Brazil, site of the 63rd edition of Operation UNITAS

U.S. Marines from Helicopter Light Attack Squadron (HMLA) 773, 4th Marine Air Wing, Marine Corps Force Reserve in support of Air Task Force – Marine Corps Special Purpose UnitAS LXIII, conduct aerial operations in Rio de Janeiro, during exercise UNITAS LXIII, on September 12, 2022. (Photo: US Marine Corporal Jonathan Gonzalez)

From September 8 to 22, Brazil hosted the 63rd edition of Operation UNITAS, which brought together twenty countries. The naval exercise is advertised annually by the United States Southern Command in various countries of the Americas in a rotational system and is considered the oldest in succession in the world since 1959. The operation aims to strengthen the bonds of friendly cooperation between participating navies, enhancing the ability of navies to achieve common objectives, conduct joint maritime operations and develop greater interoperability between actors.

The naval exercises were conducted between the southern coasts of Rio de Janeiro and Espiritu Santo, in the southeastern region. In addition to Brazil, Belize, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, South Korea, Ecuador, Spain, USA, France, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic and Uruguay participated in this edition. In total, UNITAS assembled 5,500 military personnel, 12 Brazilian and 8 foreign ships, as well as 21 aircraft and helicopters. For the first time, African ships crossed the Atlantic to take part in the exercises.

Among the advanced equipment used by the US Navy were the Bell AH-1Z Viper and Bell UH-1Y Venom helicopters, both aboard the destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), as well as the Boeing P-8 Poseidon. The US fleet also included the amphibious transport ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) and the Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine USS Albany (SSN 753).

“At this time, this nation is witnessing the coming together of different navies and coast guards from different regions of the world. Today, more than ever, we can experience this comforting sense of camaraderie and togetherness, which makes me have even more faith in the potential of our navies as instruments to promote cooperation among nations, in the interest of peace, security and prosperity for everyone,” said Admiral Almir Garnier Santos, commander of the Brazilian Navy.

UNITAS assembled 5,500 military personnel, 12 Brazilian and 8 foreign ships, in addition to 21 aircraft and helicopters. (Photo: Brazilian Navy)

UNITAS consists of two phases, port and sea. The first took place shortly after the arrival of the multinational force in Brazil and included cultural exchange activities, sporting events and community projects in liaison with the civilian public. The second phase, which began on September 10, was divided into three other phases: training in naval operations, maritime security and search and rescue. The first was preparation, in the framework of which exercises were carried out in surface, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft operations, radio-electronic warfare and naval blockade operations; in the second there were exercises specifically related to maritime security; and in the final phase, an amphibious assault civilian rescue exercise was conducted on Itaoka Beach, Espirito Santo.

“Today [16 de septiembre] more than 1,000 soldiers from the Brazilian navy and from 11 other countries disembarked. Previously, the special operations teams members of the Multinational Combined Special Operations Force commanded by the Maritime Special Operations Command [CoNavOpEsp]They remained at strategic points. These forces had 158 special operators, including Marines and combat divers from Brazil, Ecuador, the United States, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, who conducted support operations aimed at allowing the landing of the assault force,” said a Brazilian Marine Division general . Claudio Eduardo Silva Diaz, Naval Special Operations Commander.

“Since 2008, UNITAS has been marked by an amphibious phase. This inclusion shows the importance the Brazilian Navy attaches to preparing its forces to carry out humanitarian and disaster relief operations. One of the important contributions of this type of training is the experience we had in humanitarian aid to Haiti,” explained UNITAS commander Rear Admiral Marcelo Menezes Cardoso, commander of the 1st Marine Division.

For United States Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, the two-week intensive exercise involves complex operations in the high seas, testing the capacity for joint international action, which requires coordination in all areas.

“Success in this type of mission requires constant communication, multilateral cooperation and, most importantly, trust; confidence in the capabilities and resolve of our navies and our nations,” the secretary concluded.

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