Saturday, January 30, 2016

Book Chapter: 2008: The Andean Great War

2008: The Andean Great War - 
How A South American Conflict Could Have Erupted in 2008

W. Alejandro Sanchez
Book Chapter to be published in Future Wars: Storia della distopia militare
Virgilio Ilari - Editor
Societa di Storia Militare / Acies Edizioni Milani (2016)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

IHS Jane's: Astronautics begins upgrades for Peru's Hercules fleet

"Astrounatics begins upgrades for Peru's Hercules fleet"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
IHS Jane's Defense Weekly - Country Risk
January 27, 2016
Originally published:

Astronautics Corporation of America has begun the upgrading the Peruvian Air Force's (FAP's) L-100 Hercules transport aircraft.

The L-100 is the civilian variant of the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules.

The Wisconsin-based company was selected in April 2015 to modernise the aircraft cockpits. Astronautics explained in a statement that it will install an "integrated glass cockpit designed to maximise crew situational awareness with digital interfaces and displays".

The new tools include six Astronautics electronic flight/engine and caution advisory system displays and dual engine data units. The agreement includes training for FAP personnel.

In mid-January a ceremony was held in the Grupo Aéreo No. [...]

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IHS Jane's: Dominican Army expands mission on Haitian border

"Dominican Army expands mission on Haitian Border"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
IHS Jane's Defense Weekly - Country Risk
January 27, 2016
Originally published:

The Dominican Republic Army will expand its efforts to monitor the border with Haiti due to ongoing violence in the neighbouring country.

Major General José Eugenio Matos de la Cruz, commander of the army, has announced that new surveillance posts have been constructed, including one in La Vigía. The military will also deploy additional troops and vehicles to monitor the 360 km border that separates the two countries.

On 23 January Haiti's presidential elections were suspended as Jude Celestin, the opposition candidate, refused to participate, alleging fraud. The situation has sparked major protests and reported violence.


It is unclear if any violence has spilled over to the Dominican Republic so far; Gen Matos has declared that "everything is normal [tranquil] on the border".

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Jane's IHS: Peruvian Navy set to receive BAP Union

"Peruvian Navy set to receive BAP Union"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
IHS Jane's Defense Weekly - Sea Platforms
January 24, 2016
Originally published:

The Peruvian Navy is to commission its newest ship, the sail training vessel BAP Unión, on 27 January. Unión was built by state-run shipyard Servicios Industriales de la Marina (SIMA) with co-operation from Spain's CYPSA Ingenieros Navales.

The ship was constructed relatively quickly; its keel-laying ceremony was in December 2012 and in December 2014 it was launched in a ceremony attended by Peruvian president Ollanta Humala.
The ship is the largest masted training vessel among Latin American navies; it has four masts, displaces 3,500 tonnes, and is 115.7 m long. The vessel's commander is Captain Gianfranco Polar and it will have a crew of 100.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Janes IHS: Colombia to create 12 battalions for disaster relief

"Colombia to create 12 battalions for disaster relief"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
IHS Jane's Defense Weekly - Military Capabilities
January 24, 2016
Originally published:

The Colombian Army plans to create 12 new battalions compromised of reserve troops for disaster relief.
General Marco Tamayo, head of the army's recruitment centre, said in mid-January that the units will be staffed without using forceful recruitment - referring to the practice known as 'batidas' in which soldiers detain individuals in the streets, take them to a base, and force them to join the military.
Colombia has suffered a number of powerful natural disasters in recent years. For example, in late 2015 strong rains along the country's Pacific coast, particularly in Cauca, affected some 13,000 people. Earlier in January, rains caused the Caunapí River to overflow, affecting some 500 families in Nariño.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016


"Neither Side Appears Ready for War: Falklands/Malvinas Islands"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Center for International Maritime Security
January 19, 2016
Originally published:

Argentina has requested that the United Kingdom engage indiplomatic talks regarding control of the Falkland Islands, or Islas Malvinas, depending on which side you support. As the islands will not change hands anytime soon, with London citing a2013 referendum as proof of the Falklanders’ desire to remain in the UK, the dispute will continue. Nevertheless, in spite of occasional aggressive statements or alarmist media reports from either London or Buenos Aires, it is important to highlight that neither side has significantly increased their defense spending vis-à-vis the islands.
The War
In 1982, Argentina launched an invasion of the islands, as the military government in Buenos Aires wanted to distract the Argentine population from the country’s crumbling economy and unite the citizenry behind the junta. The Falklands War has been extensively analyzed (see such essays as “Delayed Reaction: UK Maritime Expeditionary Capabilities and the Lessons of the Falklands Conflict,” and “Facts Influencing the Defeat of the Argentine Air Power in the Falklands War”) but a word must still be said about the conflict. The war is significant because, as Dr. Ian Speller explains, it “was the first time since 1945 that a major western navy had come under sustained air attack at sea [and] it was the first time that a nuclear-powered hunter killer submarine conducted a successful attack on enemy surface units.”
The navies and air forces from both sides were actively engaged in the battle to control the Falklands. As for successful attacks, aircraft from the Argentine Air Force and Navy managed to sink British vessels like the warships HMS Sheffield and HMS Ardent, and the supply ship MV Atlantic Conveyor, among others. Meanwhile, a British nuclear submarine, the HMS Conqueror, sank the Argentine Navy’s flagship, the ARA General Belgrano.
Official Statements
To this day, Argentina continues to claim ownership of the islands. Case in point, now former-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, declared this past April that she foresaw that one day the islands would be under Argentine control. A month earlier, UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced that “we are going to beef up the defence of Falkland Islands,” the obvious assumption being that the islands need protection from a possible Argentine attack. These statements come to no surprise, as over the past years Buenos Aires and London claim that the “other side” is taking aggressive steps regarding the islands.
The islands, particularly after the war, are a key part of Argentine nationalism, hence it should not be surprising that Argentina’s new head of state, President Mauricio Macri, will give the occasional nationalistic statement over the islands or call for negotiations. Nevertheless he also wants U.S. and European investment to jump start the country’s economy, so he may not be overly aggressive (after his electoral victory in November,Macri and Prime Minister David Cameron held a telephone discussion in which they agreed on forging closer commercial ties). I would argue that nationalistic statements or calls for dialogue with London from Buenos Aires are mostly for internal consumption, as a way for President Macri to show his people that he has not forgotten about the islands. After all, it would be political suicide for any Argentine president to not make the occasional patriotic declaration regarding the Falklands.
Defense Realities
Provocative calls for negotiations aside, the Argentine Navy is in no particular shape to engage in a new conflict over the islands. The Navy’s biggest acquisition in recent years was that of four Russian multipurpose ships (Aviso/Neftegaz-class), which will be utilized for search and rescue operations and scientific projects around the Antarctic. The vessels arrived to the South American nation this past December. Theoretically, the Navy could install weapons systems aboard the vessels, but it is unlikely that this will happen due to budgetary limitations. Regarding submarines the only new development is that in 2014 the ARA San Juan (a diesel TR-1700-class) was finally returned to the Navy after it underwent repairs that had taken several years to complete.
As for the Air Force, which was a critical factor in Argentina’s victories at sea during the Falklands War, just this past November it decommissioned its aging Mirage warplane fleet.The problem is that the Air Force does not have a new warplane to replace the Mirage. Over the past years there were rumors that Buenos Aires would acquire Russian Sukhoi warplanes (hence the need for London to “beef up” the defense of the islands) but this deal never materialized. Similarly, a recent deal for Israeli Kfir warplanes has been put on hold. For the time being, Argentina will have to rely on trainers, such as the Pampa III,and various, also aging, aircraft to protect its airspace.
The Air Force’s situation is so dismal that during the December 2015 inauguration ceremony of President Macri, Argentina requested that Uruguay have three of its own Cessna Dragonfly planes on alert, ready to support Buenos Aires if some crisis occurred. While this request speaks well of Argentina-Uruguay defense relations, it highlights that the Argentine military is hardly in any shape to attempt a renewed operation to take over the Falklands.
As for the UK Navy, the big news is that it is constructing two new carriers, one of which, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, should be operational by 2020. The new vessels are part of a push for greater defense spending by London. Just this past December,Secretary Fallon declared that “we have said we will maintain a minimum fleet of 19 destroyers and frigates, but as the older frigates are retired we also hope to add a lighter frigate between the offshore patrol vessel and Type 26 and to build more of those as well.” Additionally, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy will benefit from having the new F-35 warplanes in their inventory, as “the Lightning II will be the backbone of Britain’s future carrier operations.” (Of course, how long it will take for the F-35 to be delivered is another question).
Regarding the Falklands themselves, the Royal Navy maintains the HMS Clyde stationed there as part of its South Atlantic Patrol program (in November 2015, the HMS Clyde assisted in rescuing tourists trapped in a sinking cruise ship close to the Falklands). Additionally, the British daily Express reported that this past April British troops carried out exercises in the Falklands which simulated an invasion of the islands. As for new equipment, the only major ongoing acquisition program seems to be additionalGiraffe AMB radars, manufactured by Saab.
One could argue that the British military is suffering from exhaustion due to the multiple operations it carries out around the world, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to security operations in the Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa. Just this past December, the destroyer HMS Defender was deployed to the Mediterranean to support the French carrier Charles de Gaulle. Given its multiple ongoing operations, it’s difficult to say how long it would take London to organize a new expeditionary force that would be sent to the Falklands, should another conflict occur. (Daniel Gibran’s The Falklands War, 1998, provides a great summary of the logistical success of deploying over 50 warships, over 50 support vessels, aircraft, troops, ammo and other supplies to the South Atlantic – p. 80-83).
Conspiracy Theories/Exaggerations
Finally, a word must be said about accusations originating in both London and Buenos Aires concerning the other’s intentions regarding the Falklands. As previously mentioned, while there has not been another war over the islands since the early 1980s, just about every year there are accusations that either the Argentine or British government are behaving in an aggressive manner. For example, in 2012 Argentina accused the UK of “militarizing” the South Atlantic. Moreover, the Argentine mediawidely reproduced the March 2015 comments by Secretary Fallon about “beefing up” of the defenses in the Falklands. In particular the Argentine media quoted and discussed a March 23, 2015, report by the British tabloid The Sun that London feared an imminent attack by Argentina, with Russian support. At the time, the ongoing theory in the British media was that, due to the close relations between Moscow and Buenos Aires (largely due to the friendship between President Vladimir Putin with then-President Kirchner), Russia would somehow support Argentina’s military in the islands.
Final Thoughts
As a reminder, Argentina did not purchase the Russian or Israeli planes while, apart from one military exercise and new radars, the British have yet to significantly beef up their security of the islands. Thus, I would argue that currently the possibility of a renewed war remains extremely low, particularly now that the new Argentine President Macri is actually trying to approach the West (meaning the U.S. and Europe) for investment in order to improve the country’s economy. The British government seems to have a similar assessment of the situation as the Strategic Defense and Security Review 2015 explains that “we judge the risk of a military attack [against the Falklands] to be low, but we will retain a deterrence posture, with sufficient military forces in the region, including Royal Navy warships, Army units and RAF Typhoon aircraft.”
The information presented in this analysis argues that in spite of the occasional alarmist report, neither side has actually carried out major military-related initiatives that could be labeled as aggressive. Argentina has not acquired significant military equipment aside from four Russian research vessels and its repaired old submarine, while the UK, apart from one military exercise, does not seem to have sent additional troops or vessels to the islands. While diplomatic tensions will remain for the immediate future, as Buenos Aires will not give up its claim to the islands and London will not negotiate their fate, hopefully we will not witness another war over the Falklands. Then again, as Gibran states “predicting state behavior is not an exact science, especially in conflict situations. The assumption of a rational behavior on the part of a country, however desirable this idea may appear, is not a given state of affairs” (The Falklands War, p. 89).
As a corollary to this analysis, in early January the oil and gas company Rockhopper announced that it had discovered oil in its Isobel Deep well in the Falklands. The potential of big oil reserves is another reason for Argentina’s claim on the islands, and the recent discovery will give new impetus for calling for negotiations. If nothing else, we can be thankful that both militaries, particularly their navies, are hardly in a position to participate in another war just yet.
W. Alejandro Sanchez Nieto is a researcher who focuses on geopolitics, military and cyber security issues in the Western Hemisphere. His research interests include inter-state tensions, narco-insurgent movements and drug cartels, arms sales, the development of Latin American military industries, UN peacekeeping operations, as well as the rising use of drones in Latin America. The views presented in this essay are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the author is associated. Follow him on Twitter @W_Alex_Sanchez

Monday, January 18, 2016

Living in Peru: Peruvian Women Protect the Nation

"Peruvian Women Protect the Nation"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Living In Peru - Opinion
January 18, 2016
Originally Published:

This past December 2015, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced that female military personnel will now be able to join all units of the U.S. armed forces. The lifting of gender-based restrictions in the U.S. military is a historical decision as it opens the door for women to join elite special forces and to be deployed to the front lines. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has received the backing of the commanders of the U.S. armed forces regarding this decision, though the Marine Corps have reservations.
As for Latin America, the region accepts women into its armed forces and in recent years a number of female officers have been promoted to the highest echelons of the military hierarchy. For example in 2012, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro named Carmen Melendez as the country’s first admiral while in March 2015 Gina Reque Terán became Bolivia’s first female Army general. Most recently, as one of her final acts as head of state, this past October then-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina promoted María Isabel Pansa to the rank of Army General.
Women becoming generals or admirals is important, but I would highlight that we do not hear much, if at all, of women participating in combat operations. Granted, Latin America (thankfully) does not have ongoing inter-state conflicts (the last war was between Peru and Ecuador in 1995), but throughout my research I have not heard about female soldiers taking part in front-line internal security operations in Colombia, Mexico or Peru.
In Peru, female military service is voluntary but there is a great interest among Peruvian women to join the armed forces. A March 2015 article in the Peruvian daily Diario Correo mentions that there isan annual 20% increase of women joining the Peruvian Army, and bases in Arequipa, including one called Salaverry, are now accepting female soldiers. Moreover, last December 2013 a major milestone was reached: for the first time a female cadet, Vanessa Torres Sullca, graduated as “sword of honor” (the top of her class) from the Peruvian Army training school, the Escuela Militar de Chorrillos.
As in other countries, female personnel generally carry out support operations, including administrative duties. Nevertheless, this does not mean that Peruvian women in uniform do not face danger. The best example actually comes from the Peruvian police (PNP). In 2012 Captain Nancy Flores Páucar, a police pilot, was killed when her helicopter came under fire from Shining Path insurgents. While the aircraft managed to escape, Captain Flores Páucar died, making her the first female pilot in the history of the Peruvian police to die in the line of duty. In other words, even though female personnel may not be deployed to the front lines of a conflict, they can easily be involved in a firefight and become casualties.
While it is unlikely that female soldiers will be deployed to hunt down Shining Path narco-insurgents in the Peruvian highlands, they will hopefully have bigger roles in other initiatives. Case in point, Peru could deploy more female military personnel to its peacekeeping operations. Fortunately, this is already happening: a number of female military personnel joined the Compañia Peru, the Peruvian unit that is participating in the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), earlier this year. According to reports, the female deployment included four officers, including a doctor from the Air Force, and 20 technicians.
The role of women in the military is a sensitive, if not controversial, topic in any country. Hopefully the ongoing changes in the U.S. military will foment a serious discussion regarding this topic across the Western Hemisphere, including in Peru. Peruvian women already put their lives on the line in both the Andean country’s armed forces and the police. The very least they deserve is a discussions at the higher echelons of the Peruvian government and military regarding what future opportunities they should have in order to continue defending their homeland.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Blouin Beat: ‘Colony:’ Dystopian show portrays all too familiar repression

'Colony:' Dystopian show portrays all too familiar repression
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Blouin Beat: Politics
January 12, 2016
Originally published:

In addition to periodic coverage of geopolitics in Latin America, W. Alejandro Sanchez has previously reported on substance abuse in Netflix’s ‘Jessica Jones’ and whether cyber warfare is accurately depicted in the USA network’s ‘Mr. Robot.’  Note that this analysis contains spoilers of ‘Colony’s’ pilot episode.
n January 14, the USA Network will premiere ‘Colony.’ Set in a dystopian future, the new show includes family drama, insurgent movements, aliens, and a population that lives under an oppressive, “Big Brother”-type proxy-regime. While there are plenty of movies that deal with the aforementioned issues in one combination or another, the pilot episode suggests that ‘Colony’ will be based on realistic scenarios (except for the aliens that is). And for individuals across the world that have lived under an oppressive regime, some of the scenes and stories will feel very real.

A brief summary of the show’s premise is necessary: In the near future aliens arrive, and they construct a gigantic wall across Los Angeles and nearby metropolitan areas, leaving the city’s inhabitants isolated from the rest of the world. There is no Internet or television and people living inside the wall do not know what is going on beyond it, including the fate of their loved ones who are on the other side. The invading force has set up a proxy regime in the controlled areas, with human proxy governors and an internal security force, known for their big guns and black and red uniforms. A group of civilians have organized an insurgent movement, led by a mysterious figure called “Geronimo,” which is fighting the proxy regime.
In a behind-the-scenes special, ‘Colony: Behind The Wall,’ the creators of ‘Colony’ explained that they utilized Nazi-occupied France as a source of inspiration. By way of example, the special shows a photo of Parisians having coffee while a Nazi soldier in uniform sits one table away reading a newspaper. This can be compared to a scene in the pilot where an individual is grabbed by the regime’s security forces and taken away in a van – this in broad daylight while the victim sat in the patio of a cafe, and the other customers and pedestrians remained silent and still. The ways in which people adapt and try to live a “normal” life during an occupation is a major focus of the series.
Alien overlords notwithstanding, the show’s themes are true to life. For example, the citizens of occupied Los Angeles live under a complete media blackout, with no television, Internet, or other ways to know what is going on beyond the wall. The citizens of North Korea or Turkmenistan would undoubtedly relate well to this situation. As for the people in ‘Colony’ that are abducted from the streets, never to heard from again (in the show they go to a mysterious place known as “The Factory”), this situation can be compared to the disappeared (desaparecidos) of Argentina’s “Dirty War” or the Augusto Pinochet regime in Chile.
Another realistic theme comes in the questionable tactics used by the resistance against the proxy regime. While the (illegal?) government is feared in Los Angeles, the “resistance” is not liked by the repressed masses either. In one scene, a man complains that the resistance blew up a bomb that injured many people, including civilians – in other words, the tactics utilized by “Geronimo” and his followers do not necessarily help them gain supporters. A similar situation has occurred in Latin America. For example, the terrorist movements Shining Path and MRTA gained many followers among the impoverished Peruvian masses in the early 1980s because they were fighting against the historically corrupt and centrist government in Lima. Nevertheless, Peruvians quickly turned against Shining Path and the MRTA due to their violent operations, which included car bombs in the major cities and the massacre of peasants in rural areas.
Finally, ‘Colony’ touches on the issue of collaborators – in the pilot Will Bowman (Josh Holloway) becomes an informant for the proxy regime in exchange for a promise from its leader, Proxy Snyder (Peter Jacobson), that he will help Bowman find his missing son. The pilot also showcases the luxurious lifestyle of the people that cooperate with the proxy regime. In any state ruled by a repressive government, there are inevitably individuals among the general population who cooperate with the regime, particularly with the intelligence/security forces, in exchange for protection, money or some other kind of benefit. For example, the regimes in Pyongyang and Ashgabat nowadays, or in East Germany during the time of the infamous Stasi, rely on people spying on their neighbors to identify dissidents.
The aliens may give ‘Colony’ a sci-fi edge, but its sobering themes, notably life under a repressive occupational government, echo situations that are all-too real and relatable to many around the world.