How air tight is the Rionegro No-Fly-Zone?

June 27, 2013 sliabh News from Rionegro

Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the No-Fly-Zone (NFZ) being operated over the war torn Latin American country of Rionegro. A leaked report from the UN on the operation of the zone has identified numerous breaches by both sides in that country’s ongoing civil war.

The No-Fly-Zone was instigated two years ago, together with an arms embargo, in an effort to moderate the severity of the war. Because of sensitivities about their historical involvement in the region the US military has been specifically excluded from providing support, despite their overwhelming capabilities in this area. Instead responsibility for enforcement has fallen to a number of smaller Latin American countries who have also been receiving support from the Spanish Air Force, which has based 4 of its F/A18 aircraft in the region.

Spanish F/A18 - file photo.

Spanish F/A18 – file photo.

The UN report on the Rionegro No-Fly-Zone was commissioned earlier this year, and extracts have been published in the New York Times this week. The reports states that the effectiveness of the airborne blockade has been diminished by persistent failures of radar coverage, which are being exploited by warring parties. Multiple accounts have been documented of unapproved helicopter flights over Rionegro. These appear to occur when the limited radar facilities in neighbouring countries are turned off for maintenance or due to equipment failures. The lack of radar coverage has meant it has not been possible up to now to identify which factions are violating the No-Fly-Zone.

In response to criticism received since the leaking of the report, the Spanish government has announced that their F/A18s will be used to provide a limited airborne early warning capability in order to enhance radar coverage over Rionegro. It remains to be seen how effective this stop gap measure will be.

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