Navies from the United States and 11 other countries on Monday launched two weeks of war exercises off Florida's Atlantic coast that will include training in combating piracy and drug smuggling. Several Latin American countries, Canada and Germany are taking part in UNITAS Gold, which is now in its 50th year and is the Navy's longest-running yearly exercise. Hundreds of white-uniformed officers held a starting ceremony before embarking on ships, submarines and aircraft to begin training that is meant to foster naval cooperation throughout the Americas. Sailors, Marines and other military forces will perform live-fire exercises, undersea warfare, helicopter and amphibious operations, among other training. More than 25 ships, four submarines, 6,500 sailors and 50 aircraft are taking part in the exercise hosted by the US Navy's 4th Fleet, based at Mayport Naval Station just north of Jacksonville. US ships participating in the $7 million exercise are the amphibious transport dock ship, the USS Mesa Verde, the guided missile destroyer the USS Donald Cook; guided missile frigates, USS Doyle and USS Kauffman, and the US Coast Guard ship Thetis.