PANAMAX 2018 was an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored multinational exercise series that focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal.  Personnel from 20 nations, including the United States, participated in simulated training scenarios from various U.S. locations.

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PANAMAX 2018 is a U.S.-sponsored, multinational annual exercise that provides important training opportunities for nations to work together and build upon the capability to plan and conduct complex multinational operations. The exercise scenario involves security and stability operations to ensure free flow of commerce through the Panama Canal. This year’s exercise will take place July 30 through August 10.

Simulated training for PANAMAX 2018 will be held at locations throughout the United States, including Joint Staff J7 South Complex, Suffolk, Va.; U.S. Southern Command, Doral, Fla.; Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas; Homestead Air Reserve Base, Homestead, Fla.; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Ariz.; and Naval Station Mayport, Fla.

The goal of Panamax is to provide participating forces an opportunity to conduct security and stability operations, practice interoperability, and strengthen their ability to plan and execute complex multinational operations.

Panamax develops and sustains relationships that allow partner-nation security forces in the region to achieve common goals, increase cooperation, and improve understanding.

Importance of Exercise

The Panama Canal is critical to the free flow of trade in the region and the entire world. The region's economy and political stability largely depend on the safe transport of several hundred million tons of cargo through the canal each year, and PANAMAX 2018 is designed to ensure plans are in place to respond to requests from the Government of Panama. PANAMAX has evolved over many years and now includes training for the constantly evolving nature of new threats in today’s security environment.

Participating Nations

Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This year, representatives from Poland, Spain, and Thailand will also join the exercise as observers.

Multinational Leadership Roles

Partner nations continue taking an increased leadership role in PANAMAX. This year, Peru will serve as deputy of the exercise’s multinational force, Colombia will lead the ground component, Brazil will lead the maritime and air components, and Argentina will lead the Special Operations Forces component. This is the third year that partner nations are leading functional components in this exercise.

U.S. Military Participants

Participating in this year’s PANAMAX from the United States are staff elements from SOUTHCOM, U.S. Army South, U.S. Marine Forces South, Special Operations Command South, and Naval Forces South/U.S. 4th Fleet.

Overall, about 2,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel participating as well as around 450 partner nation participants.


PANAMAX began in 2003 with three countries: Panama, Chile and the United States. Multinational exercise participation has greatly expanded every year since.