Cablegate: August Air Bridge Denial Update: Abd Completes

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O 12358: N/A

REF: A. 2003 STATE 265910

1. (U) Summary: This is the August 2004 Air Bridge Denial
(ABD) activity report required by ref A. This message also
includes an overview of the program's achievements in its
first year. During August, there were two Phase III events
and two Phase I events, including one arrested pilot. There
were 3583 tracks, of which 32 were declared Unidentified,
Assumed Suspect (UAS). Areas of concern include P-3
surveillance aircraft availability and decreased Relocatable
Over-the Horizon Radar (ROTHR) tracks. End Summary.

ABD Tracks

2. (U) In August, 2004, 3583 tracks were identified over
Colombia, of which 32 were declared Unidentified, Assumed
Suspect (UAS) aircraft. The GOC did not react to 19 UAS:
seven were too close to international waters; five were near
international borders; three were subsequently identified as
friendly; information on two was too old or insufficient;
and two were in areas covered with weather. The GOC reacted
to 13 UAS, nine of which were not located by the trackers.
Phase I was conducted on two: one was identified as friendly
and one resulted in the pilot's arrest. Phase III events
were conducted on August 8 and 24.

Law Enforcement End Game

3. (SBU) On August 31, 2004, the Carepa Radar (Northern
Colombia) picked up a track westbound towards the Pacific
coast. A Citation tracker was scrambled to locate it and
the UAS was detected 90 minutes after it disappeared from
radar. A UH-60 gunship was scrambled and joined up on the
Citation and the UAS. The UAS responded to Phase I calls
and proceeded to land at Santa Fe de Antioquia, where the
Gunship also landed and waited until Colombian National
Police arrived, impounded the aircraft, and arrested the

Phase III Events

4. (SBU) On August 8, 2004, ROTHR picked up a track inbound
to Colombia in the Dog's Head area (southeastern Colombia.)
A Citation and an AC-47 were scrambled from Apiay air base
in Meta Department. A second Citation was eventually
launched to relieve the first one. The AC-47 sighted the
UAS on the ground, concealed in vegetation with engines
showing as two hot spots. Phase I was completed and Phase
II was requested and completed with no response. Phase III
was then completed by the AC-47 with no indication of the
aircraft being disabled. The AC-47 then returned to base to
refuel, an OV-10 conducted Phase III with no visible results
and returned to base. The AC-47 refueled, returned, and
completed Phase III with an apparent hit, as smoke was
observed and the aircraft was presumed destroyed. A
Citation was overhead during these actions.

5. (SBU) August 24, 2004. Based on GOC Intelligence, a
Citation sighted a helicopter parked in an illegal field in
Northern Antioquia Department and concealed with a tarp. A
Bell 212 helicopter gunship was launched. No ground forces
were launched due to security situation in the area. Phases
I and II were conducted without receiving any response or
seeing movement in the area and the Bell 212 proceeded with
Phase III and destroyed the target.

August Activity

6. (SBU) There was limited P-3 surveillance aircraft
activity over Colombia during August and for the months of
June, July, and August there was a 25 percent decrease in
ROTHR tracks, probably due to atmospheric conditions. The
three Citations flew a total of 187 Hours in August. Fifty
percent of the August sorties were in response to GOC
intelligence, 20 percent in response to ROTHR tracks, and 13
percent for P-3 support.

First Year of ABD operations

7. (SBU) From the beginning of the program to the end of
August, there have been seven Phase I events, five Phase II
events, and 17 Phase III events. Eighteen aircraft have
been destroyed, two pilots have been arrested and one died
when the aircraft crashed trying to land. Five other
crewmembers were arrested. This compares favorably to the
average of 16 aircraft destroyed per year during the six
years of the previous air interdiction program. Under the
previous program, any FAC aircraft anywhere in Colombian
Airspace could perform an intercept. Under the current ABD
program, more stringent procedures are in effect, including
the requirement that an ABD tracker be present to initiate
an ABD event. In effect, three aircraft are interdicting
aerial drug trafficking over an area the combined size of
Texas and California. By the end of CY 2004, we expect the
number of ABD trackers to double, with a seventh tracker
expected to arrive early 2005.

8. (U) An Interim Program Review (IPR) was held August 24 in
Bogota. The next ABD IPR will be September 22, also in

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