African nations take part in Exercise Unitas in Brazil

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Cameroon and Namibia were the two African representatives in this year’s Unitas 2022 multinational naval exercise in Brazil.

Between 10 and 22 September they joined the naval and maritime forces of Brazil, the United States, Belize, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and Uruguay in the 63rd edition of Unitas.

The exercise included some 20 warships/vessels, a submarine and 21 aircraft, and was held mainly off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, with approximately 5 500 military personnel.

Unitas, which is Latin for “unity,” has taken place annually since 1960. Unitas annually trains forces to conduct joint maritime operations through the execution of anti-surface, anti-submarine, anti-air, amphibious and electronic warfare operations that enhance warfighting proficiency and increase interoperability.

“Brazil rescues hundreds of people in difficult conditions at sea and in our rivers every year, so we are having search and rescue training as well,” said the commander of the Brazilian Navy, Admiral Almir Garnier Santos.

“The exercises focus on all the traditional manoeuvres we perform at sea — be it the approach of ships for cargo transfer, submarine operations, air operations, air combat manoeuvres,” said Brazilian squadron commander, Admiral Arthur Bettega.

“It is exciting to see 19 nations from across Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa participating in Unitas,” said Rear Admiral Jim Aiken, Commander, US Naval Forces Southern Command/US 4th Fleet. “This exercise is a demonstration of not only our commitment to the region, but also the strong relationships forged between our nations. The Western Hemisphere is our shared home and exercises like UNITAS reinforce our permanent geographical and cultural ties, connecting us to our shared history and our shared future.”

While the overarching goal was to develop and test command and control of forces at-sea, training in this exercise addressed the spectrum of maritime operations. Specifically, there were scenarios addressing electronic warfare, anti-air warfare and air defence, anti-surface warfare, live fire, maritime interdiction, littoral operations and amphibious operations.

The at-sea phase included a multi-threat, multi-day scenario that allowed participants to work together, further increasing preparedness for real-world crises that would require a multinational force response effort, the US Marine Corps said. Events included: surface tactical manoeuvres, illegal drug trafficking training, live-fire exercises, anti-submarine warfare exercises, air defence exercises and maritime interdiction operations.

The amphibious phase included US Marines with partner nations taking positions at areas along the coast to train in support of greater naval operations. This phase also consisted of landing from naval vessels.

African participation saw the Namibian Navy’s NS Elephant depart Walvis bay on 24 August to take part in Unitas. The vessel and its 120 crew travelled 6 000 km over ten days to reach its destination. Cameroon, meanwhile, contributed the patrol boats CNS Le Ntem and CNS La Sanaga.

Namibia and Brazil enjoy close defence ties, with more than 600 Namibian naval personnel having been trained in Brazil over the years.

Janes reported that Unitas 2022 marked the third time the Brazilian and African navies have trained together this year.