MANTA, Ecuador –
The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) and the Ecuadorian Coast Guard conducted a bilateral maritime interdiction exercise off the coast of Manta, Ecuador, March 21, 2022.
During the exercise, forces worked together to find, track and intercept a simulated drug smuggling vessel, to ultimately gain positive control of the craft.
Milwaukee deployed her 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) as the simulated drug smuggling go-fast vessel (GFV) and her MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter attached to the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 5 to track the simulated GFV and pass the location to Ecuadorian Coast Guard vessels, LAE Rio Jubones (LG-120) and LAE Rio Tangare (LG-128). Jubones and Tangare then intercepted the GFV and practiced the follow on boarding and reporting steps.
The training helped to improve interoperability and demonstrate the strategic partnership with Ecuador that helps facilitate conducting naval operations against emerging threats in the region.
“Every chance we have to work with partner nations not only strengthens interoperability, but also brings two navies closer together,” said Cmdr. Brian Forster, commanding officer of Milwaukee. “The crew really enjoys these engagements, and it shows the capacities other countries bring to the counter-illicit trafficking mission.”
Prior to the exercise, Milwaukee arrived in Manta for a three-day port visit. The ship conducted mil-to-mil engagements and ship tours for the Mayor of Manta, Agustín Quijano; commander of the Jaramijó Naval Base, Capt. Diego Espinosa; and members of the Ecuadorian navy.
Bilateral engagements allow both navies to strengthen tactical readiness for future operations, maintain readiness at sea, and support continued commitment to security and stability in the region.
Milwaukee is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
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.