The Jungla is likely the most advanced anti-trafficking force in the world. All photos by author.
Welcome to F-AIR, Colombia's bi-annual military air show, a place where Limp Bizkit is still used as pump up music, Canada has the biggest plane, and kids can pretend to shoot grenade launchers at drug traffickers.
With roughly three decades of civil war and armed conflict with guerrilla fighters and drug cartels under its belt, Colombia's military is one of the most advanced in Latin America. The country is home to 47 million people, as well as nearly 850,000 soldiers and 280 active aircraft. The national police have another 100 aircraft, many of which are used to track down drug cartels, which have taken over much of the eastern and western parts of the country.
No matter what country you're in, nothing says "military might" like a bad-ass eagle.
Much of that firepower was on display at F-AIR. Part air show, part demonstration of military badassery, and part trade show for heavy hitters like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Israel Aerospace Industries, the fair is held at the Jose Maria Cordova International Airport, located about 40 minutes outside Medellin. It brings in reps from tent mostly Latin American countries (Canada, Israel, and the United States being the exceptions) for four days.
The fair brought in more than 15,000 visitors Sunday, and a couple thousand each day before that. Besides your normal air show stunt demonstrations, walkthroughs of helicopters and old school bombers, and copious amounts of overpriced food, the show also featured a booth manned by the Colombian national police's "Jungla" special command unit.
Formed with the help of the United States in 1989 (and affiliated with the Colombian national police), the Jungla anti-narcotics force is the best of the best. They're often tasked with capturing high-level cartel leaders, destroying cocaine laboratories, and fighting through rough terrain.
Groups like the Jungla have—at least according to official numbers—helped slightly curb the amount of land taken up by coca production in the country in the last few years, but coca farms still take up roughly 100,000 hectares of the country, and are still grown in most regions by paramilitary groups and drug cartels.