In advance of September's UNITAS 2021 exercise, the United States and Peru -- ship from each nation are pictured last November in the exercise's 61st iteration -- conducted a planning conference earlier this week. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
March 19 (UPI) -- Planning for the 62nd UNITAS naval exercises, involving U.S. and South American navies, is underway, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command said on Friday.
The U.S. 4th Fleet and the Peruvian Navy co-hosted a virtual planning conference this week for the event, scheduled to be held in September off Peru's coast, according to the Navy.
UNITAS is the U.S. Navy's longest-running annual multilateral exercise, "building ties with partner nation navies since 1960," the All Partners Access Network information sharing service of the U.S. Defense Department said.
The 2021 exercises will feature a Pacific phase, with participants operating at sea, an amphibious phase involving littoral combat ships, and an Amazon phase at Peru's Iquitos naval base on the Amazon River.
Planners from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Mexico, Panama, Spain, and Uruguay, joined U.S. and Peruvian representatives of their respective Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Special Operations Forces in planning the exercises.
Leadership of the event regularly includes the U.S. Navy, and a rotating South American host country.
"UNITAS remains the longest-running maritime exercise in the world, reinforcing relationships and sharpening warfighting skills," U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, who, with counterpart Rear Adm. Carlos Tupac Yupanqui of the Peruvian Navy, led the planning session, said in a press release.
"The team raises the bar every year, making UNITAS a crucial part of our partner navy's readiness strategies. We are grateful for the commitment and proud of the impact that UNITAS has on our ability to come together and protect our shared interests," Yupanqui said.
Last year's UNITAS exercise took place off the coast of Ecuador.
The two-week event included participation of the USS Gabrielle Giffords, USNS Burlington, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Legare and the U.S. Army landing vessel Chickahominy.