Caribbean Maritime Security

Six countries have participated in a live-fire exercise in the Caribbean Sea during an annual multinational exercise that involves naval forces from 13 partner nations.

Multinational Live-fire Exercise in Caribbean Tests Skills in Air, Water

Six countries participated in a helicopter live-fire exercise in the Caribbean Sea, Sept. 25, during UNITAS, an annual multinational exercise that involves naval forces from 13 partner nations to promote interoperability and cooperation with each other and is hosted by U.S. 4th Fleet.

Participants included aviators and sailors from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, United Kingdom and the United States.

“We engaged a remote control high speed mobile target with six different helicopters, one at a time, each deployed from one of six different ships,” said Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Conniff, officer in charge of Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) 74, Detachment (DET) 1 “Honey Badgers” attached to USS Gravely (DDG 107).

Six ships maintained a column formation and deployed their aircraft one at a time to a marshaling point where the helicopters “stacked”vertically and hovered while waiting for their turn to engage the waterborne remote-control target.

The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate ship and helicopter capability in tracking and engaging a remote moving target during a live-fire exercise.

“We were at the top of the holding pattern waiting for everyone to execute their attack runs. When it was our turn, the target was dead in the water,” said Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class Steven Coutu. “Our mission was to locate the target and deploy as many rounds as possible to sink it.”

The aircraft searched for the target at 500 feet. Once the target was located, Lt. Jim Stachura, assistant officer-in-charge of HSM 74, DET 1, circled the helicopter around it and then dropped to 100 feet above the water.

“Once I had the word from the pilots, I started shooting,” Coutu said.

“The exercise went well,” said Stachura, who took part in the planning process. “It was coordinated well based on the number of different nations especially given the language barrier. A lot of things we thought might go wrong didn’t. Everything was flawless.”

Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Michael Blackshear, senior anti-surface anti-submarine tactical air controller (ASTAC) onboard Gravely agreed.

“On rare occasions we do get to work with foreign navies as a team,”Blackshear said. “All the forces worked well together. There were no distractions or mistakes. The objectives were met and no one was injured. Today’s exercise was a successful evolution.”

UNITAS is the longest-running and largest maritime exercise in this hemisphere and is hosted by Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, Commander of U.S. 4th Fleet. The 12-day exercise will entail a variety of operations intended to enhance inter-operability between the partner nations.

Source: U.S. Navy

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