In its 2018 edition, the operation brings together elements from the armed forces of 20 countries to train in combined combat operations against simulated threats.
8 August 2018
An extremist group has taken control of the Panama Canal, which cuts across the Isthmus of Panama, preventing vessels from transiting and affecting world commerce. The group’s violent acts prompted the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution establishing a multinational force to restore navigational security in the region.
The mock situation is part of PANAMAX 2018, a multinational exercise with the participation of 20 nations and three as observers, held July 30th-August 10th. The U.S., Panama, and Chile created the yearly exercise in 2003.
Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) Rear Admiral Fernando Ranauro Cozzolino, commander of the Second Squadron Division, was among representatives selected to lead the Combined Force Maritime Component Command (CFMCC) of PANAMAX 2018. The officer directs the General Staff, consisting of 300 participants. His role, Rear Adm. Cozzolino explained, consists of “planning and making the necessary decisions to complete the established mission according to simulated military scenarios the exercise coordinator proposed.” PANAMAX’s Brazilian delegation includes about 20 service members from the three armed forces taking on different roles for the exercise.
PANAMAX participants gathered at Mayport Naval Base in Jacksonville, Florida in late July. According to the simulated operation, members of CFMCC’s General Staff include 53 vessels, such as amphibious ships, convoys, and coastal patrol boats, to carry out their mission. Most are only simulations, yet this year, service members are using real equipment as well. “Some of the vessels have aircraft and teams aboard,” said Rear Adm. Cozzolino. Service members, vessels, and aircraft are spread out in task forces assigned to specific missions based on the following area of operations: the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Panama’s inner territorial sea.
Among the teams’ objectives is to reclaim and maintain maritime superiority under threat by the Martyrs of the Liberation Brigade, the fictitious extremist organization that represents enemy forces during PANAMAX. Participants must also create the necessary conditions for security forces of Panama, and a fictitious country by the name of New Centralia, to protect themselves permanently.
To meet the goals of the exercise, the multinational coalition has three commands in addition to CFMCC. A Brazilian Air Force officer leads the Combined Force Air Component Command, a Colombian Army officer heads the Combined Force Land Component Command, while the Combined Force Special Operations Component Command falls under the authority of an Argentine Navy officer.
The Brazilian delegation prepared to deploy for PANAMAX in March. The Brazilian Naval War College (EGN, in Portuguese) developed a special program to help Rear Adm. Cozzolino take on CFMCC, and prepare other team members.
“At first they used distance learning. Instructors from EGN then taught special classes on the main topics of the U.S. Navy’s Planning Process,” said MB Commander Bruno Pereira da Cunha, EGN instructor. The process is among the doctrines applied at the operational and tactical levels to guide military operations during PANAMAX.
The program ended in June. Instructors from the U.S. Navy War College conducted a meeting at EGN’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro to reinforce instruction about military doctrines applied in PANAMAX, concepts and theories related to naval war, and the U.S. Navy’s structure, among other topics.
“In addition to PANAMAX, each year MB takes part in other operations and multinational training events. The experience gained benefits participating service members and is used to improve/update our methodology, which is passed on to the student body,” said MB Captain Rodrigo Metropolo Pace, EGN instructor. “As for PANAMAX, which focuses on the Panama Canal, the establishment of a regional coalition strengthens the capacity to create combined military solutions, which indirectly contributes to peace and regional stability, especially in matters of asymmetric threats, natural disasters, and humanitarian aid,” said Rear Adm. Cozzolino.