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The extended internal conflict in this South American country has led to improvements in military and police capacity and equipment. Colombian armed forces once lagging behind in technology and operational readiness are now strong, trained, and global benchmark institutions in the fight against terrorist organizations and illegal drug trafficking.


The National Police of Colombia’s Police Air Service is an integral part of this transformation. Since its founding in 1958 with a few Cessna 206 aircraft to control crime, this unit attached to the Anti-Narcotics Directorate has boosted its capabilities and exponentially increased its aircraft fleet. With the help of the United States, the Police Air Service currently has in its inventory 80 helicopters and 60 airplanes that record a total of about 42,000 flight hours annually to support police operations in both rural and urban missions.


Colombia has now reached a turning point that can change the country’s social dynamics and reduce the intensity of conflict in a drastic way. After more than four years of negotiations, President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC guerrilla group – Colombia’s largest and most powerful terrorist organization


with almost 7,000 men in arms – signed a peace agreement in November that ended a half-century of armed conflict between that Marxist cartel and the Colombian state. As a result of this peace agreement, the country has entered a pacification phase called “post-conflict” in which the state institutions are modifying their objectives to respond to the needs and challenges of a country in peace.


One of those challenges is to improve security in the country’s largest cities. For that mission, the Air Service has recently acquired five Bell 407 helicopters equipped with modern surveillance gear. Brig. Gen. Luis Enrique Méndez Reina, Commander of the Air Service, explains why: “Our strategic committees realized that the National Police had a great role in the rural areas, but in the urban areas there were citizens demanding a greater effort against street crimes. This required us to transform and refocus efforts from the rural regions to the cities. We have been fulfilling these new efforts with modern helicopters, such as these Bell 407s. We are also working with aircraft that serve as intelligence platforms, and we are working with unmanned aircraft systems that are the future in aviation.”


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Sep/Oct 2017


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