Gunboat Diplomacy in Central America: The Fonseca Gulf

By Julio A. Montes

A Honduran newspaper sent the alarm in late September 2013, noting that the Honduran Navy (FNH) had dispatched two of their newest interceptor boats to the Gulf of Fonseca. Among other reasons provided for the action, the interceptors were dispatched as a counter balance to the presence of a Nicaraguan battleship in those waters. Indeed, the news release stated that the president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, had reported the presence of a Nicaraguan battleship in the Gulf of Fonseca, which prevented domestic fishermen from going out to fish. Other dispatches recalled that on August 28 the new corvette Lempira had arrived at the Naval Base at Puerto Castilla on the Caribbean coast, to reinforce the naval flotilla. The notes even threatened the use of F-15 fighters to defeat any danger in the Fonseca Gulf. In all reality, today not even the U.S. Navy has operational battleships; the Honduran Naval Force is equipped with coastguard cutters and not corvettes or frigates, and the Honduras Air Force (FAH) flies F5, not F-15 fighters. The unreal claims and propaganda are directed to “tame” Nicaragua to allow passage to certain areas in the Fonseca Gulf. Ironically, the main maritime dispute in that region is between Honduras and El Salvador, centered on a tiny island (named Rabbit), some 600 meters from the Honduran coastline. More impact came when Honduras notified that it would fortify the small island, and a few days later, soldiers detained a group of Salvadorian reporters who were reporting on issues related to the area.

The Fonseca Gulf occupies an area between the parallels of latitude 12° 55” N and 13° 25” N, totaling 3,200 square kilometers of which Honduras is said to have 185 kilometers of coastline, Nicaragua 47 and El Salvador 29, and is equivalent to a linear extension of a continental coast of 131.75 nautical miles. There are twelve Salvadorian municipalities bordering or connecting the waters of the Gulf (from La Union). In Honduras there are 10 municipalities that share the coast (jurisdictions of Valle and Choluteca) and Nicaragua has two (jurisdiction of the department of Chinandega). The Gulf of Fonseca receives its name from the legendary Bishop of Burgos, Juan de Fonseca and was known before under the names of Chorotegan and Conchagua Gulf.

Due to constant friction in the area, leaders from Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua launched the so-called Managua Declaration in 2007. This was based on a 2002 MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) reached between the naval forces of the three countries in order to avoid armed incidents. The declaration was intended to turn the Gulf of Fonseca in a sustainable development financial zone. However, the Gulf’s area has proven to be a far reach for peace, harmony and economic development, and in recent months there have been several serious incidents.

In March 2011, for example, there was a reported exchange of naval gunfire between Honduran and Nicaraguan patrol boats. Nicaraguan Army sources reported that shots were fired by a Honduran boat against one of its naval units after it was spotted about one kilometer away from the Potosi naval station. The Honduran version claimed that two Nicaraguan patrol boats had entered territorial waters and shot at the Honduran vessel. Later, Honduran reports attributed the death of a fisherman to maneuvers made by a Nicaraguan patrol boat. Those sources claimed that the Nicaraguan vessel rammed several fishermen pangas (small fishing launches). Then, in December 2012, Honduran news media claimed that a Nicaraguan Piranha (naval interceptor) had attempted to block the path of a Honduran coast guard cutter, and had been shattered and sunk by the larger unit. That same source indicated that as result of the incident, FAH F-5E fighters had been scrambled over the area. Honduras has made periodic threats to use these F-5E fighters to impose its will, and in fact, there are several reports that the fighters have flown over neighboring territorial waters as a show of force. El Heraldo newspaper noted four different serious incidents in 2012, culminating in the last mentioned clash. During that encounter, it specified that a flotilla of one coastguard cutter and six Honduran speedboats (Piranhas) departed Amapala Naval Base, and headed to open sea. The flotilla was intercepted by six Nicaraguan armed speedboats, with one of the boats closing ahead of the coastguard cutter, where it was rammed and sunk. The newspaper also pointed out that Honduran officials had not dared to confirm the information, but the Nicaraguan authorities denied the incident. The Honduran newspapers also accused that Salvadorian and Nicaraguan naval forces attempted to intimidate the Honduran counterpart by shadowing its patrol boats when sailing in direction to the mouth of the Gulf.

Honduras claims that there should not be any argument regarding the Gulf since the territorial disputes were resolved with the sentence issued by The Hague International Court in 1992. However, one issue to this reasoning is that Nicaragua was never part of the territorial disputes in the Gulf before the Court. Indeed, the court appears to have overstepped its power, demarcating zones that had not been in dispute, and made things worse by ceding to Honduras areas that had not been presented before the court and by advocating Honduran access to the Pacific. It also brought Nicaragua into the ruling, even when there was no dispute with that country.

The Hague Resolution

It was assumed that the territorial disputes between El Salvador and Honduras would be resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) sentence of 1992, which granted 62% of the disputed 432 kilometers to Honduras. The disputed territory involved mainly 6 land “pockets” and some arguments regarding the Gulf as well. Both countries had taken their cases to the ICJ on December 11, 1986 and the Court had accepted the case on May 8, 1987. The sentence was offered on 11 September 1992, with a ruling demarcating the border with the current path of the Goascorán River; the Salvadorians had argued that the path and delta of this river had been changed by a hurricane over a century before. Nevertheless, the ruling favored Honduras, giving 66.9% of the disputed areas to that country, and 26.35% to El Salvador, with another 39.31% said to go to Nicaragua. Again, the problem with this argument is that Nicaragua was never part of the territorial dispute or part of the decision of the ICJ. The court also asserted Honduras’ sovereignty over the island of El Tigre and Salvadorian possession of the Meanguera and Meanguerita islands.

In April 2013, Carlos Argüello, Nicaraguan Legal Advocate before the ICJ, declared to the local press that Nicaragua could not concede maritime territory to Honduras based on a resolution of the ICJ of 1992 since Nicaragua was not part of such proceedings, and the Resolution does not obligate Nicaragua whatsoever. The country acknowledges a common border with El Salvador in the approximately 16 miles that separates Punta Cosigüina (Nicaragua) from Punta Ruca (El Salvador), and it is based on border limitations established in 1900.

Conejo Island is located 600 meters off shore of the Honduras coastline and measures no more than 1,000 square meters. It commands strategic value for both El Salvador and Honduras. The second claims rights to access to the Pacific while for El Salvador it commands security and control over one of its main ports (La Union). Conejo had been guarded by a Honduran Army squad, but now a heliport and an electrified fence will be built, and eventually a complete naval station could be envisioned.

With this situation at hand, we review the naval forces in the Gulf of Fonseca.

FNH - Frigates and Corvettes

In August, the first of two “corvettes” arrived to Honduras. These are no other than Damen Stan Patrol 4207 boats very similar to those being built for the USCG (Sentinel Class). The first of the class, the 1401-Lempira, arrived with what appears to be a 20mm in B position, but it is reported that will eventually carry a medium caliber naval cannon, probably in 30mm caliber. Damen has illustrations of a 4207 modified with a naval gun turret with twin cannons, probably the Oto Melara medium caliber naval turret with two 30mm/82 Mauser MK 30-1 Model F guns. The turret is unmanned, gyro-stabilized and joy stick controlled. The guns have a range of 3,000 meters. The Honduran Navy has already developed a small remote controlled and directed turret that accommodates a M2HB machine gun and its ammunition, but that could be modified to accept the DEFA 552 30mm twin mounts from retired Super Mystere fighters. These could be used to equip all the larger patrol boats. However, the 4207 is unlikely to deploy to the Fonseca Gulf, but their presence in the Caribbean would allow for the 105-ft boats to relocate to Amapala Naval Base in the Pacific.

The Honduran Naval Force (FNH) operates from the following installations: Cortes, Castilla, Caratasca, La Ceiba, and the Naval Studies Center, all of them along the Caribbean. There is also the Amapala Naval Base at El Tigre Island in the Fonseca Gulf. The main naval units sum three 105-foot patrol boats (1051-Guaymuras, 1052-Honduras and 1053-Higueras), a 106ft patrol boat (1064-Tegucigalpa), a 85-foot Swiftships (ex Rio Kurinwás of Nicaragua) 8501-Chamelecón, and six 65-foot Swiftships patrol boats: 6501-Nacaome, 6502-Goascorán, 6503-Petula, 6504-Ulua and 6505-Choluteca. A Mk-III PB Peterson has been added to the coastguard cutter fleet as the 6506-Rio Coco. Of these, the Honduran Navy usually maintains some three of the 65ft and one 85ft cutters in the Fonseca Gulf, along the Pacific.

The local press often refers to the coastguard cutters as frigates, but what cannot be denied is that they have been used as effective gunboats. The 106ft Lantana class cutters (two of them delivered) came to Honduras equipped with the Kollmorgen M-985 periscope fire director combined with a GE 20mm Gatling gun. The 20mm tubes could elevate to +50/-10 deg (train limits were +/-110 deg), and provided for awesome and accurate firepower against surface and air targets. Prior to the introduction of such an advanced and interesting system, Honduran cutters were converted to gunboats using what they had at hand. The 105ft Swiftships were equipped with one M55A2B1 system at the bow and one more at the stern. The 20/3 mm M55 guns were antiaircraft ground mounts modified to the ship’s hulls. Although its use was limited to clear weather and daylight use, they provided for fearsome firepower at a combined rate of fire of some 2,000 rpm. The mount consists of three Hispano-Suiza HSS-804 auto cannons, each fed by 60-round drum magazines. The mount provides for a 360 degree manual rotation, and an arc of elevation between -5 to +83 degrees. The system usually comes with a PANS 20/3 mechanical sight that allows to engage air targets up to 1,500 m. The Honduran Navy also toyed with the idea to match TCM-20 mounts to the bow of the 65ft cutters. These systems carry two 20mm HS-404 cannons, each fed by 60-round drum magazines, and able to engage targets at 1,200 meters with a rate of fire between 600 and 700 rpm.

The U.S. delivered Mk67 and Mk68 20mm mounts and 81mm naval mortars in the 1980s. With exception of the Latana 106ft cutters, which carried the GE 20mm gun turret and Kollmorgen fire director, the gunboats were respectively modified to carry one 20mm gun at bow, one more at stern and one 81mm mortar; this in addition to several light and heavy machine guns. But with the end of the revolutionary wars in Central America, the gunboats have reversed to patrol cutters, and refitted with a lighter combat load, usually consisting of only one 20mm gun and/or several light and heavy machine guns. One of the 106ft cutters was thrown against the rocks at Cortes Base during Hurricane Mitch, destroying it, but the GE turret was later observed on the Chamelecón. This weapon has since been deleted.

The Honduran government has invested heavily in naval assets spending in the overhaul of the FNH Honduras, FNH Tegucigalpa, FNH Guaymuras, and FNH Chamelecón patrol boats. In 2011 it announced that it was going to invest in the recovery of FNH Hibueras as well as three additional boats stored along the Caribbean (believed to be Mk-IV ex USCG models) and two others from Amapala Naval Base (possibly Boston Whalers or Lantana Piranha RPB). In October 2012, the government approved a lease for $66 million to be paid in 13 years for two “corvettes” (Damen 4207 patrol boats) and six 36ft interceptor boats (DI-1102), and a year later, two of the DI-1102 interceptors were dispatched to operate from Conejo Island.

The naval flotilla has been complemented with 4 Nor-Tech 43ft interceptors provided by the U.S. in 2009, which helped to create the Barracuda Squadron. Under the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), fourteen boats of a planned total of 20 have been delivered. These are 32 and 37 ft Eduardoño patrol boats, recycled from those captured to drug traffickers. The Eduardoños are Colombian built boats that can be described as cheaper versions of the Boston Whalers. The boats are well built and able to reach speeds of up to 40 knots, making them a favorite among drug traffickers. Most of the boats will be handled by the Honduran Marines and FEN.

FNES - Piranhas

The Naval Base of La Union, the only naval nerve center of the Salvadoran Navy, is within walking distance of the new Port of the same name. The naval base remains a good place for training, repair (with improved Sycrolift), and facilities to properly handle the flotilla, but the coastguard cutter squadron remains in bad shape. Again, this author caused an uproar in September 2012 when he noted the presence of most of the cutters in port, and their extremely bad shape. El Salvador received three 100ft Camcraft transport boats in 1975-76. These were overhauled and refitted as patrol boats with U.S. assistance in 1984-85. The U.S. also supplied one 65ft and one 77ft Swiftships class cutters in the same period. CG10 came with the Bushmaster 25mm naval gun at the bow, but this proved unreliable in the Salvadorian climate, expensive to operate, and was discarded very quickly. Instead, the U.S. supplied sufficient Mk67/Mk68 gun mounts and the 81mm naval mortars to equip the cutters as gunboats. Surprisingly, the Salvadorians never made attempts to accommodate the M55A2B1 and/or the TCM-20 for naval use as done by the Honduran counterparts.

The Mk67 and Mk68 are naval pedestals designed to use Mk16 20mm cannons. These weapons use open breech and have a gas-assisted system and blowback operation. The Mk16 refers to modified AN/M3 and M24 aircraft guns, which in turn are U.S. variations of the HS404 cannon. The Mk16 are belt-fed weapons, with the Mod 4 variant using an electrical trigger mechanism, and the Mod 5 using a hand operated stepped mechanical trigger. Spare parts for the Mk16 have become sparse in the U.S., and are preserved in Honduras and El Salvador mostly in storage, but once in awhile when things heat up, the boats are seen carrying a full weapon complement. Given their little availability, in 2012, the Salvadorian Armed Forces CIDET supplied two HS404 to the FNES, and these are used in the Mk67/Mk68 mounts. It is also possible to modify the twin HS404 system developed for the VCTA2 armored vehicle for a naval adaptation.

The U.S. supplied 81mm mortar M52 Mounts (Mk2 Mod 1 mortar/MG) to the Honduran and Salvadorian Navy and these are usually installed at the stern of the Central American gunboats. The system combines an 81mm mortar cylinder with a M2HB machine gun resting on a tripod, which allows a 360 degree traverse, and an elevation arc between -30 to +71 degrees. The mortar is capable of direct and indirect fire, up to a maximum range of more than 1,000 yards in direct mode and 394 yards in indirect mode, at a rate between 10 to 18 rpm. A similar, but smaller, 60mm version was also provided and mounted on Honduran and Salvadorian Lantana Piranha RPBs. Another possible weapon for shore bombardment available to these navies is the M40A1 RCL. However, the blackblast signature of the M40A1 would make the use of the 105mm round a problem in the ship to ship role.

Salvadorian Army intelligence officers were surprised in mid-2012 when this author acknowledged that a C3I was operational at the base, but the system had been announced as part of U.S. assistance (Enduring Friendship Program) in 2007. Another C3I was publically acknowledged in mid-2013 by the same Salvadorian authorities as being installed at the confiscated Piedras Negras Hotel and as transformation as a Naval Tracking Station. Furthermore, The U.S. has delivered to El Salvador a flotilla of naval interceptors in the form of 33-foot SAFE Defenders, and Boston Whalers (BW) of various types. However, the fleet remains short of modern vessels to patrol the Exclusive Economic Zone. Ideally, the Naval Force (FNES) needs at least three sea-going ships (to maintain one operational, one at standby, and one in rest/training/maintenance). The vessels need to have higher speeds, longer range, higher capacity and greater autonomy to operate along the Pacific Coast. Another desirable feature would be to be able to handle - if not necessarily able to maintain - a light helicopter.

FN - EN - Battleships

The Honduran claim that Nicaragua had deployed a battleship in the Fonseca Gulf referred to a R-101 patrol boat. In 2008, Spain supplied four R-101 patrol vessels, and Nicaragua deployed two to the Pacific and two to the Atlantic. These are boats built by Rodman Polyships using reinforced composite plastic hulls, and the R-101 refers to a 100ft GRP hulled patrol boat optimized for fishery protection, and capable of speeds up to 35 knots. They are the largest “warships” available to the Nicaraguan Army-Naval Force (FN EN). They came unarmed, but given their present role as “gunboats,” the vessels have received a MTPU marine pedestal machine-gun pedestal at bow and one at stern. These use a KPV 14.5mm machine gun intended to engage lightly armored surface, coast and air targets. It reports a range of 200m against surface and coast targets, and 1,500 m against air targets, using B-32 armor-piercing-incendiary, BZT armor-piercing-tracers and incendiary rounds. Three surviving Dabur boats have been modified in similar fashion, but these operate from the Caribbean.

The Sandinista Navy (MGS) traces its beginnings to 1979, when the Borderguard Naval Section was established with a surviving 65-foot Dabur gunboat, and 2 Hatteras patrol types. These were reinforced with 2 additional Daburs and one Hatteras that had fled to El Salvador at the end of the Somoza's government in July 1979. In 1982 the Sandinista Popular Army deployed the first Special Destiny Detachment, which among other things specialized in shore and maritime defense and exploration activities in port terminals, to include inspection of hulls, and maritime search and rescue tasks. From 1985, the government established the Pacific and Atlantic Naval Districts. The former, with jurisdiction on the Fonseca Gulf is assigned two French made Vedette coastguard patrol boats, a Grif (Zhuk) type, four Project 151 boats, and two customs boats, in addition to establishing three coastal radio-technical signal units (coastal mobile radar complexes), 3 APM-90 illuminating-projectors units, two Reserve Naval Infantry Battalions and two Air Defense Groups. Spain supplied two infantry landing craft in 1984, and all this would be divided into three Harbormaster installations (Potosi, Corinto and Puerto Sandino).

The Navy received three Daburs from Israel in 1996, but most of the naval equipment supplied during the revolutionary wars in the 1980s had been discarded by 2002, to include the original Daburs and Vedettes, but we could still see some three Sinhung and Yevgenya boats in fairly good shape during a visit to Puerto Corinto several years ago.

When the MGS was being organized, given the potential attacks that could come – and actually came – from air and from the surface enemies, the Nicaraguans quickly adapted their ZU-23-2 AAA systems to their coastguard cutters, transforming them into gunboats by placing at least one of them at stern in their French-made Vedettes, and one at bow and one at stern in their Daburs. The mount uses two 2A14 23mm cannons fed from 50-round magazine boxes; the guns are aimed and fired manually depending on a ZAP-23 optical-mechanical sight to track aerial targets, while the T3 telescope is used to engage surface targets. Although the Nicaraguans simply adapted the ground mount to the boats, the similar naval turret 23mm Arsenal ADS-N provides us with details of performance, indicating that the weapon is capable of engaging air targets at 2,500 meters at a height of 1,500m, and to engage surface targets at 2,000 m. The MK-IV mounts with HS-404 cannons that came with the Daburs were discarded, but the Hatteras received M3 and other recycled machine guns at the bow.

The Yevgenya minesweepers came with the 2M-3M gun turrets armed with two 25mm/79 110-PM gas operated cannons providing for a rate of fire of around 480rpm. Each gun is fed from 65-round belts.

The Sing Hung torpedo boats carried a twin 2M-5 mounting at bow and another one at stern. Similar 2M-6 and 2M-7 mounts, in twin or even quadruple configurations, were found in the Polish-supplied minesweepers, French-made Vedettes, and even the Israeli-built Daburs. All these naval turrets use the KPV-14.5mm machine gun. The weapon fires a 14.5x114mm round, with a maximum horizontal range of 3,000 m, and a maximum vertical range of 2,000 m, and it is also found in the ZPU antiaircraft mount series.

Nicaragua received at one point or another up to 8 to 10 Project 1400M/ME Grif (Zhuk) coastguard cutters. The 1400E came with a 1x2 12.7mm 2M-1 turret, while the 1400M came with a 1x2 12.7mm Utes-2M or 1x1 14.5mm turrets. The 2M-1 are manually operated, one-man naval turrets, but instead of using the 12.7mm Degtjarev DShK M38 heavy machine gun, it appears to carry two NSV types instead. Each gun is fed by 50-round belt, and each weighs some 25kg, having a rate of fire of 13 rounds per second, and an effective range of 1,500 m. The most common naval machine gun is the 12.7mm Degtjarev DShK M38, mounted on all types of boats. For lighter work, the Nicaraguans mount the series of Kalashnikov PK/PKS/PKM and PKMS machine guns.

The turn of the century saw a diminishing capacity of the FN EN, so considerable help began to arrive from the U.S., to include four Mk-IV ex USCG, and funds to overhaul the Daburs, together with the supply of eight Zodiacs, six airboats, and four Nor-Tech speedboats, along with individual survival gear, communication and radio stations. More recently, the U.S. has started with the supply Boston Whalers. However, most of this equipment would be used throughout the Caribbean, even when it can easily be relocated to the Pacific.

Since 2008, the Naval Force of the Army of Nicaragua became reinforced in the Pacific with the two units RODMAN R -101, but the mainstream fleet becomes dependent on recycled drug trafficking boats. So many of these Eduardoño class boats were seized that some 60 were rebuilt and recycled for use by the FN EN and the National Police (PNN). Eventually, the U.S. assisted in the rebuilding and standardization, supplying outboard engines, and navigational equipment. Some 17 of these vessels operate around the Gulf of Fonseca, and the Pacific Coast.

In July, reports surfaced that Nicaragua was looking into acquiring two Molyna-class (Project 12412) missile corvettes and four Mirach-class (Project 14310) patrol vessels. The 550-ton Molyna would be the ultimate gunboats, being armed with a 76mm gun, and two 30mm guns. The AK-176 gunnery system consist of an enclosed turret armed with a single AK-176 76mm cannon with a 120 rpm rate of fire matched to a MR-123-02/76 fire control radar system backed by TV and laser rangefinder to engage sea, coastal and air targets, in selective volumes of 30, 60 and 120 rpm. It carries 152 ready rounds.

The Nicaraguan Navy previously made use a 37mm V-11 twin naval gun system mounted on seized maritime transports. This was the largest naval gun system used until now by Nicaraguan naval forces. This vessel is long gone, but now the Molyna and the Mirach classes come with the AK-630 system. This is a 30mm six barreled rotary cannon on an enclosed compact and automatic turret directed by radar. Most important, the Molyna can be armed with 16 Uran (3M24E) surface-to-surface missiles, and up to 12 Igla surface-to-air missiles. The Mirach can also be equipped with surface to surface missiles and MANPADS. However, these ships are likely to join the Caribbean fleet to patrol the maritime claims over waters close to the Colombian San Andres Island.

Investing in Naval Assets

El Salvador has not announced any improvement on its fleet and remains dependant on three 100ft Camcraft converted patrol boats, two 65ft and 77ft Swiftships class cutters and an elderly ex USCG 82ft Point class type supplied in 2000. In 2001, the Navy attempted to purchase two R101 from Spain in a $24 million order. However, the Treasury Ministry declined to fund the loan. Another attempt was made in mid-2000s, ordering two Protector Class boats from ASMAR, but this was also declined by the Treasury. Around 2007, the Dutch shipyard Damen proposed the delivery of two naval patrol cutters in a $57 million deal. The proposal was probably similar to that taken up by Honduras in 2012, but the Salvadorians did not take it.

A surprising fact is that El Salvador has the advantage of having two deep sea ports, when its economy can handle and sustain only one. La Union Port is the newest and largest in Central America, consisting of some 117 acres of development at a cost of more than $200 million investment. Acajutla Port, located at the extreme west of the country, represents a smaller footprint with a total of 158 blocks of land in construction, and consisting of a breakwater structure and access, fuel storage and other installations.

It is noted that in the Caribbean, the U.S. has been able to establish a choking point to drug trafficking using the many islands and shore features; a number of naval bases and local naval stations provide for excellent monitoring, tracking and intercepting points. Along the Pacific, the situation is different. Having lost the facilities in Panama, the U.S. is left using installations in Costa Rica to rest the fleet. This has proven a political issue, and the Costa Ricans lack the infrastructure to handle up to 50 warships that at one point or another could be patrolling the area.

On the other hand, the U.S. Navy already has a heavy presence in El Salvador using the Comalapa Air Base as an advanced drug-trafficking monitoring base. Anyone landing at the International airport would observe up to three P-3 Orions and a similar number of E-2C from the U.S. Navy, C130s from the USCG, and at least one P-3E from Customs sitting at the adjacent tarmac. Considering the needs of the U.S. in the Pacific, would not it be beneficial for the U.S. to consider leasing Acajutla Port in a manner similar to the Comalapa Monitoring Base? If Acajutla was given on lease to the U.S. Navy (for a fixed period), this would provide for a boost in the local economy, and it could provide for improvement of the installations. Furthermore, it would allow a portion of the pier to be used as Salvadorian Naval Force HQ, and installations to handle off-shore patrol vessels that could be supplied as part of the lease agreement with the Acajutla tenant. Theoretically, this could provide the funds and infrastructure to acquire an appropriate naval fleet. If not Acajutla, La Union Port could be used for this vision, with the added advances that the Salvadorian Naval Base seats nearby, and El Tamarindo military airstrip could be used to house patrol helicopters and other aerial assets.

Honduras and Nicaragua have already made the decision to improve their naval assets, with the first one ordering the two 4207 coastguard cutters and 6 interceptors from the Damen Shipyard, while Nicaragua is reported to be looking into acquiring the missile corvettes and patrol vessels from Vympel Shipyard in Russia. It is unknown how the Hondurans will finance the new vessels. It is speculated that the Nicaraguan investment, which could reach some $500 million would be covered from economic concessions from sea-rights of the newly incorporated maritime territories, and/or from concessions at the new planned transoceanic canal.

This article first appeared in SmallArmsReview.com on November 22, 2013


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