UNITAS, which is Latin for “unity,” was conceived in 1959, first held in 1960, and has been held every year since. This year marked the 63rd iteration of the world’s longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise.
Hosted by the Brazilian Navy, this year’s exercise involved 19 warships/vessels, one submarine and 21 aircraft conducting scenario-driven joint and combined operations and training in and off the coast of Rio De Janeiro. The exercise coincided with Brazil’s bicentennial, a historic milestone commemorating 200 years of the country’s independence and the birth of its Navy.
“It is exciting to see 19 nations from Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa participating in UNITAS,” said Rear Admiral Jim Aiken, Commander, US Naval Forces Southern Command/US 4th Fleet. “This exercise is a testament not only to our commitment to the region, but also to the strong relationships that have been forged between our nations. The Western Hemisphere is our common home, and exercises like UNITAS strengthen our enduring geographic and cultural ties, connecting us to our shared history and future.”
It involved naval and naval forces from Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and the United States share the exercise.
While the overall objective was to develop and test the command and control of forces at sea, the training in this exercise covered the spectrum of maritime operations. In particular, there were scenarios dealing with electronic warfare, air warfare and air defense, surface warfare, live fire, sea interdiction, coastal operations, and amphibious operations.
“One of the main advantages of UNITAS is the opportunity for all participating nations to train together and exchange ideas and tactics,” said Capt. Meger Chappell, Deputy Commander of Destroyer Squadron 40 and Deputy Commander of UNITAS Task Group 138.20. “Over the course of the exercise, I saw firsthand how the participating nations came together as a multinational task force to achieve all goals. Together we have strengthened our maritime partnerships, improved our competence and enhanced our collaboration and interoperability.”
The exercise was phased, beginning in the port with sporting events and community relations projects to build relationships between partner countries.
The at-sea phase included a multi-day, multi-threat scenario that allowed participants to work together and further improve preparedness for real-world crises that would require a multinational force response. Events included: surface tactical maneuvers, drug trafficking training, live fire drills, anti-submarine drills, air defense drills and maritime interdiction operations.
The amphibious phase included US Marines with partner nations taking up positions in areas along the coast to train in support of larger naval operations. This phase also consisted of the landing of naval ships.
US forces participating in UNITAS LXII included the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Albany (SSN 753 ), Commander, Amphibious Squadron Eight (PHIBRON) 8, the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 (HSC) 22, the “Spartans” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70 Detachment 2 (HSM) 70 Det 2, the “War Eagles” from Patrol Squadron Sixteen (VP) 9, Special Boat Team (SBT) 22, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, Seal Platoon from Seal Team 8, US Coast Guard Pacific Area Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET ), Commander , Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 40, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 8, 25th Marine Regiment, 3d Battalion 25th Marine Regiment, 3d Force Reconnaissance Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Company (4th LAR), 4th Combat Engineer Battalion (4th CEB), 6th Engineer Support Battalion (6th ESB), 4th Air Na val Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), 4th Civil Affairs Group (4th CAG), Marine Aircraft Group 49 (MAG-49), US Marine Corps Forces South (MARFORSOUTH) and USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT.
US Naval Forces Southern Command/4 Prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South is the Marine Corps component of U.S. Southern Command and is responsible for exercise planning, operations and general Marine Corps support for the area of responsibility assigned to SOUTHCOM.