American Fighter Jets Fly Over Guyana Amid Border Dispute with Venezuela

The skies above Guyana saw a display of American military might on May 9th, as two Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters conducted a flyover with the collaboration and approval of the Guyanese government. This display comes at a time when the small South American nation is embroiled in a heated border dispute with neighboring Venezuela.

“Friendly flyover exercise” conducted in partnership with the Guyanese military

The fighter jets were launched from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which is currently in the Latin American region as part of the US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group Ten’s transit to the Pacific. According to the US Department of State, the carrier has been in the region for approximately two months, aiming to bolster ties and showcase support for allied nations.

On May 6th, the US Naval Institute’s fleet tracker located the USS George Washington just east of Puerto Rico, approximately 780 nautical miles (1,440 kilometers) from Georgetown. The US embassy in Georgetown described the event as a “friendly flyover exercise”, a gesture of support from Washington amidst the ongoing territorial tensions over Guyana’s oil-rich Essequibo region.

The Essequibo region, comprising nearly two-thirds of Guyana’s territory, has long been a point of contention between Guyana and Venezuela. The dispute dates back to the colonial era when Guyana was under British rule. Earlier this year, Venezuela intensified its claims by holding a public referendum, where 95% of participating Venezuelans purportedly supported establishing Venezuelan sovereignty over Essequibo. Following the referendum, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro signed a law asserting Venezuela’s claim over the region in April.

In response, Georgetown condemned the move as an attempted annexation and a blatant violation of international law. The US has since increased its support for Guyana, with senior officials visiting Georgetown and pledging military assistance.

US Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, in February, assured that the assistance would be defensive, aimed at helping Guyana protect its territorial integrity. Although specifics of the military aid package remain undisclosed, Washington has indicated plans to help the Guyanese Defence Forces acquire new military aircraft.

Currently, Guyana operates a modest fleet, including three Bell civil helicopters and three light transport aircraft, with no fixed-wing fighters, according to Cirium data.

Just before the F/A-18 flyover, US Marine Corps Major General Julie Nethercot, who oversees strategy and policy at the Pentagon’s Latin America command, visited Guyana from May 6th to 8th. During her visit, she met with Guyana’s military chief of staff to discuss ongoing security cooperation and initiatives to enhance technological capabilities within the Guyanese military.

The presence of American fighter jets in Guyanese airspace symbolizes a significant gesture of solidarity from the US, as Guyana navigates these challenging diplomatic waters. The collaboration between the two nations underscores a strategic partnership aimed at ensuring stability and peace in the region amidst escalating tensions with Venezuela.