Two combat units and a total of 570 Peruvian sailors are representing the Peruvian Navy during the 64th edition of UNITAS, in Cartagena, Colombia, July 11-23, 2023.
Peruvian Navy Captain Christian Ponce, commander of the B.A.P. Pisco, spoke with Diálogo about his country’s participation in UNITAS.
Diálogo: How important it is for the Peruvian Navy to participate in UNITAS LXIV in Cartagena, Colombia?
Peruvian Navy Captain Christian Ponce, commander of the B.A.P. Pisco: Multinational Exercise UNITAS is the oldest naval exercise in the world, and on this special occasion it is being held in Colombia, as it celebrates the bicentennial of its National Navy. It is an important naval exercise because it will increase multilateral interoperability, the interaction of participating countries, improve the training of naval personnel in the tactical and operational levels of the different naval warfare areas, and assess the readiness of the systems and equipment of the designated naval means. With its execution, we will be able to integrate a multinational force trained to effectively confront common threats in the region, thus strengthening the bonds of friendship and mutual trust between the navies of participating countries.
Diálogo: Why was the B.A.P. Pisco chosen to participate in UNITAS? What are its capabilities?
Capt. Ponce: The B.A.P. Pisco is a Peruvian Navy multipurpose ship, which was built entirely in our country by the shipyard of the Industrial Service of the Navy (SIMA) in its Callao headquarters, which we received in 2018. It is an LPD- (landing platform dock) type vessel, amphibious surface naval unit, which initial capabilities where increased by our Navy, currently having capabilities to perform amphibious operations, naval air operations, maritime interdiction operations, strategic logistic transport, search and rescue operations, humanitarian aid operations in natural disasters, and command and control of the fleet. Based on these capabilities it was designated to participate in UNITAS during scheduled exercises and with its command and control capability, through the onboard Fleet Command Center (FCC), it was chosen for the Commander of Task Force 138.20 to embark and lead with a large number of officers from various navies that will make up its multinational staff, making our combat unit the flagship of UNITAS LXIV.
Diálogo: How did the Peruvian Navy deploy to participate in UNITAS?
Capt. Ponce: The Peruvian Navy has participated with representative officers in all the previous planning meetings. It currently has 570 Peruvian sailors deployed aboard the Multipurpose Ship B.A.P. Pisco and the Missile Frigate B.A.P. Aguirre. It is worth mentioning that aboard the B.A.P. Pisco there is part of the Marine Infantry Amphibious Brigade that will carry out programmed amphibious operations, with eight amphibious vehicles of the LAV- (light armored vehicle) type and use two LCU- (landing craft utility) type launches from the ship and other fast boats.
Diálogo: How does UNITAS increase the levels of interoperability in the Peruvian Navy?
Capt. Ponce: The exercises carried out with the Multinational Force train navies in the different areas of naval warfare, such as surface warfare, anti-aircraft warfare, amphibious warfare, anti-submarine warfare, electronic warfare, cybernetic warfare, command and control, and maritime interdiction operations, in scenarios with common threats for the region. Its execution allows navies to standardize their procedures, learn the operational characteristics of participating means, and become familiar with these operations.
Diálogo: UNITAS LXIV brings together more than 15 countries in the region. What is the importance of this integration for the region’s navies?
Capt. Ponce: The success of a Multinational Force lies in fulfilling the mission with the best performance of all the assigned means and personnel, which is why it’s important that more and more navies participate in UNITAS exercises, so that with training and interaction we can achieve the integration of a Multinational Force that is trained and ready to act. The large number of navies participating in this UNITAS LXIV makes it possible to learn about the means available, unify, and update operating procedures and test new technologies, closing gaps that might exist due to differences in languages, ships and systems, doctrines and procedures, among other particularities.
Diálogo: What is the added value of participating in UNITAS, the longer lasting naval exercise that the U.S. Navy conducts with countries of the region?
Capt. Ponce: The added value in our case is to demonstrate, by participating with warships and naval personnel in UNITAS, the level of commitment of the Peruvian Navy as an ally of the U.S. Navy, as well as to prepare in a combined way for common continental defense in the face of any threat.
Diálogo: The Peruvian Navy has participated in several versions of UNITAS and has hosted the event. What are the lessons learned from this participation?
Capt. Ponce: Being knowledgeable about the international system, we consider that the best way to confront common threats will always be with the cooperation of all those involved. The main lessons learned are: First, it is an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen the bonds of cooperation and mutual trust with the navies of the participating countries. Second, the interoperability achieved updates the sailors in combined operations in terms of procedures, technology, doctrine, and use of means, thus consolidating a Multinational Force trained and ready to act when required. And third, on the human side, the interaction between sailors from different countries allows them to get to know each other and establish professional ties to improve the levels of coordination, understanding, and cooperation, in a positive generational scope.
Diálogo: How has UNITAS strengthened Peru’s naval operations to counter threats at sea, especially in the fight against drug trafficking?
Capt. Ponce: During the Multinational Exercise UNITAS LXIV-2023, maritime interdiction operations will be carried out that will allow our crews to train and increase their readiness to face real situations against illicit drug trafficking. In these types of exercises, procedures are carried out, experiences, techniques, and the use of new technology are exchanged, with the aim of providing an increasingly effective response to the changing modalities of drug trafficking in the regional maritime area.