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UNITAS, which is Latin for “unity,” was conceived in 1959, first executed in 1960 and held every year since. This year marked the 63rd iteration of the world’s longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise.
This year's exercise was hosted by the Brazilian navy and included 19 warships/vessels, one submarine, and 21 aircraft that conducted 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 historical milestone commemorating 200 years of the country’s independence and the birth of their navy.
“It is exciting to see 19 nations from across Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa participating in UNITAS,” said Rear Admiral Jim Aiken, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet. “This exercise is a demonstration of not only our commitment to the region, but also the strong relationships forged between our nations. The Western Hemisphere is our shared home and exercises like UNITAS reinforce our permanent geographical and cultural ties, connecting us to our shared history and our shared future.”
Navy and marine forces from Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and the United States participated in the exercise.
While the overarching goal was to develop and test command and control of forces at-sea, training in this exercise addressed the spectrum of maritime operations. Specifically, there were scenarios addressing electronic warfare, anti-air warfare and air defense, anti-surface warfare, live fire, maritime interdiction, littoral operations and amphibious operations.
“One of the main benefits of UNITAS is the ability of all participating nations to train together, and exchange ideas and tactics,” said Capt. Meger Chappell, deputy commander, Destroyer Squadron 40, and deputy commander, 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 meet all objectives. Together we have strengthened our maritime partnerships, enhanced our proficiency and improved our collaboration and interoperability.”
The exercise progressed in phases, beginning in port with sporting events and community relations projects to build relations between partner nations.
The at-sea phase included a multi-threat, multi-day scenario that allowed participants to work together, further increasing preparedness for real-world crises that would require a multinational force response effort. Events included: surface tactical maneuvers, illegal drug trafficking training, live-fire exercises, anti-submarine warfare exercises, air defense exercises and maritime interdiction operations.
The amphibious phase included U.S. Marines with partner nations taking positions at areas along the coast to train in support of greater naval operations. This phase also consisted of landing from naval vessels.
Participating U.S. forces 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” of Patrol Squadron Sixteen (VP) 9, Special Boat Team (SBT) 22, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, Seal Platoon from Seal Team 8, U.S. 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 Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), 4th Civil Affairs Group (4th CAG), Marine Aircraft Group 49 (MAG-49), U.S Marine Corps Forces South (MARFORSOUTH), and USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.
U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South is the Marine Corps component to U.S. Southern Command, is responsible for planning exercises, operation, and overall Marine Corps support for the SOUTHCOM assigned area of responsibility.
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