Residents who didn't get their fill of military might when the USS Spruance sailed into town last year can gear up for one the largest displays of firepower in Key West history this fall.
Naval Air Station Key West will host a multinational maritime exercise that will draw as many as a dozen frigates, destroyers and amphibious assault ships from the U.S. Navy and other allied nations as part of UNITAS Atlantic 2012, scheduled for Sept. 17-19.
A slew of naval ships -- the most ever to port in Key West in the modern age that the Navy can remember -- will be docked at the Outer Mole Pier and Truman Waterfront, according to 4th Fleet spokesman Corey Barker.
The public will be invited to tour one or more of the vessels; the Navy is still hammering out details about which ships will be docked here, which ships will be open for tours, and on what days, Naval Air Station Key West spokeswoman Trice Denny said.
Keys nonprofits also will benefit from the Navy muscle that will be here in the form of hundreds of sailors willing and ready to assist charities that could use a helping hand, Denny said. To inquire about Navy volunteers, call 305-293-2027.
UNITAS, Latin for unity, is the largest and oldest multination naval exercise and has been taking place for half a century. During the annual event held in different locales, participating nations learn about each other's capabilities in anti-terrorism, counter-narcotics and security, according to globalsecurity.org.
It also includes live fire exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster response training, Denny said. After the opening phase, the rest of the exercises will be conducted in the Caribbean Sea.
Key West was chosen because its central location in the Caribbean Sea is ideal, Barker said.
"We're all looking forward for that world famous Key West hospitality," he said.
Capt. Patrick Lefere, who commands Naval Air Station Key West, said it is an honor to be the host.
"Accommodating the participating UNITAS ships will be a true testament to the capabilities of Naval Air Station Key West, as we can readily support port operations as well as tactical air combat training," Lefere said in a prepared statement. "Hosting exercises like UNITAS is just another example of how we fulfill our mission, which is to support the operational and readiness requirements for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, National Guard units, federal agencies and allied forces."