Interregional Aviation Support

International Narcotics and Law Enforcement: FY 2003 Budget Justification
Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
May 2002

          Budget Summary ($000)

FY 2001 Actual

FY 2002 Estimated

FY 2003 Request





  • Support and assist the Government of Colombia in conducting an aggressive aerial eradication program to reduce coca and opium poppy cultivation in Colombia;
  • Provide and/or support air transportation of people and materiel to facilitate expanded manual eradication in outlying areas of Peru (coca and opium poppy) and Bolivia (coca);
  • Conduct and/or support missions to transport host government law enforcement or counternarcotics military personnel by air in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, and other countries as required, for the purpose of destroying laboratories for processing or producing cocaine and heroin or other controlled substances and interdicting drug trafficking activities;
  • Conduct aerial reconnaissance to locate drug crops and production facilities and verify eradication program results;
  • Provide cargo airlift capability to support logistical requirements of counternarcotics efforts;
  • Support institution building of cooperating host government counternarcotics aviation programs in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, and other countries as required; and
  • Develop and implement technological innovations to improve effectiveness and safety of aerial eradication and interdiction efforts.


INL’s aviation program is an essential element in achieving international counternarcotics objectives. It assists host governments worldwide in their efforts to locate and eradicate drug crops, interdict drug production and trafficking activities, and develop internal institutional counternarcotics aviation capabilities.

The aviation program provides eradication, mobility, interdiction, and logistical support capabilities that augment and facilitate ground operations and in many cases perform functions that would not be possible by any other means. For example, aerial eradication techniques allow for the destruction of illicit crops over a more widespread area, in a faster and more cost effective manner than manual eradication. This is particularly important in eradicating the vast growing areas in Colombia during limited dry season windows of opportunity. In countries that conduct manual, rather than aerial, eradication, such as in Peru and Bolivia, INL aircraft provide essential transportation of manual eradicators and their supporting logistics to remote drug growing areas. These efforts, in conjunction with alternative development, significantly reduce the amount of illegal drugs entering the U.S. by eradicating raw materials for drug production where they are cultivated. Airplanes and helicopters allow for transportation of law enforcement personnel, critical supplies and equipment to remote, underdeveloped, unsecured regions that would otherwise be inaccessible. Air reconnaissance assets are also an essential element in locating, identifying and targeting drug activities and verifying operational results.

By working closely with host government personnel to instill aviation technical and management skills and transfer technology, the aviation program supports the operational goal of enhancing the political will of countries to combat illegal drug production and trafficking. This program builds long-lasting institutions that develop trained personnel with demonstrated abilities to assume increased responsibilities for counternarcotics air activities.


The interregional aviation program has made possible the tremendous expansion of aerial eradication in Colombia that, along with alternative development, is the backbone of that country’s counternarcotics strategy. INL and the Colombian National Police have collaborated in mounting an effective campaign using U.S. owned T-65 Thrush and OV-10D Bronco spray planes to address coca and opium poppy cultivation in the various regions. INL has assisted the Colombian National Police with training, maintenance, logistics, and operational support to make this effort possible. The program also provided logistical and operational support in the form of C-27 cargo airplanes and a Multi-spectral Digital Imaging System (MDIS) mounted on a Cessna Caravan for identification and mapping of coca.

Besides supporting Colombian National Police aerial eradication activities, the interregional aviation program initiated and sustained the Colombian Army (COLAR) UH-1N helicopter program that provides air mobility to soldiers of the Counterdrug Battalions. This project included establishing an infrastructure, training the personnel, and preparing, configuring, deploying, and supporting the operation and maintenance of 33 UH-1N helicopters. The result of this effort, a fully trained COLAR aviation unit capable of conducting air mobile operations, is yielding results in terms of interdiction and ground support to aerial eradication.

The interregional aviation program support to Peru and Bolivia has also been instrumental in the continued net reduction of coca cultivation. In Peru, INL-owned helicopters transporting local counternarcotics police and U.S. law enforcement advisors on counternarcotics operations using a mobile-basing strategy have been a key factor in success. In Bolivia, INL helicopters have enabled the government to project authority over vast areas where drug traffickers previously operated with impunity. The virtual elimination of coca in the Chapare region of Bolivia would not have been possible without the helicopter support provided through INL’s aviation program. INL-contracted aviation technical, training, and logistical support was an essential ingredient of the success enjoyed by host nation personnel operating these helicopters. The aviation program has also continued to make progress in establishing self-sufficiency in host nation counternarcotics aviation organizations.

INL’s interregional aviation program has provided support to other Latin American countries in identifying and curtailing drug cultivation through its Regional Aerial Reconnaissance and Eradication (RARE) program. In addition to keeping drug crop cultivation in check in Guatemala, Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela, Belize, and several other countries, this program has provided a capability to intercept drug smuggling aircraft, day or night, on a short-notice temporary deployment basis.

INL has made many technical innovations to enhance safety and effectiveness of operations. INL has continued to modify its OV-10 aircraft to provide appropriate armoring and night vision goggle capability in addition to state-of-the-art, satellite guided spray systems. This has provided more protection and safety for crews, while delivering herbicide in a very effective manner. The aviation program also established a technologically advanced system for identifying, plotting, and targeting coca cultivation using multi-spectral digital imaging.

In FY 2002, the interregional aviation program will continue to place special emphasis on the expansion of successful eradication efforts in Putumayo and other coca growing regions in Colombia. The program will continue to provide flight operations and instruction, maintenance quality control, and repair parts support to the CNP to make possible a high sortie rate against illicit crops. Simultaneously, we will conduct training of police and military counternarcotics elements to make possible their assumption of increased responsibility for these areas. We will also continue to provide support for helicopter operations in Peru and Bolivia, and successful training and institution building will allow us to continue to reduce U.S. contractor presence at those locations. The interregional aviation program will continue to pursue technological innovations to improve aircraft performance and explore new variations of aircraft to enhance eradication capabilities at a reasonable cost.

FY 2003 Program

The eight percent increase in the interregional aviation program budget request reflects growth in currently negotiated contract costs for continuation of the existing level of aviation support, as well as projected increased costs associated with Plan Colombia and the Andean Counterdrug Initiative (ACI). The addition of extensive aircraft equipment to the program via the FY 2000 Emergency Supplemental (33 UH-1N and 25 Huey-II helicopters owned by the USG and operated by the COLAR and 12 additional USG owned spray planes operated by the CNP) is expanding the contract support level effort even beyond that for which Plan Colombia Emergency Supplemental and ACI-related funds are available. Several elements of support that are ramping up in conjunction with the additional Plan Colombia equipment also will be borne by the Interregional Aviation segment of the budget. Examples include multi-spectral imagery and air movement of cargo and personnel.

Interregional aviation activities will continue to focus on key programs in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru, with temporary deployments of aircraft and personnel on an as-needed basis elsewhere in the Andean region and Central America. INL will exploit all opportunities to support host nation aerial eradication while maintaining support for aggressive interdiction activities. Establishment of host country self-sufficiency for aircraft maintenance and training programs will continue as a priority in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. Efforts to upgrade spray aircraft capabilities will continue.

Effectiveness Measurements

  • Aerial eradication of 200,000 or more hectares of coca and 5,000 or more hectares of opium poppy in Colombia in 2003, subject only to any restrictions imposed by the host government;
  • Elimination of all residual coca and prevention of new plantings in the Chapare and elimination of illegal coca in the Yungas regions of Bolivia;
  • Increased interdiction operations in the Yungas and along Bolivia’s borders made possible through aviation support to head off increasing influx of drug trafficking activity resulting from the implementation of Plan Colombia;
  • Successful reduction of coca cultivation in Peru as evidenced by abandonment of remaining coca fields;
  • 20 percent or more increase in the number of eradication/interdiction missions flown in Peru in 2003 compared to 2002;
  • Increase in the percentage of nationalization of the Peruvian National Police pilot and mechanic forces to over 90 percent;
  • Provide 40,000 flight hours of support to counternarcotics initiatives with over 125 active aircraft;
  • Successful aerial reconnaissance missions to pinpoint drug production areas and facilities and verify eradication;
  • Enhanced host government institutional capabilities to undertake counternarcotics air operations safely and effectively; and
  • Technological improvements to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, and safety of aerial eradication.

 Interregional Aviation Support

INL Budget



FY 2001

FY 2002

FY 2003

Aviation Support Services Contract




100 Aircraft Fleet


DOD-Source Parts, Maintenance and Overhaul




Operations Support


Salaries and Benefits




Field Travel




Administrative Services and Program Support




Base support at Patrick AFB