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Interregional Aviation

International Narcotics and Law Enforcement: FY 2002 Budget Justification
Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
May 2001

Budget Summary ($000)

FY 2000

FY 2001

FY 2002





    • Aerially eradicate drug crops with herbicides;
    • Support the destruction of cocaine and heroin processing laboratories and the interdiction of drug trafficking activities by aerial transport of host government law enforcement personnel;
    • Conduct aerial reconnaissance to locate drug crops and production facilities and verify eradication program results;
    • Support institution building of cooperating host government counternarcotics aviation programs; and
    • Develop and implement technological innovations to improve effectiveness and safety of aerial eradication and interdiction efforts.


    INL’s aviation program plays a pivotal role in international counternarcotics initiatives by assisting host governments worldwide in their efforts to locate and eradicate drug crops, interdict drug production and trafficking activities, and develop their own institutional counternarcotics aviation capabilities.

    The aviation program strives to reduce significantly the amount of illegal drugs entering the U.S. by eradicating raw materials for drug production where they are cultivated. In conjunction with alternative development, aerial eradication is a powerful method of illicit drug crop control, affording opportunities for large scale, fast moving campaigns. INL’s air program also provides crucial helicopter support to host country interdiction operations. In those countries that conduct manual, rather than aerial, eradication, INL aircraft are providing essential transportation of manual eradicators to otherwise inaccessible and/or unsecured drug growing areas. It provides aviation reconnaissance resources that are an essential element in locating, identifying and targeting drug activities and verification of the results of operations. INL’s cargo airplanes facilitate the movement of personnel and equipment to remote, underdeveloped, inaccessible, or unsecured regions where both infrastructure and law enforcement presence are minimal.

    The Interregional Aviation program supports the operational goal of enhancing political determination to combat illegal drug production and trafficking by working hands-on with host government technical aviation personnel. By instilling aviation technical and management skills and transferring technology, INL builds long-lasting institutions that have the trained personnel and the resolve to assume increased responsibility for counternarcotics air activities.

    Accomplishments. The interregional aviation program has had a profound effect on counternarcotics activities in Colombia. The program continues to work with and assist the Colombian National Police in efforts to eradicate aerially coca and opium poppy by providing training, maintenance, logistics, and operational support associated with flying OV-10 and T-65 spray airplanes. Initial aerial eradication successes that were enjoyed as "Plan Colombia" counternarcotics activities in the Putumayo region kicked off would not have been possible without support from the INL aviation program. The program also contributed to logistical and operational support of the effort by employing C-27 airplanes for cargo airlift and a Cessna Caravan mounted multispectral digital imaging system for identification and mapping of coca cultivation.

    In addition to contributions to the Colombian National Police aerial eradication efforts, the interregional aviation program has successfully initiated the Colombian Army (COLAR) UH-1N helicopter program to provide air mobility to soldiers of the Counterdrug Battalions. This entailed establishing an infrastructure, training the personnel, and preparing, configuring, deploying, and supporting the operation and maintenance of thirty-three UH-1N helicopters. The result of this effort, a fully trained COLAR aviation unit capable of conducting air mobile operations, is already yielding results in terms of interdiction and ground support to aerial eradication.

    The INL Interregional Aviation program has also been instrumental in continued net reduction of coca cultivation in Peru and Bolivia by providing aviation support in those countries. In Peru, U.S.-owned helicopters transport local counternarcotics police and U.S. law enforcement advisors on counternarcotics operations using a mobile-basing strategy. In Bolivia, U.S.-owned helicopters enable the government to project authority over vast areas where drug traffickers previously operated with impunity. The virtual elimination of coca in the Chapare region of Bolivia would not have been possible without the helicopter support provided through INL’s aviation program. INL-contracted aviation technical, training, and logistical support was an essential ingredient of the success enjoyed by host nation personnel operating the INL helicopters in these countries. Meanwhile, the aviation program has made even more progress in the effort to establish self-sufficiency in host nation counternarcotics aviation organizations to minimize direct involvement of U.S. contractor personnel.

    Beyond the source countries, INL’s interregional aviation program has provided support to other Latin American countries in identifying and curtailing drug cultivation through its Regional Aerial Reconnaissance and Eradication (RARE) program. In addition to keeping drug crop cultivation in check in Guatemala, Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela, Belize, and several other countries, this program has provided a capability to intercept drug smuggling aircraft, day or night, on a short-notice temporary deployment basis.

    Technological innovations within the INL air program have been many. For example, INL’s obtained, modified, and employed excess Department of Defense (DOD) OV-10 aircraft for spray operations. The result was an aircraft that provided more protection and safety for crews, while delivering herbicide in a very effective manner. Additionally, state-of-the-art satellite-guided precision spray systems have been incorporated into aerial eradication aircraft. We have now advanced another step with the initiation of spray under night vision goggle conditions that will enhance productivity and reduce the chance of detection. Furthermore, the aviation program established a technologically advanced system for identifying, plotting, and targeting coca cultivation using multispectral digital imaging.

    In FY 2001, the interregional aviation program will continue to place special emphasis on the expansion of successful eradication efforts in Putumayo and other coca growing regions. A high level of support will continue in Colombia in the areas of flight operations and instruction, maintenance quality control, and repair parts. This will help maintain a capability to sustain a high aerial eradication sortie rate against illicit crops. Simultaneously, we will conduct intensive training of police and military counternarcotics elements to make their assumption of increased responsibility for these areas possible. We will also continue to provide support for helicopter operations in Peru and Bolivia, and successful training and institution building will allow us to continue to reduce U.S. contractor presence at those locations. The interregional aviation program will continue to pursue technological innovations to improve aircraft performance and explore new variations of aircraft to enhance eradication capabilities at a reasonable cost.

    FY 2002 Programs. The twenty percent increase in the interregional aviation program budget request reflects growth in currently negotiated contract costs for continuation of the existing level of aviation support, as well as projected increased costs associated with "Plan Colombia" implementation. The addition of extensive aircraft equipment to the program via the FY 2000 Emergency Supplemental (33 UH-1N helicopters, up to 30 COLAR Huey-II helicopters, 9 additional spray planes, etc.) is expanding the contract support level effort even beyond that for which supplemental-related funds are available. Several elements of support that must "ramp up" in conjunction with the additional "Plan Colombia" equipment also will be borne by the Interregional Aviation segment of the budget. Examples include multi-spectral imagery and air movement of cargo and personnel.

    Interregional aviation activities will continue to focus on key programs in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru, with temporary deployments of aircraft and personnel on an as-needed basis elsewhere in the Andean region and Central America. INL will exploit all opportunities for aerial eradication while maintaining aggressive interdiction activities. Establishment of host country self-sufficiency for aircraft maintenance and training programs will continue as a priority in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. Further emphasis will be placed on programs to upgrade spray aircraft capabilities.

    Effectiveness Measurements

      • Increased eradication of drug crops with aerially-applied herbicides;
      • Success of host country interdiction of drug production and trafficking activities supported by USG air assets;
      • Enhanced host government institutional capabilities to undertake counternarcotics air operations safely and effectively;
      • Continued transport of personnel and provision of logistical support for field activities;
      • Aerial reconnaissance missions to pinpoint drug production areas, facilities, and to verify eradication; and
      • Technological improvements to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, and safety of aerial eradication

      Interregional Aviation

      INL Budget




      FY 2000

      FY 2001

      FY 2002

      Aviation Support Services Contract




      70 aircraft fleet


      Parts, Maintenance and Overhaul




      DOD logistics


      Operations Support










      Admin services and program support




      Base support, Patrick AFB












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