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Operation Southern Reach: the sky is not the limit for Canada-Brazil cooperation

An appreciative audience after a captivating performance
Capt Patrick 'Paco' Gobeil greeted after his performance with the CF-18 Hornet at the Brazilian air show, Campo Fontenelle Air Base
(Photo: Cpl Pierre Habib)

A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) mission recently arrived in Brazil to begin a month-long operation to strengthen relations in the Southern Hemisphere and to position Canada as an engaged partner in Defence and Security.

LCol Luiz Araújo and Capt Eric Willrich waving Brazilian flag together
Brazilian-born Canadian officers LCol Luiz Araújo and Capt Eric Willrich
(Photo: Cpl Pierre Habib)

Brazilian fly-by while a CF-18 waits in the wings
Brazilian Esquadrilha da Fumaça Demo Squadron pass over a CF-18 Hornet, with a polar bear image on the tip
(Photo: Cpl Pierre Habib)

Inspecting the Hercules aircraft from the inside out
Col Dinesh Kumar Singh, Defence Attaché, Embassy of India to Brazil, Karine Asselin, Chargé d'Affaires, i.a., Embassy of Canada in Brazil and LCol Araújo inside the Hercules
(Photo: Sanjay Vachali)


Operation Southern Reach flew five planes – three CF-18 Hornets jets and two CC-130 Hercules aircrafts – from various bases across Canada via the United States and Trinidad to Brazil.  This visit underscored the important links between Canada’s defence and foreign policy agendas, where our increasing ties are mutually reinforcing. 

The RCAF crews participated in the air show of the Brazilian Air Force at Campo Fontenelle Air Base, Pirassununga, south of São Paulo. The show was special this year in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Brazilian Air Force’s Demonstration Squadron – the renowned Esquadrilha da Fumaça, and included the Canadian and Chilean Air Forces.

For the first time, the Brazilian Air Force also participated in RCAF’s Exercise Maple Flag in Cold Lake, Alberta.  Then, in November, Canada will participate in CRUZEX, a similar multilateral exercise held by the Brazilian Air Force—more historic steps in the growing relationship between Canada and Brazil.

“The purpose of these operations is to strengthen our friendship in the air and on the ground by collaborating with our counterparts in the Southern Cone.“

LCol Luiz Araújo, Defence Attaché, Embassy of Canada in Brazil

By a fortuitous twist of fate, Lieutenant Colonel Araújo, whose family immigrated to Toronto from Rio de Janeiro when he was 13 years old, will complete his service with this posting in Brasília.  With a career spanning 34 years and his feet naturally falling in both Canada and Brazil, LCol Araújo’s appreciation for both cultures enabled him to improve the conditions for bilateral relations grounded in mutual knowledge and understanding.

This is the first-time that the new CC-130J-Hercules cargo plane has accompanied the CF-18 Hornet jets to provide support equipment and tools. The Hercules crew has done “a bit of everything … we just spent 10 years flying in Afghanistan, conducted multiple forest-fire evacuations at home in Canada last summer and only just returned from Libya last month,” says Hercules pilot, Captain David Snow. 

Captain Willrich said, “it is an honour to be part of this historic mission – the first time that the RCAF has flown a primary operation south of the Equator.”   Brazilian Super Tucano pilot, Lieutenant Carlos Amaral congratulated the Canadians for flying this far South and was impressed with the fluency of Brazilian-born Captain Eric Willrich’s Portuguese during his running commentary of the one-hour CF-18 demonstration.

The stars of the show—the Royal Canadian Air Force pilots—posed for photos in the midst of the air show crowds: “We were excited to cross the Equator for the first time and to do so in formation,” says Captain Denis Beaulieu, who watched as his seasoned colleague, Captain Patrick “Paco” Gobeil make a 90 degree ascent into the sky in the CF-18 Hornet, followed by a 90 degree descent overhead of the cheering Brazilian crowds at the Campo Fontenelle Air Base.

Of particular interest to the Air Show onlookers were Canada’s female members of the Armed Forces, highlighting Canada’s inclusive military—including at the highest levels  The Commanding Officer of Canada’s iconic Snowbirds, Lieutenant Colonel Maryse Carmichael, in her distinctive red flight suit, was in high demand for photos and curious questions from the Brazilian crowd.

As a parting act of appreciation to the host country, Canadian crew members, Warrant Officer Lorne Simms and Private Grace Pereira, waved the Brazilian flag outside the cockpit hatch as the new CC-130J model Hercules rolled into position for take-off.

During Operation Southern Reach, the Hercules and the Hornets also participated in training in Rio de Janeiro and continued to Chile and Jamaica before flying home to Canada.

A Canadian nod to their Brazilian hosts
As the CC-130J Hercules taxis to take off, the crew waved the Brazilian flag out the top hatch to a cheering crowd
(Photo: Cpl Pierre Habib)



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