The Fleet was restored in 2008 due to Venezuela's geopolitical alliances

Of the U.S. naval forces, the Sixth and Seventh Fleets — based in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, respectively — have traditionally been the most in the news. Usually the Fourth Fleet goes unnoticed. In fact, it barely has any staff, and when you need boats you have to borrow them from other units. However, its restoration in 2008, after being deactivated in 1950, indicates that Washington does not want to neglect security in the Caribbean in the face of moves by Russia and China.

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower arriving in 2010 in Mayport, Florida [US Navy]

▲The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower arriving in 2010 in Mayport, Florida [US Navy]

article / Dania del Carmen [English version]

The Fourth Fleet is part of the U.S. Southern Command . It is located in Mayport, Florida, and its area of operations are the waters that bathe Central and South America. The ships that are based in Mayport do not strictly belong to the base and there are currently none deployed in the waters of the region. The staff The fleet is stationed at approximately 160 people, including military, federal civilians and contractors. They work at the headquarters of the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO). The commander of Southern Command is also commander of the Fourth Fleet, currently Rear Adm. Sean S. Buck.

It was originally established in 1943, during World War II, to protect the United States from German naval actions, both surface attacks and blockade operations and submarine incursions. After the war ended in 1945, the FOURTHFLT remained active until 1950. At that time, his area was handed over to the Second Fleet, which had just been established to support the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). [1]

The Fourth Fleet was reactivated in 2008, during the presidency of George W. Bush, as a reaction to possible threats stemming from anti-American sentiment promoted by then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. During that time, Venezuela received loans from Russia for the purchase of weapons and for the development of the country. development Venezuelan military. In 2008, Venezuela conducted a joint naval exercise with Russia in the Caribbean as a way of supporting Russia's intentions to increase its geopolitical presence, in counterweight to the power of the United States.

The fact that Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador had an ideology similar to Venezuela's reinforced Washington's conviction to reactivate the fleet, as a reminder that the United States maintained its interest in being the sole military power in the Western Hemisphere. Although the U.S. territory could hardly be threatened, preventing any status free access to the Panama Canal has been a permanent task for the Southern Command. In recent years, Russia has sought to expand its military presence in the Americas, through particular relations with Cuba and Nicaragua, while China has increased its military presence . investments in the area of the Panama Canal.

Current Activity

According to the USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT website In your section from "mission statement", the Fourth Fleet "employs maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, improve interoperability, and establish lasting partnerships that foster regional security in the region." area responsibility of USSOUTHCOM." As mentioned, when ships and other equipment are assigned to SOUTHCOM and the Fourth Fleet, they are provided by other U.S. Navy commands with broader geographic responsibilities, based in other parts of the world.

FOURTHFLT has three main lines of action: maritime security operations, security cooperation activities and contingency operations.

—In terms of its maritime security operations, it currently provides maritime forces to Interagency Task Force South (JIATF South) in support of Operation MARTILLO. JIATF South "conducts detection and monitoring (D&M) operations throughout its area joint operation to facilitate the interdiction of illicit trafficking in support of national security and the partner nation." It utilizes the resources of the Fourth Fleet or temporarily employs other assets, such as the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group or individual ships from other fleets such as Norfolk, VA Fleet Forces Command, or the Third Fleet, based in San Diego, California. For its part, Operation MARTILLO is mainly aimed at combating international drug trafficking, improving regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in Central and South America. As part of Operation MARTILLO, in a joint operation with the U.S. Coast Guard, the USS Vandegrift stopped a suspicious vessel off the coast of Central America in 2014. The staff security found nearly 2,000 pounds of cocaine. Most recently, in January 2015, the USS Gary and the U.S. Coast Guard seized more than 1.6 tons of cocaine from a fast vessel. However, the Fourth Fleet's absence of dedicated assets demonstrates that its counternarcotics missions are a lower priority for the U.S. Navy, though they are significantly less demanding, operationally.

As far as security cooperation activities are concerned, the two main events of participation with other nations are the UNITAS and PANAMAX exercises. UNITAS was conceived in 1959 and first realized in 1960. It is an annual exercise whose purpose is to demonstrate the United States' commitment to the region and to maintaining strong relationships with its partners. PANAMAX dates back to 2003 and has become one of the largest multinational training exercises in the world. It is primarily focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, one of the most strategic and economically important infrastructure in the world.

"Finally, the Fleet is always ready to carry out contingency operations: basically attendance humanitarian and financial aid in the event of a disaster. The U.S. Navy's hospital ship regularly travels throughout the area of the Caribbean and Central America to provide humanitarian support. In the framework As part of the Continuing Promise 2015 program, the Comfort visited a total of 11 countries, from Guatemala to Dominica, performing procedures such as general surgery, ophthalmic surgery, veterinary services and training in public health. The vessel previously participated in the 2007, 2009 and 2011 programs.

Objectives met at reasonable cost

As an integrated part of U.S. Southern Command, the Fourth Fleet has been involved in major humanitarian operations, such as the response to the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. FOURTHFLT had naval command in Operation Unified Response, which was the largest contingency response in the world. attendance humanitarian and financial aid in disasters.

The budget for these missions, it does not depend only on the Navy, as stated by a spokesperson for the Southern Command, but there is also a contribution of resources from "other U.S. entities, such as the Coast Guard and the Customs and Border Protection agency, which also provide platforms and forces, both maritime and air, which are core topic for the support of those missions. So, we're looking for a good counterweight of expense-reward."

In addition to carrying out effective humanitarian actions, at a limited economic cost, the Fourth Fleet also fulfils the purpose that the United States has a significant military presence in the Western Hemisphere in the eyes of Latin American and Caribbean states, and also of superpowers such as Russia and China.


1. The Second Fleet was deactivated in 2011 and re-established in 2018.

2. REICH, Simon and DOMBROWSKI, Peter. The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Operations In the 21st Century. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY, 2017. p. 144

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