Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Single-Digit Success

Interview with Vice Admiral José Luis Parades,
Commander Pacific Command, Peruvian Navy

Rear Admiral José Parades, Commander Pacific Command, Peruvian Navy: "Given the importance of preserving Peru’s territorial integrity, protecting national trade, and wider interests, maritime security and situational awareness are a top national priority.”
(Photo: Guy Toremans)
The Peruvian Navy (Marina de Guerra del Perú; MGP) faces a major problem of obsolescence. Most of its major surface assets are second-hand ships that need to be modernised or replaced under the umbrella of an ambitious new-construction programme. In addition, regional competition with Chile and a sizeable coastline put pressure on the MGP’s Fleet Command to maintain a robust and modern naval force. Although Peru has experienced steadily improving economic conditions thanks to increasing exports of base and precious metals produced by the country’s mining industry, money was not fully available for the country’s military services. Only since a couple of years, the influx of money is finally beginning to trickle down to the military, resulting in force re-sizing, asset modernisation, and improved Research & Development (R&D) programmes. The Commander, Pacific Command (Command (Comandancia General de Operaciones del Pacífico), Vice Admiral José Luis Parades, talks these major challenges.

NAVAL FORCES: How would you describe the responsibilities and missions of your command and what assets are assigned to it?
Vice Admiral Parades: COMOPERPAC, created in June 1980, comprises the Surface Fleet, Submarine Fleet, Naval Aviation, Marine Infantry, Special Operations Forces, and three Naval Zones. The First Naval Zone (COMZOUNO) is responsible for the northern coast of Peru, with Headquarters in Piura City [while] the Second Naval Zone (COMZODOS) is responsible for the central coast and headquartered in Callao, and the Third Naval Zone (COMZOTRES) is responsible for the southern coast of Peru, with Headquarters in Arequipa city.
Our main role is to assure the readiness of the component forces and activities, including planning and supervision of the training of all assets assigned to COMOPERPAC; advanced naval exercise; missions coming from the Chief of Joint Armed Forces’ Command; and, when required, support operations of the Coast Guard, such as SAR, counter-drug operations, and other illegal activities at sea. We organise advanced level exercises in a yearly plan, and the basic and intermediate level exercises on a monthly schedule.

NAVAL FORCES: Over the past years, the operational tempo of many Navies increased considerably. Do you have sufficient assets to comply with all your commitments?
Vice Admiral Parades: Indeed. New threats and challenges have substantially increased our commitments. The major consequences are the reduction of the available time [for] exercises [with and] maintenance and repair of the assets, as well as giving our crews and personnel optimal time to take a rest. I think, the Navies never have sufficient assets to comply [with] that. The key is to compromise in the operations and activities that are needed and those available to carry out all the tasks we are required to carry out.
The increase of asymmetric threats, and ensuing security issues, also require a wider cooperation among military, paramilitary, civil authorities, and neighbouring countries. I believe that international cooperation is no longer a matter of choice but a necessity. We should take every opportunity to strengthen the cooperation with other Navies and, at the same time, build trust and confidence in order to ensure effective collaboration, and share the gathered intelligence.

NAVAL FORCES: Maritime Situational Awareness (MSA) and Maritime Security (MS) are in many countries of higher priority. What are the main maritime security threats and challenges?
Vice Admiral Parades: Given the importance of preserving Peru’s territorial integrity, protecting national trade, and wider interests, maritime security and situational awareness are a top national priority. In recognising the significance of Maritime Security, we realised the importance of regional cooperation in supporting such aims. The main threats are drugs trafficking and illegal fishing.
COMOPERPAC participates in [the] fight against these threats, supporting the operations of DICAPI with the assets assignment. In a global environment, we encompass the same threats identified by other Navies […]: piracy and maritime terrorism. We participate in top exercises, forums, and live exercises. The MSA challenges for my Command are to have the forces assigned to our Command at the highest possible operational readiness. Interagency and wider international cooperative efforts are critical to the future development of regional maritime security.

NAVAL FORCES: Can you elaborate on the current level of collaboration with other Navies?
Vice Admiral Parades: We [cooperate] in different levels with many Navies. In the regional entourage, we have agreements and issues of interest as part of the bilateral meetings; the agreements and naval live and synthetic exercises; officer interchange programmes such as ship-rider, liaison officer or staff augmenters; and participate in [R&D] meetings. Major exercises to which we take part are PANAMAX, UNITAS, SIFOREX, and the multinational submarine-focused exercises SUBDIEX. The SUBDIEX series are staged under the auspices of the [US Navy’s] Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative, and involves 140 days of submarine training with the US Navy, giving us the opportunity to operate with them and view their technology and method of operations. The bi-national SIFOREX manoeuvre involves several of our submarines, surface assets, and aircraft together with a US Navy task force off our coast. Initially organised and hosted by the Peruvian Submarine Force until 2010, from the 2012 edition onwards SIFOREX is being organised and conducted by the Peruvian Navy’s Surface Warfare Command.
Taking part in these exercises provides us high-quality training and the opportunity to improve tactical procedures, doctrines, and operational concepts, and further enhance and promote regional and international cooperation.
We are also working to improve cooperative efforts with Asian countries. The WPNS [Western Pacific Naval Symposium] is a naval forum group [that] has one yearly workshop and one biannual symposium, as well as, conferences, naval exercises, [and] officer interchanges programmes. Recently, we assigned an officer to the Republic of Singapore Navy’s Maritime Information Fusion Centre. [It] is a maritime Command and Control [C2] centre that processes information of the Pacific Oceans’ maritime environment in order to maintain a secure and safe sea for everybody. And since March 2013, we have naval attachés accredited for Australia, Singapore, and South Korea.

NAVAL FORCES: What will bring the two new LPDs to the Peruvian Navy?
Vice Admiral Parades: Capable of carrying helicopters and featuring a stern door, these ships will considerably improve our amphibious capabilities, e.g. [C2] and airspace management facilities, and the ability to operate with the other services’ rotary-wing aircraft. The ships will also be a huge boost to humanitarian assistance because [they will] be able to act as an afloat support base for relief personnel; to deliver goods and vehicles to damaged or non-existent ports; produce potable water; and embark extensive medical facilities. Obviously, we have to adapt our doctrine and amphibious-oriented concept of operations in order to be ready to operate from these new platforms. We already have developed training programmes in order to improve our procedures and techniques, and stepped up our amphibious training with our counterparts.

NAVAL FORCES: Which capability gaps need to be filled in with priority?
Vice Admiral Parades: Employing UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] systems. The acquisition of UAV systems is projected in a mid-term. In the longer term, the MGP plans to build larger surface combatants, such as frigates and destroyers, and acquire replenishment ships. As there is no clear time-frame for the implementation of these programmes, Admiral Tejada said “as an intermediate solution, we are looking at destroyer- or frigate-type units on the European second-hand ship market. It is time to replace our flagship [BAP “Almirante Grau”].”

NAVAL FORCES: How do you see the evolution of the Pacific Command, both on the short and long term?
Vice Admiral Parades: The Peruvian Navy is gradually working its way up. We continue to further improve and enhance our operational capabilities, as well as the qualitative composition of our assets. And we are adapting our operational training requirements to match the strategic vision, which envisages a fully interoperable fleet able to rapidly change operational functions and readiness postures across a range of roles and missions. I dare say that by the end of this decade, you will see a credible and effective naval force to contribute to the nation’s maritime security and safety, and ready to take on any mission she may be required [to fulfil].