The U.S. ships that participated in the exercise were USS Somerset (LPD 25), USS Chafee (DDG 90), and USCGC Escanaba (WMEC 907). The U.S. ships were among 30 vessels that took part in UNITAS. Other participating units included Destroyer Squadron 40; Explosive Ordinance Disposal Group 1, BQM-74 Target Drone Detachment from NAVAIR; U.S. Marine Forces South (MARFORSOUTH); Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1; Commander Amphibious Squadron 1; and USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT.
Maritime and Amphibious
UNITAS LVIII was comprised of two phases, UNITAS Pacific and UNITAS Amphibious, both occurred concurrently with multinational partners.
UNITAS Pacific was designed to train each navy to conduct combined naval operations through the execution of littoral warfare, anti-piracy, maritime interception operations, countering transnational organized crime, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare, communications exercises, and air and amphibious operations to increase the capacity of participating naval and marine forces.
MARFORSOUTH, in conjunction with USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT, the Peruvian navy and marine corps, and other regional partner nations conducted UNITAS Amphibious in the vicinity of Callao, Ancon and Salinas de Huacho, Peru. UNITAS Amphibious was designed to enhance interoperability and improve partner nations’ ability to plan combined amphibious operations, stability operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in the region, and further develop common practices and procedures that result in common doctrine for use in future operations.
“From the first day of UNITAS, to the last day, each task force’s performance was critical,” said Chafee’s commanding officer, Capt. Brian Fremming. “Operating in joint and combined warfare areas reaffirms the importance of communication and building partnerships during complex and robust underway operations with partner nation navies, and that is something no simulator could ever teach or build.”
UNITAS has evolved over many years and now includes training for 21st century threats that are encountered in today’s maritime environment. By training with our Caribbean, Central and South American counterparts, USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT further develops professional understanding and mutual respect with our regional partner nations by sharing best practices and expertise, and they will gain new knowledge about each other’s culture and people throughout the exercise.
Before the ship’s deployed for the exercise, there was a day of sports events and an international cuisine festival held on the Callao Naval Base. The festival allowed many of the participating nations to showcase some of their local food.
U.S. Marines and partner nations also gathered together for a community relations project to support the town of Huarmey, Peru, which had been damaged by flooding. USS Somerset delivered more than 100 pallets of donated items from Project Handclasp to the town’s hospital and schools.
One critical evolution that has occurred is the implementation of the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS) that is currently utilized as the primary means of communication between the U.S. and partner nations during exercises and real world events. The system provides a secure information exchange and is becoming the standard for use throughout the entirety of both the U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command areas of responsibility. The CENTRIXS enclave is managed through the Inter-American Naval Telecommunications Network (IANTN).
“It is essential to have a common means of communicating and imperative to overcoming challenges such as spectrum management, system incompatibilities and language barriers,” said Cmdr. Robert Matthias, IANTN Secretary and USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT communications director. “Communication is core to command and control (C2) within military operations and emergency response. Having CENTRIXS-IANTN capabilities in place, and commonplace, is critical to support how American Navies securely plan and execute in the Maritime Operating Environment.”
World’s longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise
Beginning in 1960, UNITAS is the world’s longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise. At its conception, UNITAS was a series of bi-lateral exercises between the U.S. and partner nations. U.S. forces would deploy to each individual country participating in exercises centered around anti-submarine warfare in the exercises early years.
“There is a great deal of history behind UNITAS,” said Doug Cress, UNITAS LVIII lead planner for USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT. “Many lasting professional relationships have been established throughout the years at all levels. In the future, UNITAS will continue to evolve and provide a unique and relevant opportunity for combined forces to plan and operate together as new capabilities are established for evolving threats.”
The first planning for UNITAS took place at the second Inter-American Naval conference in 1960. Then Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Arleigh A. Burke, led the U.S. delegation.
UNITAS, which means “unity” in Latin, is a demonstration of U.S. commitment to the region and to the value of the strong relationships forged between our partner militaries. UNITAS LIX in 2018 will be hosted by Colombia.