Security boost with refurbishment of RSS aircraft

The Regional Security System’s (RSS) second C-26 surveillance aircraft has returned to Barbados after millions of dollars have been spent by the United States and Canada on its refurbishment and equipment upgrade.

Executive Director, Grantley Watson says the RSS now has increased capability to “sense and see” what is happening in the region’s waters and land spaces, to stop the flow of drugs, guns and other illicit activity.

He made the comments on Wednesday afternoon, during a handing over ceremony at the RSS hangar to mark the completion and return of the refurbished maritime patrol aircraft.

From left, Captain Harris, RSS Executive Director, Grantley Watson;  Counsellor (Political), Canada’s High Commission, Agnes Pust; US Ambassador Linda Taglialatela; Permanent Secretary, PM’s Office, St Kitts & Nevis, Osbert DeSuza; Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for INL Bureau, Ambassador Luis Arreaga pose in front of the refurbished C-26 aircraft. 
From left, Captain Harris, RSS Executive Director, Grantley Watson; Counsellor (Political), Canada’s High Commission, Agnes Pust; US Ambassador Linda Taglialatela; Permanent Secretary, PM’s Office, St Kitts & Nevis, Osbert DeSuza; Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for INL Bureau, Ambassador Luis Arreaga pose in front of the refurbished C-26 aircraft. 

Watson told the small gathering: “With these aircrafts, several arms of the RSS and our partner nations will be able to work more coherently together to ensure that the overarching regional security mechanism is provided with timely and accurate surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting data, which is critical to the execution of effective operations.”

According to him, this would assist in the building of stronger relations, communications and trust with the System’s global partner agencies and states.

“The major threats today are manifest in transnational criminality, terrorism and the natural forces of the environment. Equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance assets such as the C-26 aircraft, tactical operations will receive a key enabler and a high-valued platform which will provide longer term strategic benefit to the RSS and its partners and neighbours in the wider Caribbean,” Watson added.

He pointed out that in globalized societies and economies, problems could move across borders in seconds. He therefore insisted that in order to keep up, defence and security functionaries must continuously engage in cross-border law enforcement and security cooperation.

“I know that the Regional Security System and the Government of the US have such a relationship. We are committed partners in the regional effort to disrupt illicit trafficking networks, suppress transnational organized crime, tackle cyber-crime and prevent terrorism. The transnational and interconnected nature of such threats has drastically increased over the years, requiring all defence and security agencies to share their knowledge, expertise and resources to close the gaps that transnational criminal organizations, and indeed terrorists seek to exploit,” Watson stated.

In her address, US Ambassador to Barbados, Linda Taglialatela, said her country’s signature RSS project was the refurbishment of the RSS A1 and RSS A2, and US$8.25 million was spent on the effort.

She added that the United States was proud of its role as a partner and committed supporter of the RSS. “Thanks to President [Barack] Obama’s Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), the United States has more resources to help build citizen security and combat illicit trafficking in the region…

“Since CBSI began in 2010, we’ve provided the RSS and its member states US$38 million in assistance to help build sustainable citizen security solutions through durable programmes that are eventually taken over by our CBSI partners,” the Ambassador disclosed.

Counsellor (Political) at the High Commission of Canada, Agnes Pust, pointed out that enhancing security in the Caribbean was an important element of Canada’s engagement in the Americas. She disclosed that CAD$5.3 million was provided towards equipping the RSS Air Wing with new radar, infrared scanners and avionics.

“As part of our commitment to this region, and through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Programme, Canada has funded a three-year project with the RSS in the development and delivery of the RSS Training Institute. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police International Training Bureau has been a partner in the development and delivery of the RSS Training Institute,” Pust noted.

She stressed that Canada was committed to working with Caribbean partners and other donors for a safe, secure and prosperous hemisphere.

Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister in St. Kitts and Nevis, Osbert DeSuza, represented the Chairman of the RSS Council of Ministers, Dr. Timothy Harris, at the ceremony.

He reiterated that by having two C-26 aircrafts with hi-tech surveillance capabilities, the RSS had significantly improved its tactical, strategic and operational strengths in the wider Caribbean. He added that the C-26 would also be a part of the region’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

DeSuza highlighted the significant contributions of partner nations, such as the United Kingdom, Canada and the US, saying that without such assistance, the RSS would not be reaping its current successes.

“The Regional Security System and the Government of the US have a symbiotic relationship in that we are steadfast in our commitment to tackle illicit drug trafficking, organized and cyber-crime, as well as protect the region against acts of terrorism,” he stated.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Ambassador Luis Arreaga, said the Department of State and the Bureau had been helping to improve counter-narcotics capabilities and the interdiction of contraband in the Caribbean for decades. He recalled that a decisive moment in that history occurred 15 years ago when the two C-26 airplanes were donated to the RSS by the US.

He said the planes had proven their value time and again.“They have been, and they will continue to be, a critical link in a chain that provides authorities information they need to bring the rule of law to the region. These planes and their crews are truly protectors of the peace, and providers of security. Their work and our investments, along with that of our partners from Canada have paid off many times over,” Ambassador Arreaga opined.

The diplomat added that the threat of drugs and the smuggling of contraband represent a constant challenge. He gave the assurance that together with the RSS, they would continue to secure the region’s stability, success and freedom.

The RSS Air Wing was formed in 1999.

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