A regular date in the South American air forces calendar is Exercise Cruzex, which takes place every two years in Brazil. Leandro Maldonado reports.

WITH MORE than 5 million square miles (13 million km2) of land and more than 180 million inhabitants, Brazil is South America’s biggest country and a powerful emerging nation. It commands the world’s eleventh-largest economy, and is becoming a regional leader and an important player in global politics and economics.

Aspiring to a permanent seat on an expanded United Nations Security Council, Brazil is looking outwards, and is moving towards becoming a more active voice in the globalised 21 st century world. Today it leads the UN peacekeeping contingent in Haiti and maintains observers in ‘hot spots’ around the world.

As it seeks to gain more importance on the global stage, its responsibility is increasing. Brazil is already considering the possibility of working in conjunction with NATO forces, and envisages employing not only its ground troops, but also its combat air assets — one reason why Exercfcio Cruzeiro do Sul (Southern Cross), better known as Cruzex, was created.


Exercise Cruzex is the biggest combat training exercise in South America, hosted and managed by Forca Aerea Brasileira (FAB — Brazilian Air Force) in co-operation with the attending air forces.

Planning began in 2001 when the FAB invited other South American air forces to attend. The commander of Cruzex III, Lt Brigadier William de Oliveira Barros, told journalists at this year’s exercise: «All South American countries were invited to the exercise, including the French territory of Guyana, which is one of the reasons France takes part. Our goal is to bring South American air forces to work seamlessly together and to assimilate different strategies from each other, so we can correct deficiencies, learn new concepts and prepare our forces to keep peace but be ready for war.»

Six months before each exercise, the FAB organises a planning conference for the Project Officers of the participating foreign air forces. Chaired by a FAB senior officer, it seeks to establish individual nations’ training requirements as the basis for developing the exercise scenario. Each attending air force decides upon the tactics to be employed, the type of aircraft it can deploy, and the number of assets and personnel to be sent. This information is passed to the FAB Operations Division, which develops an exercise plan and prepares the stage for the simulated war.

Cruzex is based on a Blue versus Red Forces’ war and it is organized in a similar manner to Exercise Red Flag at Nellis AFB, Nevada. It is a two-week air war with two daily missions — one flown in the morning and one in the afternoon. The first week is devoted to pre-exercise familiarisation, and the second to the live exercise (LIVEX).

Cruzex History

The first Cruzex was staged at Canoas AB in southern Brazil in April and May 2002, and was the first time NATO procedures had been used in a South American combined exercise. Air forces from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and France attended, and the event was hailed a success. The FAB concluded that the exercise results were very satisfactory, thus paving the way for CRUZEX II.

Two years later, in November 2004 (see Cruzex, February 2005, p38-47), the air war took place again. For Cruzex II, the Theatre of Operations (TO) relocated to the northeast of Brazil, and Natal AB became the main hub for the Blue Forces component. Argentina, Brazil, France and Venezuela attended, with Peru, Uruguay and South Africa as observers. Around 100 aircraft were deployed and the FAB was again delighted by its success.

The exercise is intended to train the Coalition Forces in flying military operations as part of a United Nations peace mission, based on the NATO approach. It is composed of the Exercise Directorate (DIREX) headed by a Brazilian senior officer; the Co-Direction of the Exercise (CO-DIREX) made up of one senior officer from each Air Force; the Direction and Control of the Exercise Staff (DICONSTAFF), headed by a Brazilian senior officer; the Joint Force Air Component (JFAC) under a senior Brazilian command; and the Deployable Combined Air Operations Centre (D/CAOC), headed by senior officers from all participating air forces.

CRUZEX is fought between two fictitious countries, each with an inventory of assets and threats that can be either increased or progressively reduced through war attrition over the course of the exercise. The DIREX monitors participants’ performances and tailors the scenarios to meet the objectives set out at the planning conference.

At The Heart of Brazil

In line with the custom of relocating each exercise, Cruzex III, which ocurred between August 21-September 1, took place in the Centre-West region of Brazil, where Anapolis Air Base hosted the foreign air forces and the Blue Forces component. Red Force assets were based mainly at Campo Grande Air Base, 410 miles (660km) southwest of Anapolis, and were formed exclusively by FAB aircraft. The Blue Coalition also had aircraft at Brasilia AB, Uberlandia, Goiania and Jatai airports.

Anapolis Air Base, some 93 miles (150km) southwest of Brasilia, the country’s capital, was built in the 1970s and is strategically positioned in the very centre of Brazil. It is one of Brazil’s most important bases, firstly because of its proximity to Brasilia, and secondly for its central location, which allows any part of the country to be reached by defence aircraft in a very short time.

Until 2001, Anapolis was known mainly for the resident supersonic Mirage III (F-103) flown by 1° Grupo de Defesa Aerea (1° GDA — Air Defence Group). However, since the Sistema de Vigilancia da Amazonia (SIVAM — Amazon Surveillance System) came into use, five AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) R-99A and three Remote Sensing R-99B from the 276° GAv fly from the base.

The R-99 is the FAB’s most advanced aircraft, and Anapolis was chosen for its geographic location and for the very dry weather it enjoys all year, which helps to preserve the aircraft’s highly-sensitive electronic equipment.

The exercise scenario involves three fictitious nations: Red Land, which has invaded one of its former territories, Yellow Land; and Blue Land, which supports the people of Yellow Land.

To push the Red Forces out of the invaded Yellow territory, the Blue Land forms a coalition force with Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela and France and goes to war against the Red Land.

The Peruvian Air Force (PAF) had intended to take part, but tragically, one of its aircraft crashed on its way to Anapolis, killing the Peruvian detachment commander Lt Col Michael Eduardo Quiroz Plefke and its Air Operations Officer, Major Aldo Emilio Consiglieri Muhoz (see Idylic But Deadly, October, p36-39). The accident happened as one of the three Peruvian A-37 Dragonflies was taking off from Porto Velho Air Base (north of Brazil) after a technical stop. The PAF then officially pulled out of the exercise and the two other aircraft returned home.

Red and Blue Forces

The exercise involved three distinct phases: Exercise Pegasus, from August 14 to 18, a simulated computer exercise which was a ‘dry run’ for the real thing. Familiarisation (FAM) flights took place from August 21-25 and the Forces Integration Training (FIT) or the LIVEX from August 28-31. During the four days of LIVEX, two missions were flown per day with a Combined Air Operation (COMAO), composed of around 40 aircraft. The first two days were dedicated to gaining air supremacy and the last two to ground attack, Counter Insurgency (COIN) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions.

Although the Red Forces had six F-5EM air defence fighters, five A-1 attack fighters, one R-99A AWACS, one KC-130 Hercules and a sole H-1H Huey, the Blue coalition was formed by a massive 89 combat aircraft (six F-5E, six A-1 (AMX), three RA-1, four AT-26 Xavante, five A-29 Super Tucano, four Mirage 2000C-RDI, four Mirage 2000N, two VF-5, three F-16, three Mirage 50, three A-4AR Fightinghawk, six IA-58 Pucara and nine Cessna A-37, three AWACS aircraft (one E-3F and two R-99A), and one KC-707, two Boeing KC-137 and one KC-130 to provide air refuelling support.

The Blue Force had a further 27 aircraft, including one H-34 Super Puma, two H-50 Esquilo, one SC-95 Bandeirante and four AT-27 Tucanos (all based in Uberlandia, capital of the Yellow Land), plus two Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) H-1H helicopters on alert in |atai, in the Blue Country.

The flight routine usually began at 8.30am with the departure of two R-99A and one E-3F. One hour later, the first COMAO was airborne and heading southwest, followed by COMAO-2 a few minutes afterwards.

Each COMAO was made up of different types of aircraft with their own distinct mission. By midday, COMAO-1 began returning, with COMAO-2 following a few minutes later. The two R-99A were back by 13:00, while the E-3F endured a nine-hour flight mission, returning at 17:30. The afternoon flights were conducted along the same lines as the earlier ones, and by 15:30 all the COMAOs were airborne and en route to their targets.

To control the vast area of air space used for the exercise, and to manage all the traffic passing through, DIREX used the NATO Stradivarius Mission Task and Monitoring software brought by France. The exercise area took in 214,970 sq miles (556,729km2), and an air corridor of some 518 miles (833km) by 415 miles (668km) was created. Throughout the exercise, no civilian traffic was diverted, and there were only short delays when the exercise aircraft were on final approach.

Future Exercises

On the subject of future Cruzex exercises, Col Carlos Minelli de Sa, Senior Operation Officer of DIREX, told the author: «We are very enthusiastic about the exercise and we plan to improve it even further. All participants were very satisfied with the experience gained here and we look forward to being ready to deploy our forces in a real theatre should it become necessary.»

«Beyond the military experience gained, the exercise gives us the opportunity to interact with our comrades, and to minimise — or break — any cultural differences existing between us. It emphasises the ties that bind our friendship and spreads the feeling of trust between our nations.»

He added: «I do not discount the possibility of a future Cruzex being held in another South American country. It would depend on the capacity of the host country to plan and co-ordinate such an exercise, and on the air space available for the combat training phase.»

Three countries attended as observers in 2006 — Bolivia, Colombia and Paraguay — and they are expected to be at future exercises larger than this year’s gathering. Future Cruzex events may see new aircraft such as the Mirage 2000C, Rafale, F-16 and Sukhoi flying together. Now that would be an impressive meeting!

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