UNITAS LXIV (64), the world’s longest-running multinational maritime exercise concluded with a closing ceremony in Cartagena, Colombia, July 21, 2023.
“Everybody participating has raised the bar, making this the best UNITAS we have ever been a part of,” said General Laura Richardson, commander U.S. Southern Command. “By working together we can keep the Western Hemisphere free, secure and prosperous. During an exercise like UNITAS we need to work our hardest, because when we work harder during an exercise it makes the real thing a second nature to us.”
UNITAS, which is Latin for “unity,” was conceived in 1959, first executed in 1960 and held every year since. This year marked the 63rd iteration of the world’s longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise.
The Colombian Navy hosts this year's UNITAS, which will feature 26 warships/vessels, three submarines, 25 aircraft (fixed wing/helicopter), and approximately 7,000 people from 20 partner nations. Forces will conduct operations off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia, and ashore in Covenas and Barranquilla, Colombia, through July 21.
In addition to the United States, UNITAS LXIV brings together 19 nations from all over the world to train forces in joint maritime operations that enhance tactical proficiency and increase interoperability. Participating nations include Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.
Following the UNITAS LXIV Opening Ceremony on July 12, the in-port phase of the exercise featured subject matter expert exchanges, professional symposia, ship rider exchanges, and operations meetings. During this time, Marines and Sailors conducted expeditionary training events in Covenas to include riverine operations and diving and salvage operations.
During the Underway Phase, forces participated in events testing all warfare operations, to include live-fire exercises such as a SINKEX and an amphibious ship-to-shore landing and force retraction.
An addition to this year’s UNITAS is the presence of unmanned air, surface, and subsurface systems. As part of the U.S. Navy’s future hybrid fleet, the Chief of Naval Operations had tasked U.S. 4th Fleet to scale unmanned platforms to the fleet level.
U.S. Forces contributing to UNITAS LXIV included USS New York (LPD 21), USS Cole (DDG 67), USS Little Rock (LCS 9), USS Pasadena (SSN 752), and USNS Burlington (T-EPF 10), Patrol Squadron Five (VP 5), Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EOD) 612, Mine Countermeasures Group 3, (MCMGRU 3), Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures EOD Company 61 (EODMU 61), East-coast based Naval Special Warfare units, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 (HSC 22), Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70 Detachment 2 (HSM 70 Det 2), Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE), Fleet Surgical Team (FST) Eight, Meteorological Environmental Team (MET), 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment (3/23), 4th Amphibious Assault Battalion (4th AABn), 8th Combat Logistic Battalion (CLB 8), 4th Combat Engineer Battalion (4th CEB), Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 774 (VMM 774), Marine Light Helicopter Attack Squadron 775 (HMLA 775), Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234 (VMGR-234), Marine Aircraft Control Group – 48 (MACG-48), and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112 (VMFA-112), Commander, Destroyer Squadron 40, (COMDESRON 40), Commander, Amphibious Squadron Four (COMPHIBRON FOUR), U.S Marine Corps Forces South (MARFORSOUTH), Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), USNAVSOUTH/FOURTHFLT, and U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM).
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.