GUYANA Defence Force (GDF) Chief of Staff, Brigadier Mark Phillips, on Thursday told reporters that greater focus will be placed on air, water and engineer recapitalization over the next five years.He said this position has received the full support of the Defence Board.
Philips, who was at the time addressing an end-of-year press conference at the GDF Headquarters, said that, as part of the recapitalization, focus would be paid to the Coast Guard with the aim of increasing the assets of that arm of the Force.
He added that the move is to have better surveillance of the country’s rivers and frontiers.
The army, in the past, had purchased some in-shore vessels, but is now looking to acquire off-shore vessels to boost its surveillance and patrol operations.
The Chief of Staff, who was surrounded by his senior departmental heads, reminded that the army already has the “GDF Essequibo”, which is used to patrol and survey off-shore. He was quick to point out the need for, and benefits that attend, acquisition of a support vessel. With another vessel, he stressed, the army would be better able to conduct more patrols and have more flexibility.
Asked about the role of the vessels in light of the ongoing oil exploration activities, if the need to secure the vessels was hinged on those operations, Phillips said there was some amount of consideration given to those operations.
Media operatives were told that effective patrolling of the rivers and high seas was always something that the Defence Force took seriously, and it was not the oil exploration activities that caused the army to realise the need for additional river patrol vessels.
The Chief of Staff said the need to patrol is always there, but there is need for it to be done more effectively; thus the army hopes, within the next five years, to have at least one more ocean-going vessel to do patrol, even as it keeps the existing ocean patrol vessel serviceable.
The patrolling of waters offshore is important to prevent illegal fishing in what is the country’s most fertile fishing zone, as well as to ensure there is no illegal traffic passing through the area, the chief of staff said.
On the issue of the Air Corps, the Chief of Staff was asked what would an ideal fleet in order for the GDF to consider its Air Corps fully equipped.
“An ideal fleetm for the military, moving forward, is a new fleet of aircraft; And we do not live in an ideal world, and what we have in the short terms we will keep serviceable,” Phillips explained.
He also spoke of keeping serviceable the SkyVan as well as two other aircraft of the Guyana Defence Force. Currently the Bell 512 is under repairs again.
The GDF is working with the Defence Board to acquire a new aircraft, so that there is are short-term, medium and long-term plans for the recapitalisation of the Air Corps, Coast Guard and Engineer Corps as they remain at the forefront of that programme, Phillips added.
No definitive word could be given on the acquisition date for the resources, but the press was reminded that the Force has five years to do this.
The army will have to scout around for the right equipment, plus there is the bidding and sourcing process. The Force will also have to do some waiting, according to the number of orders that had been placed before its order.
It is important that the correct type of boats and aircraft be sourced. The GDF is looking to ensure that it gets the resources to enable it to fulfil its mandate.