Colombia: October 11, 2000

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The new $1.3 billion package of aid to Colombia is being dismissed by analysts as the wrong equipment and not enough of it. The FARC rebels now control 40% of Colombia and the Colombian Army shows little ability to change this. The problem is distance and terrain. Much of the country is jungle or mountains (or both) where helicopters are the only realistic way to move troops. The aid package includes 42 refurbished UH1 Hueys and 18 newer UN60 Blackhawks. The Colombians originally wanted 60 Blackhawks, then (when the Clinton Administration insisted on sending the ancient Hueys) tried to convince Washington to give them 30 of each. But the White House was already decided on 42 of the older aircraft, which, while not exactly useless, are far less capable. The Hueys cannot reach the higher mountains that Blackhawks can reach with ease. The Blackhawks have a shorter range, meaning that many areas of the country will be out of range of the secure Army bases. This will make the Hueys useless in reaching the key guerrilla strongholds unless the Army creates dangerously-exposed forward staging bases. The Huey also carries half as many troops as the BlackHawk, meaning that the 60 aircraft combined will (within the range an altitude limits of the Hueys) carry only as many troops as 39 of the more modern Blackhawks.--Stephen V Cole

 

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