US Southern Command assessing GDF’s aviation capability

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

Efforts are now underway to assist the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) in developing a roadmap to enhance its aviation capability, following a needs assessment conducted by the Air Force arm of the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

This has been revealed by Major General Evan Pettus, Commander of the Air Forces Southern, who wrapped up a three-day visit to Guyana on Friday.

During his visit, the US Air Force official met with senior officials of the Guyana Government, the GDF, and the US Embassy in Georgetown, to discuss domain awareness and collaborate on advancing Guyana’s airspace awareness capacity to protect its national security and sovereignty.

At a media briefing following his engagements on Friday, Major General Pettus explained that the main aim of the visit was to conclude the air domain awareness assessment of the GDF. He explained: “The purpose was to work together to assess Guyana’s current capabilities with respect to its ability to sense and make sense of what is happening in its airspace, and to develop a roadmap of ways we can work together to grow that capability over the coming years.”

This assessment is a cooperation between the GDF and the US Department of Defense, organized in cooperation with the Military Liaison Officer at the US Embassy here. According to the Air Forces Southern Commander, this process involves multiple security agencies.

He added that the discussions over the past three days “…allowed us to talk about where the Guyana Defence Force is, and where Brigadier [Omar] Khan wants to go; and how we can work on things like planning, policy, training, and equipping down the road to get them there in a bilateral cooperation.”

Asked about the findings of that assessment, Major General Pettus opted not to go into details, but underscored the importance for the army to modernise and equip itself to meet current requirements and needs.

The US Air Force official also praised the GDF’s action plan for enhancement of its overall capabilities. Major General Pettus said, “I would say that the Guyana Defence Force has a good plan to meet the needs of the nation of Guyana”.

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Omar Khan, outlined the importance of bilateral cooperation to expand the army’s capabilities. He pointed out that the defence sector is expected to enhance its capability to match the rapid economic growth of Guyana, and said he believes the US Army could provide the support needed to do this.

“[This is] an ongoing process; you don’t just buy a capability, you have to build it, and this is the first stage of that process. And you will see many more visits, following up, to generate the kind of discussions and data that we can assess further in how we optimise our efforts to bring that capability to fruition and realisation,” Brigadier Khan has said.

As the Air Force component of the US SOUTHCOM, Air Forces Southern conducts security cooperation and provides airspace and cyberspace capabilities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The Air Forces Southern supports SOUTHCOM to deter aggression, defeat threats, rapidly respond to crises, and work with allies and partner nations to build regional capacity to ensure a secure, free, and prosperous Western Hemisphere.

Just last week, a team of Air Forces Southern Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance experts were in Guyana to exchange knowledge and ideas with GDF intel experts. During the visit, the team coached the GDF ranks on how to make SOUTHCOM’s Enhanced Domain Awareness system work best for them. EDA is a secure, unclassified, virtual environment where users can leverage commercially and publicly available information and analytics to more easily collaborate and share information.

According to Major General Pettus, the US-Guyana bilateral security partnership continues to focus on areas of mutual interest, cooperation, training, information sharing and interoperability. This level of cooperation, he noted, has accelerated over the past several years with the aim of not only ensuring national security in Guyana, but regional security, by extension.

“Security for Guyana and the Guyanese people is good for the region, and it’s good for the United States. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership, and so I think we will continue to work together on all those areas that will be mutually beneficial to our peoples,” the US Air Force official noted.

In fact, Major General Pettus has said that in its military-to-military cooperation with the GDF, SOUTHCOM is placing emphasis on cybersecurity tactics, techniques, procedures and capabilities.

Only in December, a US SOUTHCOM delegation was in Guyana to assess the GDF military communications network and to discuss emerging threats in the cyber and 5G domains. The participants discussed how the Guyanese army has made significant progress in implementing recommendations from the assessment to improve their cyber security posture, and reaffirmed mutual commitments to collaborating on countering threats in the GDF’s cyber domain.