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News | July 11, 2023

UNITAS LXIV to begin in Colombia


U.S. Navy and Marine forces are set to arrive in Cartagena in support of UNITAS LXIV, the world’s longest-running multinational maritime exercise in the world, scheduled to start July 11, 2023.

The Colombian navy will host 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 training operations off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia, and ashore in Covenas and Barranquilla, Colombia, through July 21. This year marks the 64th iteration of the exercise. Additionally, this year Colombia will celebrate the bicentennial of its navy, a historical milestone commemorating 200 years of the country’s maritime forces.

“UNITAS is so much more than a two week exercise. All participating nations have given much time, energy and effort into the months of planning leading up to what will be one of the most complex UNITAS to date,” said Rear Admiral Jim Aiken, commander U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet. “Utilizing air, surface, sub-surface, and unmanned assets, and land units, UNITAS will provide the multinational force a challenging environment in which to conduct training across the full spectrum of maritime operations. UNITAS strengthens maritime partnerships, enhances proficiency and improves interoperability of the participating forces, which is why so many partner nations are taking part this year.”

As part of the U.S. Navy’s future hybrid fleet, the Chief of Naval Operations has tasked U.S. 4th Fleet to scale unmanned platforms to the fleet level. An addition to this year’s UNITAS will include the integrated operations of unmanned air, surface, and subsurface systems into the exercise. UNITAS’ challenging training address key aspects of multinational and combined operations such as technology standardization and common operating procedures.

“This is our first opportunity to integrate unmanned systems into our operations at sea,” said Rear Adm. Aiken. “UNITAS has often served as a test bed for technology, so it is appropriate that we begin our unmanned integration campaign to operationalize the hybrid fleet here in UNITAS.”

In addition to the United States, UNITAS LXIV will bring 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 will feature subject matter expert exchanges, professional symposia, ship rider exchanges, and operations meetings. During this time, Marines and Sailors will conduct expeditionary training events in Covenas to include riverine operations and diving and salvage operations.

During the UNITAS LXIV Underway Phase, forces will participate 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.

“Marines and Sailors from across the United States will travel to Colombia to not only train alongside our partner nations’ militaries, but to hone the skills required to operate as part of a larger maritime force focused on sea control and sea denial,” said Lt. Gen. David G. Bellon, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South, and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Reserve. “We will be exercising command and control from a forward position as Marines set up and employ Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations to enhance naval capabilities as part of UNITAS.”

U.S. forces participating in UNITAS LXIV include USS New York (LPD 21), USS Cole (DDG 67), USS Little Rock (LCS 9), USS Pasadena (SSN 752), and USNS Burlington (T-EPF 10). Other U.S. participants include 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, and the Meteorological Environmental Team (MET). U.S. Marine forces include 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). Finally, 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) are participating in UNITAS LXIV.

UNITAS, which is Latin for unity, united, or oneness, was conceived in 1959 during a previous era of strategic competition when representatives at the first Inter-American Naval Conference in Panama agreed to conduct an annual maritime exercise with one another. Prior to UNITAS I in 1960, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Arleigh Burke reviewed preparations for the multinational exercise. He commended planners for their progress, especially in building compatible communication systems among navies, and predicted that UNITAS would build strong relationships among Sailors of the Western Hemisphere.

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.

U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South is the Marine Corps component to U.S. Southern Command, is responsible for planning exercises, operations, and overall Marine Corps support for the SOUTHCOM assigned area of responsibility.
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