UNITAS (the Latin word for “united”), the world’s largest and oldest multinational naval exercise (1960), held its 58th edition on the coast of Peru, from July 13th to 26th. More than 4,000 service members from 19 nations participated in the “Pacific” and “Amphibious” phases of training meant to improve global security by bolstering joint performance in naval war operations.
“I was quite impressed with our partners’ capacity, in terms of their personnel and equipment, as well as their level of operations,” U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Sean Buck, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and the U.S. 4th Fleet, told Diálogo. “They demonstrated complex maritime abilities in a challenging environment.” The range of scenarios that included anti-submarine warfare, anti-air warfare, surface warfare, coastal scenarios, and counter-piracy operations, among others, are exercises that demand a lot of skill, especially coordination and teamwork.
UNITAS is an excellent opportunity to renew good relations among the participating nations, especially with the host nation, which was able to demonstrate its capacity at all levels. “Once again, the Peruvian forces demonstrated the indispensable value of their association,” Rear Adm. Buck indicated. “I want to thank Peru for its dedication and commitment in welcoming UNITAS.”
The importance of achieving precise coordination implies having to overcome obstacles such as the language barrier. Through constant practice, that gap has been eliminated. “In a world that’s increasingly globalized, we must work together to compete against adversaries that have a global reach,” said Rear Adm. Buck. “An exercise like UNITAS is essential for training a global force that can deter, and if necessary, defeat those adversaries.”
Each nation has its own potential, and UNITAS is an excellent opportunity to showcase the technology that each has available and how it can use that technology in conjunction with this contingent, which strives to defend shared interests and common challenges. “When we have sophisticated defense equipment, we must standardize our procedures,” said Peruvian Navy Vice Admiral Fernando Cerdán, the commander general of Pacific Operations. “That allows us to function as an integrated international task force. That’s the goal - to integrate and, if required, be able to execute.”
These kinds of events, which bring together different countries together, both from across the Americas and from other continents, also serve to improve diplomatic relations among the participants. This multinational exercise reinforces their shared agenda on issues of defense and mutual collaboration in any situation, including such situations as humanitarian aid, security operations, and search and rescue.
“We ended the exercise with a civil operation in Huarmey [a town approximately 300 kilometers north of Lima that was heavily impacted by the coastal El Niño phenomenon in early 2017] on July 23rd, organized by the U.S. and Peruvian navies,” Vice Adm. Cerdán said. “We visited two schools and a field hospital set up for disasters. We brought in donations and painted the schools.”
Land, air, and sea exercises
The large number of participants in this edition of the exercise also meant that the various nations sent their own vehicles to conduct the established missions. On this occasion, Chile, the 2015 host, deployed a patrol ship, the OPV-82 “Comandante Toro” and an HH-65 helicopter, as well as the Chilean Navy’s Rapid Response Group.
“Together, the OPV-82 Comandante Toro and the helicopter conducted air and sea exploration in the event that they might find ships committing crimes such as drug or arms trafficking,” explained Chilean Navy Commander Roberto Fonseca, the commander of OPV-82. “For its part, the Rapid Response Group was the team that carried out vessel boarding and searches.”
This ship was one of 30 naval units that arrived in Peru, which is a record for UNITAS. The helicopter was one of 30 aircraft and more than 30 amphibious vehicles that showed their capabilities in the latest edition of this important event. Being able to serve as host nation for this naval exercise, which is the oldest in the world, is cause for recognition.
“Being able to plan, direct, and conduct this exercise allows us to develop training in various areas of warfare, such as anti-submarine, air, and surface warfare, and to fulfill other areas of cooperation,” Cmdr. Fonseca said. “Every year, this exercise gets better. Each of our partners brings its best talents and abilities to demonstrate and share with each of the participants,” Rear Adm. Buck concluded.
Colombia will host UNITAS 59 in 2018. Participants expect to continue with their ongoing improvement in developing the region’s armed forces and achieving greater unity among partner nations.