Jeopardizing the Armed Forces’ operational capabilities?

Since President Calderon sent thousands of soldiers to fight drug cartels in December 2006, the role of the Armed Forces in internal security missions has been deeply questioned.

The Mexican Constitution clearly establishes that the Mexican Army, Navy and Air Force should stay in a sort of “stand-by” situation during peace times, and should be deployed only in an event of national emergency.

However, the Mexican Army and Air Force Federal Act presents a contradiction to the Constitution’s spirit, for it states that “asserting the internal security” should be observed as one the Armed Force´s main tasks.

Given this contradiction, several NGO’s and politicians have urged both the President and the Congress to clarify the role of the Armed Forces in fighting Drug Cartels and Organized Crime, for they believe it is a civil –and not military- prerogative.

Thus the Senate started discussing a series of amendments to the National Security Act, trying to clarify the term of “internal security threat” and restricting military operations to specific areas and for a limited time.

Nevertheless, should the amendments get the Senate’s approval in the near future; the Armed Forces’ operational capabilities will be in extreme danger.

Let me be clear on this: the Senate is establishing that the military will not participate in internal security missions as long as the local governors don’t ask for it.

In MXSECURITY we believe that the Armed Forces’ intervention in internal security missions should be an emergency measure as long as the police forces –both federal and local- don’t  increase their capabilities in fighting organized crime. In the meantime, there should be a regulatory scheme that both limits the scope of military actions while guarantying the Armed Forces’ operational capabilities.

Nevertheless, the use of military forces is the President’s prerogative and not the governor’s one. Given the extreme corruption among local authorities it could be suicidal to let them decide whether the Armed Forces should fight organized crime within their territory or not.

We expect the Senate will have that in mind before approving such a measure.

It is one thing to regulate the Armed Forces´ intervention in internal security missions…but a very different one to put their operational capabilities in the hands of local –questionable- authorities.

Adendum:

We´ve learned that the Senate has approved (April 27, 2010) the amendments we mentioned above. It is a big, strategic mistake that will change the balance of power in the war against DTO’s. The president should veto it.

Defense and Offset agreements

In March 2009, the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, visited Mexico in what seemed to be the beginning of a new era of strategic partnership among the two nations.

During that visit, both Sarkozy and Mexico´s President Calderon signaled a series of cooperation agreements regarding security and defense issues. The French delegation and Mexican authorities agreed on the establishment of a High Level Contact Group, made up by diplomats and private companies  with one common goal: to increase commerce and mutual investment between the two nations.

Although there were several agreements on police cooperation and intelligence gathering training, one accord was significantly relevant: Eurocopter, a franco-german helicopter company part of the EADS group, would install an assembly facility in Mexico worth 500 million Euros. The establishment of such a facility would boost Mexico´s increasing aeronautical development capabilities.

Yet the agreement itself wasn’t the most important aspect of the visit, but the industrial and technical cooperation (offset) that followed it. For instance, as compensation to the facility installation, the Mexican government agreed to buy a number of helicopters made by Eurocopter.

Days after the French delegation departed, the Mexican Air Force announced the purchase of six EC 725 multipurpose helicopters, worth 300 million dollars. The package also included training for Mexican military personnel along with surveillance and reconnaissance electronic equipment.

EC 725 Cougar (Picture: Eurocopter)

Although further details have been kept in secret, we’ve learned that more purchases will follow. It is likely that the Mexican government will acquire more Cougar helicopters and perhaps a number of AS565 Panthers, already in use by the Mexican Navy Off-shore Patrol Vessels.

This was the first major offset agreement regarding the Mexican defense sector of modern times, and should serve as an example for future military hardware acquisitions.

For instance, offset agreements not only supply high tech products to a given nation, but also provide access to technology and industrial development.

With an escalating role in internal security missions –and an ever-increasing budget- the Mexican military is eager to modernize a lot of its old hardware (say infantry mobility vehicles, C4 and intelligence systems, transport aircraft or patrol ships).

Therefore, private companies willing to sell new products to Mexico’s military should start thinking about technical and industrial cooperation as well, for business will not be as simple as it used to be.

The Mexican Navy goes south

The Mexican Navy has been given authorization by the Senate to participate in the multinational naval exercises UNITAS Atlantic and UNITAS Pacific sponsored by the US Navy.

UNITAS Atlantic will take place from May 17th to May 25th off the Argentinean coast. The Mexican Navy will deploy the ARM 162 California Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) of the Oaxaca Class, along with an AS 565 Panther helicopter.  A naval infantry company will also be deployed for the land-based exercises.

A Mexican Navy Panther during UNITAS 2009 (Picture: US Southern Command)

The Pacific phase of UNITAS will take place off the Chilean coast next June.

This is the third time that the Mexican Navy participates in the US Navy-sponsored exercises, being the 2009 UNITAS Gold Edition its last contribution.

Note: The ARM 162 is the latest patrol ship of the Oaxaca class, built in Mexico by the Navy itself. The ship’s main weapon system is the Oto Melara 76mm naval gun, along with two Oto Melara 12.7mm remote-controlled machine guns. The ARM 162 has also a 25mm cannon in the rear, located above the helicopter hangar. The ship’s main electronic sensors are the Terma Scanter Surface Surveillance Radar and the Selex NA-25 Fire Control Radar and Optronic System.

 

ARM 162 California (Picture: Mexican Navy)

First Mexican Navy CN-235 spotted

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We´ve learned that the first CN 235 Persuader bought by the Mexican Navy has been spotted in Spain, at the EADS CASA Sevilla Facility.

The Mexican Navy bought four maritime surveillance CN 235 Persuader and two cargo C 295 aircraft.

The CN 235 Persuader is an all-weather maritime surveillance aircraft, developed by the Spanish EADS subsidiary CASA.

 They can be equipped with a variety of radar systems such as the  Raytheon Seavue or the Telephonics APS 143 OceanEye.

The CN 235 is also equipped whit an optronic forward looking infrared station FLIR Star Safire II. Both systems -the radar and the optronic station- are managed by the Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS) developed also by EADS.

The CN 235’s and C 295’s were ordered directly by the Mexican Navy, and should not be confused with similar equipment that may arrive thanks to the Merida Initiative Anti Narcotics Cooperation Agreement.

It’s important to notice that the Mexican Navy already operates seven CASA C-212 maritime surveillance and patrol aircraft, which also incorporate the same ISR systems as the new Persuaders, such as the mentioned Fully Integrated Tactical System.

Fully Integrated Tactical System