Helicopter Attack in Venezuela Mimics Failed 2016 Turkish Coup.
In a bizarre incident a man described as “rogue policeman Oscar Perez” allegedly led the commandeering of a Bolkow BO-105 police helicopter on Wednesday, June 28. The party used the aircraft to attack the Interior Ministry firing small arms at the building and then dropped grenades on the Supreme Court building in downtown Caracas, Venezuela.
The incident is reminiscent of the July 15, 2016 coup d’état attempt in Turkey when Turkish gunship helicopters attacked the police Special Forces headquarters and police air force headquarters in Golbasi, Turkey outside the city of Ankara. The Turkish attacks were more significant than the Venezuelan incident, at least so far. The Turkish incident escalated to an unsuccessful coup that accounted for many fatalities before it was stopped.
The incident in Venezuela continues questions about the stability of the government and the security it exerts over its armed forces, particularly its air force.
Venezuela operates a small but modern air force consisting of a mix of light, counterinsurgency aircraft such as the Cessna 208 Caravan single-engine transport aircraft, Fairchild Metroliner twin-engine turboprops, Dornier DO-228 and Short 360 twin-engine box turboprops, both of which can be used for special operations and even gunship applications. They also operate the Russian built Mi-17 helicopter and French Eurocopter AS532. Both helicopters have gunship capability.
At the more regional level Venezuela has a potentially capable inventory of tactical jet combat aircraft that include twenty-three Sukhoi SU-30MK2 multi-role aircraft of unknown serviceability and sixteen U.S. manufactured F-16As. There have been persistent reports since 2004 of ongoing negotiations to purchase up to fifty MiG-29s from Russia, including two-seat trainer versions. In a report from intelligence think tank GlobalSecurity.org, Venezuela’s F-16A fleet was characterized as having “Only six of the 21 remaining F-16s in the Venezuelan fleet being fully mission capable, while a proposed US overhaul of the F-16 squadron remained on hold.”
In the event of elevated instability in the region these aircraft could play a significant tactical role, in a similar way that commandeered aircraft influenced the failed Turkish revolt of 2016.
In any event this escalation of insurgent activity that includes highjacked aircraft will warrant increased monitoring of the military situation in Venezuela, especially its remaining air assets.