Forces: April 30, 2005

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: The Mexican Navy is by far the best motivated and directed service in the Mexican Armed Forces. It has spent the past four years developing a new doctrine to protect Mexican waters and resources from external and internal threats. At the cornerstone of this modernization process is expanding the capabilities of the force in sea, air and land.

The surface force is grouped into two naval fleets: Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. It has phased out most of its heavier surface combatants, some built as far back as 1943, and replaced them with ex-US Knox-class frigates. A total of 47 surface combatants have been retired and replaced with new Ocean Patrol Vessels, the majority of which have been built at local shipyards. Up to 80 new vessels are to join the fleets by 2006, bringing the total number of available patrol and combat ships to 122. This will include 8 Frigates, 2 Missile Boats, 30 OPVs, 26 Coastal Patrol Vessels, 56 Interceptor-Patrol Craft. The fleets will have an additional 35 auxiliary ships distributed among them and operate out of 11 major naval bases. Total strength will rise to about 56,000 personnel. 

The Naval Aviation element has been completely re-organized, retiring 27 older aircraft. It has acquired a new AEW and surveillance capability by putting into service 3 retired Israeli E-2C Hawkeyes airborne radar aircraft, and upgrading 8 of its C-212 Aviocar transports with the Spanish FITS maritime surveillance system. Coastal surveillance capabilities have also been expended with a new generation of light aircraft and helicopters being built at Naval installations. The navy is also shopping for eight light fighter jets. 

Its helicopter fleet has also expanded, with the Mi-8MTV-1s receiving FLIR (night vision) and GPS, the Bo-105s were upgraded to the Super Five variant with enhanced detection capabilities and has acquired scores of Panther and MD-900 pursuit choppers for dealing with drug loaded fast-boats. 

The 12,000 strong Naval Infantry has also been re-organized, with a new 5,000-strong Amphibious Reaction Force becoming the main intervention force, backed up a by a new Special Forces Command that focuses on anti-terrorist and anti-narcotics operations. The rest of the force has been grouped into Naval Infantry battalions assigned to the different naval zones and 4 new Strategic Defense groups that protect oil installations in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. These last groups are now equipped with surface to air missiles to provide air defense to offshore drilling platforms. -- Iigo Guevara y Moyano

 


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