Balanced Engagement

Despite the US military’s extensive engagement with partner nations in Central and South America, there remains a gap in these partnerships to address, said Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of US Southern Command. “We have a very good system which supports our ability to work with peers and near peers; we understand that part,” he said during his address at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., last week. However, the countries dealing with instability and illicit trafficking in SOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility are not those best described as near peers, said Fraser. For example, Guatemala has an air force with 1,000 personnel, and 90 percent of the air arm’s costs are dedicated to manpower, as its aircraft fleet is limited in terms of capability, he said. “We need high-reliability, low-cost systems for these places,” such as light airlift and light intelligence-reconnaissance-surveillance platforms, said Fraser. In particular, there are opportunities to expand partnerships with platforms like the MC-12, he said. “We need to figure out how to do that and bring that [aircraft] to the region,” he said.