You are on page 1of 14

Riverine warriors: The Colombian Marine

Corps
[Content preview – Subscribe to Jane’s Defence Weekly for full article]

This year, on the 80th anniversary of its formation, the Colombian Marine Corps is
characterised by an evolving security environment, marked by the progress made in the
implementation of the peace accord between the Colombian government and the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) following six decades of armed conflict.
Erwan de Cherisey reports

According to its commander, Brigadier General Oscar Hernández Duran, the Colombian Marine
Corps (IMC) has a strength of 21,000 personnel, which makes it the third-largest naval infantry
force in the world behind the US Marine Corps (USMC: 183,400) and the Republic of Korea
Marine Corps (27,000). However, while the latter two forces are primarily concerned with
amphibious warfare and expeditionary operations, the IMC is unique in that its main area of
expertise lies in riverine operations. Indeed, nowadays it is the largest riverine warfare force in the
world, with more than 8,000 troops assigned to riverine units. It is also one of the most
experienced forces in this field, having conducted riverine operations continuously since 1971.

With more than 15,000 km of rivers, Colombia cannot afford to ignore the significance of its
riverine network, which is the only way for many of its inhabitants to communicate with the rest of
the country. As IMC officers explained to Jane’s , there are many small isolated communities that
rely on the rivers to transport their crops to market for sale. Without the possibility of navigating
freely over the rivers, these people have no way of making a living and sustaining their families, so
effective control and security of Colombia’s water courses has long been a priority for the
government, with the IMC serving as the operational arm implementing this objective.

Riverine operations are, however, not the only purview of the IMC, which also maintains units
tasked with more conventional duties, including coastal defence and amphibious warfare. While for
decades developing these capabilities was not considered a priority on account of more urgent
counter-insurgency requirements, the improved internal security situation in Colombia means that
the IMC is now focused on strengthening and expanding these as it seeks to develop a true
expeditionary capability, Brig Gen Hernández explained to Jane’s .

A major restructuring took place in 2011, which included disbanding several types of units, such as
the marine infantry riverine brigades, and the IMC is now organised in a more straightforward way.
Its command (CIMAR) and Logistic Support Command (CALOGIM) are in Bogota, while five
marine infantry brigades (BRIMs) and a training base (BEIM) are spread throughout Colombia. A
special forces battalion (BFEIM) also exists but falls under the operational authority of the
Colombian Armed Forces Joint Special Operations Command (CCOES). While the CIMAR
exercises administrative authority over the whole IMC, its role is to train, equip, and certify IMC
personnel and units. Thus, the only units that come under its operational command are the BEIM
and CALOGIM. Meanwhile, the BRIMs are operationally subordinated to the Colombian Navy’s
(ARC’s) regional naval forces in the Caribbean (FNC), the Pacific (FNP), the South (FNS), and the
East (FNO). The latter two are active in the least populated areas of Colombia, which share

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 1 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, and are at the core of the Colombian
government’s efforts in the field of development and integration.

[Continued in full version…]

Riverine units and capabilities

The IMC’s first attempt at establishing a permanent riverine operations capability was in 1956,
when experiments and demonstrations were conducted using 16 ft (4.9 m) aluminium boats armed
with machine guns and mortars for riverine operations. The concept, known as the 'Wasp Flotilla',
also resulted in the writing of the first riverine operations manual, but the project never developed
into an operational unit. It was not until 1971, with the creation of the Jungle Commandos unit, that
a permanent riverine capability was finally established within the IMC.

A group of four Boston Whaler Guardian craft on the Atrato River during a training exercise
undertaken by Riverine Warfare School (ESCOFLU) trainees. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706877
In the past four decades riverine operations have become the primary specialty of the IMC. Of the
five BRIMs in its order of battle, three (BRIMs 3, 4, and 5) are purely dedicated to riverine duties
and only have marine infantry riverine battalions (BFIMs) as combat units, while the remaining two
© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 2 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
(BRIMs 1 and 2) field a mix of marine infantry battalions (BIMs), tasked with amphibious warfare
and coastal defence, and BFIMs. There are also command and support battalions (BACAIMs) in
certain brigades. The IMC has 14 BFIMs, which are deployed throughout Colombia. As Lieutenant
Colonel Francisco Ovalle Pineda, commander of the IMC’s International Amphibious Training
Centre (CIEAN) and former commander of the BFIM 30, based at Puerto Leguízamo, Putumayo,
told Jane’s , “Each battalion has its own specific organisation.” This is influenced by the
specificities of its area of operations and the duties it performs.

Colombian Marine and Costa Rican border police trainees at the Riverine Combat School, in
Turbo, Antioquia. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706878
An example of the organisation of an IMC riverine unit can be found in BFIM 16, which operates
on the Atrato River and has its headquarters in Turbo, Antioquia, next to the IMC’s Riverine
Combat School (ESCOFLU), which Jane’s visited in October 2016. Tasked with securing 550 km
of waterways, BFIM 16 has to confront several security threats, including the National Liberation
Army (ELN) terrorist organisation and criminal groups such as the Gulf Clan (Clan del Golfo),
which use the Atrato River and the Urabá Gulf as outlets for drug trafficking. At the same time
BFIM 16 also has to stop other illicit activities such as illegal logging or mining. As its commanding
officer, Lieutenant Colonel Wisner Paz Palomeque, told Jane’s , the battalion comprises one
command element, one security company staffed by regular and professional marines, one
riverine craft company, and one support and services company. Its overall strength is
approximately 600 troops.

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 3 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
The IMC's Boston Whaler Guardians are unarmoured and the EOFs thus rely on their speed,
manoeuvrability, and firepower in case of enemy aggression. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706873
Lt Col Paz said that the riverine craft company comprises “everything related to the [riverine]
operations elements and the riverine patrol craft”. Riverine operations elements (EOFs), formerly
known as riverine combat elements (ECFs), are the core component of the IMC’s riverine
capability. Brig Gen Hernández explained that each BFIM comprises between four and six EOFs,
which are either heavy EOFs (EOFPs) or light EOFs (EOFLs). The former are the most numerous
and are tasked with operating throughout most rivers, while the latter deploy on narrower and
shallower watercourses, using smaller and lighter craft.

As Lt Col Paz noted, BFIM 16 has three EOFPs and one EOFL. Each EOFP has four 23 ft Boston
Whaler Guardian fast boats, locally known as 'Piraña', all of which are armed with an FN M2 .50
calibre heavy machine gun (HMG) at the fore and four side-mounted FN M240 7.62 mm light
machine guns (LMGs), with the command boat among the four additionally having an aft-mounted
General Dynamics Mk 19 40 mm automatic grenade launcher (AGL). Each craft is fitted with a pair
of Evinrude E-TEC 175 hp outboard engines, except for the command boat, which has 200 hp
engines. The EOFLs use smaller 19 ft Guardian boats with 90 hp engines. The main duty of the
EOFs is to conduct operations to ensure effective government control over Colombia’s
watercourses using a variety of operational methods, which include regular patrolling, interdiction
sorties, setting up riverine control posts, laying ambushes, or supporting riverine assault
operations. The EOF craft lack armour, except for the ballistic protection shields fitted to their main
weapons and the marines’ own individual body armour. As a result the EOFs rely on their
firepower, speed, and manoeuvrability to counter any enemy aggression.

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 4 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
The riverine operations elements' Boston Whaler fast craft are all armed with four side-mounted
FN M240 7.62 mm light machine-guns. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706872
In addition to the EOFs, the BFIMs feature several riverine assault groups (GAFs), which are also
part of each battalion’s riverine craft company. As Lt Col Paz explained, BFIM 16 has six GAFs,
each of which comprises 21 marines and NCOs divided into two teams, with one officer in overall
command. The GAFs are tasked with performing riverine assault operations, which, according to
Lt Col Paz, means “executing an operational assignment on a predetermined objective or [an
objective] to be determined in a specific area of a river”. In other words, while the EOFs are
primarily tasked with patrol duties, the GAFs are tasked with carrying out assault operations on
targets such as shore-based laboratories used for the production of narcotics. The GAFs use their
own dedicated boats known as riverine assault craft (BAFs), of which BFIM 16 has nine examples.
The BAFs are a mix of Colombian-made 19 and 20 ft Eduardoño craft and more recent US-made
19 ft Boston Whaler Guardians. Each is armed with a pair of LMGs.

While the EOFs and GAFs are fully staffed by IMC personnel, who also operate their craft, the
remaining boats in a BFIM’s inventory are, in fact, ARC vessels that, while administratively
controlled by the navy, are operationally attached to the different BFIMs. In the case of BFIM 16,
three LPR 40 river patrol craft and a pair of riverine support patrol vessels (PAFs) hailing from the
ARC’s Caribbean Riverine Flotilla serve with the riverine craft company. LPR 40s are used in a
supporting role for patrolling duties and as command-and-control support units, while the PAFs
serve in a resupply, personnel transport, and fire support role. A number of troop transport boats
(TBTs) were also in service with the unit when Jane’s visited in October 2016, but have since been
withdrawn without replacement.

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 5 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
Each IMC riverine operations element (EOF) features four Boston Whaler Guardian fast craft, with
one of them serving as a command boat. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706874
To support their operations and exercise more permanent control over the rivers under their
jurisdiction, the BFIM man several forward riverine posts (PFAs) that are used as staging areas for
operations and from which detachments carry out patrols.

[Continued in full version…]

Amphibious warfare and coastal defence

Colombia’s territorial waters extend over 988,000 km2, while its coastline has a length of 2,900
km. The IMC is responsible for defending the country’s coast against any aggression, as well as
providing an amphibious capability to support conventional military operations and relief
capabilities in the event of a major contingency or natural catastrophe.

While the FARC insurgency resulted in a significant build-up of its riverine capabilities, the IMC
also participated in land operations, with its BIMs taking part in a variety of combat operations,
including deployments undertaken as part of the Meteor Plan (Plan Meteoro) to secure the roads
of Colombia.

Under the current organisation, the IMC has six BIMs divided between BRIM 1 and 2. These units
are tasked with amphibious operations, coastal defence, and land warfare. Unlike the BFIMs, all
BIMs are organised identically, into four combat companies, one command element, and one
support and services company. Each combat company has four platoons with 34 personnel. Each
platoon is divided into three squads, with each squad comprising two five-man teams and a squad
commander. Each squad fields one infantry support weapon, which can either be an LMG (either
an M60E4 or an FN M249), a multiple grenade launcher (Milkor MGL), or a 60 mm mortar. Heavier
weapons, such as HMGs or 81 mm mortars, are operated by the support and services company.

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 6 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
Each BRIM also fields a non-lethal weapons platoon (ANL), which is tasked with riot control duties.
As Brig Gen Hernández detailed, strategic mobility for each BIM and armoured support are
provided by Marine Infantry Mobility Battalion 1 (BAMIM 1), based near Cartagena. The BAMIM
relies on a fleet of tactical trucks, AM General M998 and M1151 protected Humvees and mine-
resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles such as the Panamerican CXT, which were locally
developed for use in road security operations under the Meteor Plan.

All marine infantry brigades have a non-lethal weapons platoon tasked with conducting riot control
operations. The personnel assigned to these units are trained at Coveñas. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706880
While Colombia launched a project in the early 2000s to procure a batch of specially modified
BTR-80A 'Caribe' armoured personnel carriers, 20 of which were earmarked for the IMC, only one
test vehicle was ever delivered, which was trialled by the marines.

Brig Gen Hernández explained that long-term plans for the development of the IMC under the
ARC 2030 modernisation plan include significant strengthening of its conventional warfare
capabilities to improve its ability to conduct coastal defence and amphibious warfare operations
while providing it with true expeditionary capabilities to support multinational peacekeeping
operations abroad. In terms of equipment procurement, armoured amphibious vehicles and
artillery are high on the list of items required by the IMC. Its amphibious capabilities, meanwhile,
have already been strengthened at the tactical level, as Brig Gen Hernández noted, thanks to the
delivery of four Amphibious Landing Vessels (BDAs), designed and manufactured in Colombia,
that can transport up to 120 tonnes of supplies and vehicles or a company-sized infantry unit.

So far the most significant addition to the conventional warfare capabilities of the IMC has been
that of a short-range anti-aircraft missile system, which uses MBDA Mistral twin short-range
surface-to-air missiles with SIMBAD mounts taken from ARC ships and modified for use on

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 7 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
Humvees. This system provides the IMC with a limited air defence umbrella that can be deployed
in support of coastal defence units.

[Continued in full version…]

Special forces

As explained by Brig Gen Hernández Duran in a briefing to Jane’s , the IMC has one special
operations forces (SOF) unit in its order of battle, the BFEIM, which is based in Cartagena.
Operationally, the BFEIM answers to the CCOES, which has its headquarters in Bogota.

As one IMC officer further explained, the BFEIM has a complement of more than 500 and is
organised into one command and support company, one reconnaissance company, and three
direct-action companies. The former is tasked with intelligence-gathering duties and is divided into
three reconnaissance teams and three sniper teams, while the direct-action companies are each
divided into two direct-action teams, each of which comprises two detachments, which are further
broken up into one assault element and one support element. The CIMAR is tasked with providing
the BFEIM with the necessary equipment and weaponry and, while part of the unit’s training is
handled by the CCOES, it does provide support in certain areas, with courses such as Amphibious
Reconnaissance and Underwater Demolition (RADS).

IMC personnel also provide most of the operators attached to the ARC’s Caribbean, Pacific, and
South Naval Commando Groups (GRUCON-C, GRUCON-P, and GRUCON-S). The latter are not
controlled by the CCOES and fall instead under the authority of the ARC’s Naval Special
Operations Command (COFEN), which exercises administrative control over them, while the
operational responsibility for these units is in the hands of the Chief of Naval Operations. The
GRUCONs were created in 2012 to provide the ARC with its own special operations capability
following the transfer of the BFEIM to the control of the CCOES. The GRUCONs absorbed the
IMC’s existing urban special forces groups (AFEURs) as well as its tactical divers (BUTAM) units.
Each GRUCON is organised similarly to the BFEIM, with one command and support company,
one reconnaissance company, and three direct action companies. They are tasked with
performing special operations at sea, on land in coastal areas, and on Colombia’s rivers. The IMC
officer explained that GRUCON-P operates a fleet of US-made Special Operations Craft - River
(SOC-Rs), with four examples being used in operations and another four operated for training.

[Continued in full version…]

Training capabilities

All IMC training programmes and capabilities are controlled by the BEIM, headquartered in
Coveñas, Sucre, on the Caribbean Coast, which answers administratively and operationally to the
CIMAR in Bogota.

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 8 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
Colombian and Dominican marine officers conducting an amphibious assault exercise as part of
their tactical training at the Coveñas Marine Infantry Training Base. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706879
The BEIM was established in 1974 and currently trains all Colombian Marine conscripts,
professionals, and the corps’ non-commissioned officers (NCOs). While Marine officers undertake
their academic studies at the Almirante Padilla Naval School in Cartagena, tactical and technical
training is conducted at the BEIM, as Jane’s witnessed first hand during a visit to Coveñas. USMC
assistance helped to strengthen the common skills training capabilities and programmes at the
BEIM between 2002-10.

The BEIM comprises three training battalions (BINIMs), the Marine NCO School (EFIM), the
International Amphibious Training Centre (CIEAN), the Peacekeeping Operations Training Centre
(CENCOPAZ), an international advanced training centre, and BACAIM 6. The BEIM has 1,286
personnel, including 37 civilian employees, outside of the IMC personnel and conscripts
undergoing training.

The BINIMs are in charge of training marine conscripts. As Colonel Cesar Triana Gómez,
commanding officer of the BEIM, explained to Jane’s in July, “The role of the three battalions is to
turn the young men who come for military service into trained marines so that they can
successfully serve in the operational units, which are found throughout the country.” Each BINIM
comprises four training companies that can train up to 900 marine conscripts simultaneously. An
instructors company is part of the cadre of permanent personnel of the BEIM and, as Col Triana
detailed, “It comes under the department of operations and training of the BEIM, but its only role is
to train the three battalions [BINIMs].” As Col Triana further explained, the conscripts undertake an
11-week training programme. One instructor explained to Jane’s that because the training course
is so short, it is very intensive to pass on as many skills and as much knowledge as possible to the
recruits. Seven weeks are spent training the conscripts in common IMC skills, with one week spent
on specific skills such as handling support weapons.
© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 9 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
Lt Col Ovalle told Jane’s in July that when the EFIM trains the marine NCOs, “they study there for
two years and are then spread throughout all the battalions in the country", adding that "while at
the school they take some courses at the CIEAN, for example, the basic gunnery instructor course
or the basic diving course”.

The Coveñas Marine Training Base is tasked with training marine snipers and marksmen, which
are then deployed in the BFEIM, GRUCONs, and certain BFIMs. A sniper is seen here armed with
a Remington M24A2 7.62 mm rifle. Other weapons used by Colombian Marine snipers include the
Barrett M107 in 12.7 mm. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706882
Created in 2006, the CIEAN is tasked with “preparing, instructing, and training officers, NCOs, and
professional marines as well as personnel from other forces and foreign partner nations in the
military skills required to participate in the achievement of their institutional mission”, Lt Col Ovalle
explained. He added that by mid-2017 the CIEAN had trained 1,826 foreigners (from Brazil, Chile,
Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama,
Peru, and the United States) and nearly 12,000 Colombians.

The CIEAN serves as a specialist training centre for amphibious warfare and as such provides a
variety of training courses to IMPs, NCOs, and IMC officers, as well as foreign military personnel.
The courses taught are divided into six major categories: tactical, technical (including
humanitarian, demining, explosives, ANL, and canine operations), tactical diving, amphibious
(advanced combat, basic amphibious assault, designated marksman), common skills (water
survival, personal defence, weapons use, and physical training), and command and support.

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 10 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
The Coveñas Marine Training Base also trains canine elements as sniffer dogs for detecting drugs
or explosives. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706881
As Lt Col Ovalle further explained to Jane’s , the aims for the development of the CIEAN in the
short to medium term are mainly to strengthen the common skills training programmes, review and
update the doctrine of the other programmes, and develop new programmes and courses to
strengthen the capabilities of the ARC, such as a tactical naval intelligence course or a
reconnaissance course for IMC personnel.

The CENCOPAZ is tasked with providing training for peacekeeping operations to Colombian
military personnel and serves as the lead institution in this field for all Colombian armed forces. It
provides United Nations observer courses as well as United Nations soldier courses, with
assistance from foreign instructors. With Colombia’s objective of ultimately contributing up to 5,000
soldiers for peacekeeping operations abroad, the CENCOPAZ is expected to play a critical role in
preparing the necessary personnel.

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 11 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
A Boston Whaler Guardian riverine craft seen during a tactical training exercise undertaken on the
Atrato River as part of the Colombian Marines Riverine Combat School (ESCOFLU) training
syllabus. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706876
Riverine operations training comes under a separate entity, the ESCOFLU, which is itself part of
the new International Advanced Training Centre (CIEAV) being set up in Turbo by the IMC, which
also comes under the authority of the BEIM. Originally based in Puerto Leguizamo, the ESCOFLU
relocated to Turbo in 2015. As detailed to Jane’s by its commander, Major Carlos Andrés
Castellanos, the ESCOFLU mission is to train IMC and foreign personnel, in accordance with the
ARC’s riverine doctrine and institutional requirements, to impart the required knowledge and skills
to contribute to the riverine and maritime development of their country and to achieve objectives
set by their respective institutions.

The ESCOFLU is currently the main functioning element within the CIEAV because the
infrastructure for the centre is still being constructed. Three main courses are taught under the
ESCOFLU: combat boat pilot (four weeks), riverine combat (nine weeks), and combat boat gunner
(four weeks). Additional courses that are to be taught in the short term at the CIEAV include jungle
combat and combat survival in water. Over the longer term combat diving training will be added
and air assault and amphibious operations courses will also eventually be offered. The timeline for
these future phases is dependent on budget allocation.

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 12 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
Marine officers seen during a tactical training exercise designed to replicate operations in a jungle
environment at the Coveñas Marine Infantry Training Base. (Erwan de Cherisey)
1706875
[Continued in full version…]

The ARC riverine fleet


Since the 1950s the ARC has relied on a mixed fleet of purpose-built and modified vessels to
conduct riverine operations. Currently a token number of older designs – including the Riohacha
class of river gunboats, which were designed and manufactured in Colombia and have been in
service with the ARC since 1956 – remain in service. Locally modified and armoured tugboats and
transports serve in a supporting role, alongside a range of medium-sized riverine craft. Smaller
US-made boats, including what are locally designated Fast Riverine Patrol Craft (PRFs) or the
older PBR Mk III series, are also in use, albeit in dwindling numbers. Since the late 1990s the ARC
has been modernising its riverine fleet with an influx of new vessels, most of which have been
designed and manufactured by Colombia’s Science and Technology Corporation for the
Development of Naval, Maritime, and Riverine Industries (COTECMAR) in its Cartagena shipyard.
Perhaps the most notable of these riverine vessels are the PAFs, also known as the Nodriza class
in the ARC. The first of these vessels were built by converting a variety of boats such as riverine
tugs or transports into armoured vessels. They are used for patrol duties, as troop transports, and
as floating bases for resupplying IMC EOFs. While converted vessels provided a short-term
solution, the ARC realised that it needed purpose-built vessels specifically conceived for these
duties and thus designed a first generation of new PAF (PAF-I), two of which were produced
between 1998 and 2000, as Captain Freddy Zarate, engineering manager at COTECMAR, told
Jane’s . Operational feedback revealed several shortcomings with this first design, which were
addressed with the development of the PAF-II series, of which two units were produced in 2002
and 2003 featuring fully protected weapon stations, improved armouring of the vessels’ structures,
a more efficient communication suite, better accommodation, and more powerful engines. The
PAF-III series was then developed, with four units produced between 2005-08. These represent
the most radical departure from the original design because they have redesigned structures,
sloped armour offering increased protection, a helicopter deck, and a Schottel pump jet propulsion
system in lieu of the propellers fitted to the previous generations.
[Continued in full version…]

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 13 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.
For the full version and more content:

Jane's Defence Industry and Markets Intelligence Centre

This analysis is taken from Jane’s Defence Industry & Markets Intelligence Centre, which provides
world-leading analysis of commercial, industrial and technological defence developments, budget
and programme forecasts, and insight into new and emerging defence markets around the world.
Jane’s defence industry and markets news and analysis is also available within Jane’s Defence
Weekly. To learn more and to subscribe to Jane’s Defence Weekly online, offline or print visit
http://magazines.ihs.com/

For advertising solutions visit Jane’s Advertising

© 2017 IHS. No portion of this report may be reproduced, reused, or otherwise distributed in any form without prior written Page 14 of 14
consent, with the exception of any internal client distribution as may be permitted in the license agreement between client and
IHS. Content reproduced or redistributed with IHS permission must display IHS legal notices and attributions of authorship. The
information contained herein is from sources considered reliable but its accuracy and completeness are not warranted, nor are the
opinions and analyses which are based upon it, and to the extent permitted by law, IHS shall not be liable for any errors or
omissions or any loss, damage or expense incurred by reliance on information or any statement contained herein.