The annual UNITAS deployment is a primary means of supporting regional stability in the Western Hemisphere. Five months each year, regular and reserve surface combatants and P-3C aircraft, a submarine and Marines embarked on an amphibious ship, circumnavigate South America. The largest annual field exercise south of the U.S. border, UNITAS has been conducted for nearly half a century. In the early years of UNITAS, a single U.S. Task Group would circumnavigate South America and conduct bilateral exercises as it steamed from country to country. Some called it a "cocktail cruise" because it was highlighted by Navy band concerts and never-ending social events. But today's new UNITAS is not your father's UNITAS - it is about building multinational coalitions and defending the Americas. The social events have not gone entirely away, but the training is more intense, challenging and relevant than ever before.
Held each year since 1959, UNITAS is a multi-lateral Naval operation including traditional at-sea exercises and in port training activities with participating Naval forces in support of the U.S. policy of engagement in the region. It presents an unequaled opportunity to build capabilities and cooperative relations among U.S. and south and central American Naval forces while promoting hemispheric coalition, and two-way cooperation resulting in mutual benefit.
In UNITAS 97 active and reserve surface combatants and P-3C aircraft, Marine forces from II MEF, a submarine, reserve medium lift transport aircraft, and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter join to conduct multinational exercises with Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil, while circumnavigating the continent during a five-month period. This year, France, The Netherlands, Canada, UK, Germany, and Portugal also participated during phases of the nine-nation, 29-city deployment. These exercises often provide the only opportunity for Latin American forces to train with U.S. and other allied forces.
In 1998, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Africa and the Netherlands also participated during certain phases. At each Latin American stop, US naval forces exercise with the host nation's air, sea and land forces. These exercises generally provide the only opportunity each year for many of these Latin American nations to operate with US and other foreign forces.
Rear Admiral Kevin Green, Commander United States Naval Forces Southern Command headquartered at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico [the Naval Component Commander to U.S. Southern Command], assumed command of the UNITAS exercise in Summer of 2000 and effectively shifted the mission and purpose of the exercise to concentrate on realistic multinational training operations based on real world scenarios. In addition to changing the face of UNITAS, Green also shifted the focus of the exercises from separate, bilateral exercises with individual nations into to the current series of three multinational phases. Each phase ranges from two to four weeks in length. The Caribbean Phase is typically conducted in early Spring followed by the Pacific Phase in June and the Atlantic Phase in November. A bi-lateral Amphibious Phase is also conducted for several months each summer with Naval and Marine Corps forces throughout Central and South America.
Fifteen warships from the United States, Brazil, Uruguay, France and Spain arrived in Uruguay on Nov. 15, 2001 after successfully completing a series of complex training operations in the South Atlantic Ocean. The ships took part in the Atlantic Phase of the annual UNITAS exercise, which began on Nov. 2, 2001 when the task group of warships met in international waters off the coast of Uruguay to engage in naval warfare exercises on the high seas.
Hosted by the Uruguayan Navy, the Atlantic Phase of UNITAS 2001 focused on high-tech surface, air and under-sea naval training exercises designed to train the force in multinational coalition operations, improve force interoperability and demonstrate hemispheric defense. The exercises were based on realistic world scenarios requiring the participating ships to operate as a combined multi-national task force.
U.S. Navy units participating in the Atlantic phase included the U.S. Flagship USS Monterey (CG-61) homeported in Norfolk, Va., with embarked Mayport, Florida-based Commander, Destroyer Squadron Fourteen (CDS-14) and a SH-60B Seahawk helicopter detachment from Helicopter Squadron Light Forty-Two (HSL-42) as well as Mayport, Florida-based Guided Missile Frigate USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) with embarked HSL-42 Seahawk helicopter detachment. Additional U.S. Navy aircraft providing air support for the Atlantic Phase included PC-3 Orion patrol aircraft of Patrol Squadron Sixty-Six (VP-66) from Warminster, Pennsylvania and Patrol Squadron Sixty-Nine (VP-69) from Whidbey Island, Washington.
Commander Destroyer Squadron Fourteen, Captain Bernard Jackson, remarked, "the complexity of exercises conducted during UNITAS 42-01 provided an excellent opportunity for navies from different countries to participate in state-of-the-art training evolutions. The experience gained during UNITAS is important in building lasting partnerships and naval coalitions".
Rear Adm. Kevin P. Green, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command embarked in USS Monterey and USS Robert G. Bradley during the final week of the Atlantic Phase of UNITAS. Adm. Green, headquartered at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, is the overall Task Force Commander and also serves as U.S. Naval Component Commander for Southern Command in Miami, Fla. After arriving onboard the Aegis Cruiser Monterey, Adm. Green observed the multi-national UNITAS task force ships crisply maneuvered to conduct a re-fueling at sea exercise while being stalked by the ultra-quiet Brazilian Navy submarine, BNS TAPAJO (S-33).
The following day, Rear Adm. Green embarked USS Robert G. Bradley to participate in a naval parade. Lead by two Uruguayan destroyers, a procession of 14 ships traveled closely along the coastline of Uruguay's capital city of Montevideo in celebration of the national Navy Day holiday. Thousands of spectators flooded city beaches and water front cafes to watch the awesome show of international naval power.
The Atlantic Phase of UNITAS is the fourth and final phase of the overall UNITAS 2001 exercise. The Caribbean Phase, hosted by Colombia, was conducted in April 2001 and included warships from the U.S., Colombia, Chile and France. The Pacific Phase in July 2001 was also hosted by the Colombian Navy and included naval units from Peru, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and the United States. A series of independent, bilateral amphibious exercises were conducted in September 2001 with Naval and Marine Corps forces from Colombia, Peru, Chile and Brazil. The final Atlantic Phase was completed on Nov. 15, 2001 in Montevideo, Uruguay, this year's host.
Approximately 2,900 Sailors and Coast Guardsman from seven navies participate in Caribbean phase beginning on Feb., 22 and concluding on Mar. 8, 2002 when the task force arrived at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. The UNITAS 43-02 Caribbean phase U.S. Task group includes this year's flagship, the aegis guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48), homeported in Pascagoula, Miss., along with Commander, Destroyer Squadron Six (CDS 6), Commodore Bill Marlowe, and his embarked staff in addition, the Mayport, Fla., based Guided Missile Frigate USS Doyle (FFG39), The Los Angeles Class Attack Submarine USS Providence (SSN 719) based in Groton, Conn., the Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Thetis (WMEC 910) homeported in Key West, Fla., and the auxiliary ship USNS Previal (TAGOS-8) homeported in Little Creek, Va., will participate in the Caribbean Phase of UNITAS 43-02. U.S. Navy PC-3 Orion Patrol Aircraft from Patrol Squadon eleven (VP-11) along with SH-60 Seahawk helicopters from Mayport, Fla., a Based Helicopter Squadron Light Forty-Two (HSL 42) embarked in USS Yorktown and Helicopter Squadron Light Forty-Six (HSL 46) embarked in USS Doyle will provide air support to the UNITAS Task Group as well as remote controlled BMQ-64 aerial targets from Drone Detachment.
UNITAS began off the coast of Colombia on 24 March 2002, conducting traditional at-sea operations and live-fire gunnery and missile drills using remote controlled aerial target drones and unmanned floating targets. As part of the ongoing training schedule, task group ships conducted coordinated tactical formation operations on the high seas allowing the surface combatants to execute advanced ship handling drills in a confined space.
The 2002 Caribbean Phase of UNITAS introduced first-time participation of naval units from Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The Mexican Navy sent the Knox-class frigate Abasolo (F-212) and The Dominican Republic sent the buoy tender Almirante Diez. In addition, the Venezuelan replenishment ship Ciudad Bolivar (T-81) made a world premier during the Caribbean Phase.
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