As we reported last Monday, after July 19th’s encounter of the U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II with a pair of AMBV’s Su-30MK2, USN flights resumed over the Venezuelan Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ).
Although this is nothing new, its going on for both Obama’s and Trump’s administration. For sure, Venezuela and its Caribbean Sea surroundings are one of the main interests of the VQ-1 Squadron, based at NAS Whidbey Island. VQ-1 is among the last squadrons of the P-3 Orion in USN service, in this case the ELINT specific EP-3 Aries II variant. Starting 2023, the EP-3 is to be replaced by the MQ-4C Triton UAS with a MULTI-INT suite in the U.S. Navy.
These EP-3 Aries II are deploying from NAS Whidbey Island as from the Curaçao International Airport, as open source intelligence sources indicate. Coast Guard Air Station Hato is located at the west end of the airport, in which the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard operates Dash-8 maritime patrol aircraft and AW139 helicopters. This is also shared with an USAF FOB, which has seen deployments in the past for AEW&C, Tanker, Transport and even F-16 aircraft. A recently signed agreement between both parties has appeared for a new deployment of E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft as well. Adm. Craig Faller, Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, declared this Saturday that the U.S. presence will increase even further.
Two more overflights happened on July 22nd and July 26th. Both confirmed by the Venezuelan Integral Aerospace Defense Command (CODAI) but in this case, no aircraft has scrambled to intercept the intruders. According to Venezuela, any foreign aircraft that enters the EEZ is considered an intruder but for the U.S. there’s no jurisdiction on any EEZ and the legal limit is the territory limit for 12 nautical miles. In this case, no AMBV aircraft scrambled to intercept it.
There’s no official reason on why on this case there was no scramble, allegedly AMBV does not hold a good serviceable rate. None the less, some sources indicate that with Russian support, there has been an improvement on available aircraft. Recently no less than 5 of a fleet of 24 Su-30MK2 have been spotted in exercises or parades and at least two pairs of F-16s. Although, not much can be said on guided weapons maintenance status.
The reasons behind these deployments of USN aircraft supposedly are behind supporting counter drug operations by law enforcement but actually the use of such platforms, and possibly also RQ-4 Triton or its BAMS variant as the one downed in the Hormuz straits, are related also to establish an accurate Electronic Order of Battle or ORBAT of Venezuelan Air Defense.
The Venezuelan Integral Air Defense has S-125, Buk and Antey 2500 missile defense systems for short, medium and long-range engagement respectively. Much has been discussed as for the whole Venezuelan Armed Forces readiness rate in a declining economy, but as always, any military backed government is to provide as much budget as possible to its military. These overflights remain crucial on the remote, or not, possibility of an U.S. led military intervention in Venezuela and how to assess readiness and provide any priority on these targets to be suppressed and also, any other deterrent by military assets.