MIAMI—Panamax, an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored multinational exercise focused on ensuring the security of the Panama Canal and the surrounding region, kicks off Friday 29 at multiple U.S. military bases and in Santiago, Chile.
This year’s exercise includes significant firsts: each of the land, sea, and air commands will be led by Chile, Peru and Colombia, respectively. In addition, Brazil will serve as the Overall Deputy Commander of the Multinational Force.
Southcom and Marine Corps Forces South personnel based here, as well as personnel at Army Southern Command at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, Naval Forces Southern Command at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida, and Air Forces Southern Command at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, are among the U.S. participants taking part in the exercise.
Nineteen nations will join the United States during the seven-day exercise and will use simulations to command and control multinational notional sea, air, cyber and land forces defending the vital waterway and surrounding areas against threats from violent extremism and to provide for humanitarian relief, as necessary.
“We’ll test our collective ability to defend our region’s most vital strategic asset—the newly expanded Panama Canal,” said Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, U.S. Southern Command commander.
“The most significant aspect about this year’s Panamax is not its size, focus, or longevity. It’s that for the first time ever, all of the multinational component commands will be led by our capable partners of Chile, Colombia, and Peru, with Brazil serving as the Overall Deputy Multinational Force Commander,” Tidd added.
Nations scheduled to participate this year include: Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and the United States.
Panamax has evolved over the years and now includes training for many of the 21st-century threats encountered in today’s land, sea, air and cyber environments. The exercise aims to increase the ability of nations to work together, enable assembled forces to organize as a multination task force and test their responsiveness in combined operations.
The Panama Canal is considered one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world. Six percent of the world’s trade travels through the canal every year, accounting for roughly 400 million tons of goods. It is crucial to the free flow of trade worldwide, officials noted, and the region’s economic stability is largely dependent on the safe transport of several million tons of cargo through the canal each year.
U.S. Southern Command is one of the nation’s six geographically focused unified commands with responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.