afloat.
According to the Colombian naval chief, as of 2011 medium- and long- term objective of the Colombian navy was to design and build replacements for the existing class of frigates of the type Almirante Padilla when they reach the end of their lifecycle. This task will be accomplished by the Science and Technology Corporation for Naval, Maritime, and Riverine Industries (COTECMAR). The new combatant ships will be designed to meet the requirements that allow the Colombian navy to maintain military capabilities that guarantee national security and defense. Probably specifications include a displacement of 2,500-3,100 tons, endurance speed of 18 Knots, sustained speed of 30 Knots, and an endurance of 30 Days. The Colombian navy ship must be a multi-mission (or multitask) combatant with operational capabilities for surface, submarine, electronic, and air warfare.
There has been growing knowledge and experience in the Colombian shipyard in the construction of ships for military applications, as in the case of the riverine support vessel (“PAF”—the acronym in Spanish) and a new ocean patrol vessel (OPV) currently under construction; but the goal of designing and building a new combatant surface ship is a challenging project that will demand a careful process to achieve the highest effectiveness possible within constraints; especially in an environment where financial resources are always limited and combatant ships are increasingly expensive.
Colombian Naval Aviation (AVNA)
In the 1990s the Colombian Naval Aviation (Aviacion Naval - AVNA) restructured its mission to meet the demands of the country’s security. From a strategically oriented component, naval aviation turned into a tactical element, diverting and specializing parts of its resources to support COLMAR’s mission inside Colombian territory. Over time, the troops’ high-mobility demands and logistical needs highlighted COLNAV’s limitations in air equipment. Therefore, almost since its new role was implemented, AVNA’s command realized the need for larger aircraft to support COLMAR’s operations. The Colombian Navy performs Counter drug duties using both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft.
Maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), which provide long range surface maritime surveillance, is in critically short supply. MPA flying in support of ships significantly increases the probability of detection. To elaborate, typically MPA use a search box that is 75 x 150 nautical miles to find a go-fast. A ship on patrol within this box has about a 9% chance of detecting a go-fast boat as the ship's radar does not 'see' over the immediate horizon. However, if the ship has a helicopter, it can extend the horizon from the ship and increases the probability of detection to approximately 20%. If MPA are able to provide a maritime patrol aircraft to help cue the ship and helicopter, the probability of detection increases to approximately 70%. The value of MPA and its contribution to the success rate can not be overstated.
The House of Representatives approved 13 March 2006 an amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act that increased assistance to Colombia for maritime counter-drug interdiction efforts. Co-authored by U.S. Reps. Henry J. Hyde (R-IL) and Dan Burton (R-IN), the amendment provided $26 million for three refurbished, modernized DC-3 aircraft to the Colombian Navy for multi-functional maritime patrols. The reconditioned aircraft, despite their age, are unsurpassed in their ability to operate missions of more than 10 hours and land on short unimproved runways which are typically found in rural and coastal communities in Colombia. Subsequently, the emergency supplemental appropriations which was enacted on 15 June 2006 $13,000,000 for procurement of an unspecified maritime patrol aircraft for the Colombian Navy.
In March 2007 the US Department of State's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Office of Aviation (A) announced a requirement for a medium lift, fixed wing airplane to support the COLNAV mission of maritime patrol supporting counter-narcotic operations. The aircraft proposed for this request must have the performance and equipment required for meeting or exceeding the mission requirements listed in the specification. The proposed airframe is to be new or freshly overhauled / remanufactured with equipment specific to the COLNAV mission and with minor aircraft modifications as may be required.
The Piper Pa-31-350 Navajo is the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) workhorse for their efforts. Upgrades to these aircraft have been the addition of a FLIR Systems, Inc. SeaFlirT forward looking infrared and TV camera system, state of the art Garmin 400 series Moving map GPS navigation and communications equipment, Bendix 1400C Surface Search radars, and Tadaran spread spectrum VHF communications radios. During the upgrade process, the cockpit lighting systems were converted to be night vision goggle (NVG) compatible. Additionally, the Navajo ARC 508 underwent an extensive airframe and power plant inspection and repair cycle. Extended range fuel tank system capability was restored; landing gear and other airframe systems were inspected and repaired to make all systems airworthy to FAA standards.
The close-in tactical prosecution of counter drug targets is the work of the COLNAV Bell 412 helicopter. The COLNAV operate four Bell 412 aircraft and one Bell 212. The improvements to these aircraft included the same FLIR, Garmin nav/comm., radars, and Tadaran systems as were installed in the fixed wing piper aircraft. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) navigation is extremely important in rural Colombia where conventional navigation equipment is sparse. This has given the Colombian Navy the benefits of common training for operators, pilots and technicians. Additionally, it has reduced their infrastructure needed to warehouse spares. All of the line replaceable units (FLIR turrets, electronic control units, etc) can easily be moved from one aircraft to another to maintain mission readiness. This capability was lacking before these upgrades. During the initial upgrade analysis, it was discovered that the Bell 412 helicopters had the factory installed plumbing and fittings to receive standard extended range fuel tanks. A sore spot with these aircraft included inadequate range needed to fly extended patrols, and short "on-station" time. CDTDPO remedied this problem by directing their contractors to procure, overhaul, and provide extended range tanks to the COLNAV. The Colombian Navy has recorded several interdictions resulting in arrests as a direct result of the capabilities gained by CDTDPO and Plan Colombia upgrades.
Familiarization flights at the contractors facilities in the US gave the COLNAV instructor pilots and systems operators the knowledge needed to immediately employ their new capabilities in the Navajo aircraft. The Colombian Navy had previously been operating FLIR systems of different manufacture. They quickly adapted to the new systems ease of operation and enhanced software features. The Garmin navigation and communications equipment was introduced by the use of familiarization flights and the Computer based Training information provided by the manufacturer. Again, because of the systems commonality between all of the upgraded aircraft, training of technicians was only required for a small number of lead technicians. Upgrades to the Bell 412 helicopters were done in Colombia at COLNAV facilities. The COLNAV technicians participated in the installation and test of virtually all of the upgrade equipment. This team arrangement enabled excellent communication and training.
COLNAV’s ground forces’ additional air requirements were defined in terms of two heavy helicopters permanently deployed, one on the Pacific coast and another on the Atlantic, witha minimum transportation capacity of 24 soldiers, fully equipped, or 4 tons of payload. After a market study in the country, it was determined that the helicopter that best fit these requirements (and was also currently operating in Colombia) was the Russian MI-17. This decision was supported by the fact that the Colombian Army (COLAR), an enthusiastic operator of this type of aircraft, reported outstanding operating performance in all weather conditions of the Colombian topography.
COLNAV decided to outsource the required service instead of purchasing the aircraft. The Colombian Navy (COLNAV) outsourced flight services from a private companysince 2003 in order to provide transportation for troops and military cargo as well as general logistical support. The Colombian Naval Aviation’s (AVNA) lack of proper equipment to perform these types ofmissions in a cost-efficient manner required the senior naval command to sign iterative contracts, over four years, with a private contractor, one of the two companies with such capacity in the country, and theonly one with the available resources to accomplish the contracts’ terms. Such limitations have developed a highly-dependent relationship with one supplier, resulting in a non-beneficial agreement for COLNAV, especially with sensitive security implications, considering the internal Colombian context generated by the Narco-terrorist Organizations (ONT) within the national borders.
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