The commander of the United States Southern Command General’s Army, Laura Richardson, visited Uruguay. During his stay, between February 5 and 8, he will meet with the country’s senior political and military commanders to increase the military ties that unite the two countries.
The visit was made at a time when military relations between the United States and Uruguay had begun to improve after several decades of the North American presence, which had been predominant since the post-war period, World War II Until the early 1980s, it declined significantly. This gap is filled mainly by China and, to a lesser extent, by Russia.
In the case of China, the material contributions are in the form of donations, and it has been the source of vehicles for the three armed forces. At that time, Russia became the main supplier of heavy trucks in the Urals, as well as light weapons and various variants of rifles, which are sold to the police and, to a lesser extent, to the Army. For their part, Spain, Germany, and France provided aircraft and ships, replacing the almost exclusively North American fleets that existed until then.
Recently, China was supposed to be the supplier of the two OPVs sought by Uruguay, but the process was finally given to the shipyard. Card from Spain. Consequently, China pointed out that North American pressures influenced Uruguay’s decision and therefore suspended all military support from that country to Uruguay. This suspension of China’s military support to Uruguay, especially the donation of one or two 3D air surveillance radars that have already been made, remains Uruguay’s urgent need.
With the arrival of the current government, one of the established goals is the recomposition of Armed Forces Uruguayans, especially in terms of equipment. Within this panorama, different goals are raised, especially regarding the equipment of the fleet, the air force, and, to a lesser extent, the Army.
In that sense, three patrol boats arrived from the United States Marine Protector that, with other ships and to buy two OPVs to Spain, will achieve a good part of the necessary replacement. This donation, together with a Uruguayan financial contribution for the tour and commissioning of the ships, seems to be the starting point of a series of very beneficial transfers for Uruguay that will help reach the United States ‘goals for the region, although until now, there has been no further progress.
In the case of the Air Force, no major progress has been made on any front. With its combat fleet mostly on the ground and with the hindrance of a Demolition Law, which the United States does not agree with, negotiations seem to have stalled and there is no possibility of progress. In the case of the Army, the start of the monumental replacement plan for its transport fleet, mainly consisting of hundreds of heavy trucks, the Ural 4320, and a fleet of administrative vehicles from various sources, including Holland, Germany, and China, seems to have begun slowly, with a reinforcement of 60 vehicles arriving from the United States via FMS. To this is added the reception of two dozen Oshkosh M-ATVs bought in Uruguay at a discounted price: 14 Osprey Crocodile Mk7s donated to the United States for use by the Immediate Response Force under the command of the United Nations.
Among the negotiations carried out in recent years, the most relevant is the acquisition of a package of equipment for the National Navy and aircraft for the Air Force.
In the case of the National Navy, although the government originally indicated that it had funds available, it has now been confirmed that the resources are much lower than expected, and it relies heavily on the support that the United States can provide,. at the level of donations and possible long-term financing.
The heart of this package consists of an advanced VTS system that the country urgently needs and that the United States has expressed its willingness to support. This system is key to monitoring not only maritime traffic that crosses Uruguayan waters but also to combating the scourge of drug trafficking, one of the fundamental concerns of the United States in the region. In this sense, financial alternatives are sought to begin the installation of the necessary basic sensors and, when the funds are available, add more capabilities or locations to the system.
Within the same package is the possibility to get at least one or two Beechcraft B200 Super King Air planes, plus a couple of Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor trucks and a group of rifles. In the case of airplanes, the process has been halted due to the high initial cost of replacing the cells, something that is needed in the United States. Regarding the trucks and rifles, since the funds will be Uruguayan, the basic limitation is the budget.
For the Air Force, successive attempts to acquire aircraft, especially different variants of Bae Hawk, failed fundamentally due to the differences between the United States and Uruguay regarding the current legislation used in the case of aircraft interception. Other countries in the region facing similar problems, such as Peru and Honduras, changed the said legislation to conform to the requirements of North America and quickly received support from that country in terms of aerial material. Uruguay, although it has gently expressed its willingness to make some changes, has not yet reached an agreement on the matter.
Regarding the transport of aircraft, although the cells of B200 Super King Air In the United States, the purchase was also paralyzed by the costs of transporting the cells. The only process that continues without major obstacles is the transition to UAVS, a system regularly used by FAU in patrol, surveillance, and support tasks for society, such as firefighting.
The need for Uruguay to receive more helicopters, especially for rescue and firefighting tasks, will also remain pending for the future since the scarcity of resources for defense severely limits those available. option. The United States provides the last units of Bell 212 Twin Huey received by the country using GPOI funds, but the short-term withdrawal of the FAU contingent on Monusco (Democratic Republic of the Congo) will return two units that are in the operational area, doubting whether more will be received in that way.
It’s coming soon
Although it is unusual and rare that senior military and civil officials of the United States travel to Uruguay, a small country outside of the major conflicts and geopolitical scenarios of the world dispute, until now there has been no deep progress in military relations between the two countries.
The interest of the United States in the region has been expressed several times, making it clear that it wants to maintain its presence as a basic military partner in Latin America. Also, its concern about the fight against drug trafficking, organized crime, and human trafficking is seen with support for many countries in the region that receive material sources for their defense and police forces.
In the case of Uruguay, a country that is considered internationally stable economically and politically, the transfer of material from the United States at favorable prices or through donations is more complicated because it is argued that the country has the financial capacity, although not always. the will. , to get the material you need.
On the other hand, Uruguay hopes that the strong alignment with the United States, shown since the inauguration of the current government, will result in more support for the reequipment of its armed forces. With a visit to Richardson, it is hoped that this gap will decrease and common points will be found, from the financial point of view and the needs of both countries. In that sense, it is clear that the two countries are fighting for the same goal and that the support of the United States will be the key to achieving a great improvement in Uruguay’s capabilities to monitor and protect its borders.