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US forces participate in UNITAS exercise with Ecuadorian navy, other regional allies

The U.S. Navy has teamed up with regional allies to conduct the annual and multinational exercise UNITAS LXI in the Pacific Ocean.

The exercise — hosted by Ecuador’s Navy near Mantra, Ecuador — involves allies Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Peru, Uruguay and a total of 13 warships.

The exercise aims to develop the forces' ability to carry out joint operations such as littoral warfare, maritime interdiction operations, countering transnational organized crime, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare, among other things, the Navy said.

“We embrace this opportunity to come together, united as one fighting force — a team ready to defend our strategic and shared interests,” commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson said during the exercise’s opening ceremony, according to a Navy news release.

The exercise involves the United States' littoral combat ship Gabrielle Giffords, expeditionary fast transport ship Burlington, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 Detachment 9, Patrol Squadron 9, Patrol Squadron 26, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Legare and U.S. Army vessel Chickahominy.

U.S. Air Force aircraft and staff members from Destroyer Squadron 40, along with personnel from U.S. Marine Corps Forces South and the U.S. 4th Fleet are also participating, the Navy said.

The exercise kicked off on Monday and will conclude on Nov. 11. The exercise has been held annually since 1960.

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