Chilean submarine SSSimpson(SS-21) conducts a brief port call in Acapulco, Mexico en route
to participate in a DESI program.Simpsonwas involved in the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR 08,
which completed Sept. 18 near San Diego. During the two-day exercise, Deep Submergence Unit
andSimpsonconducted the first-ever mating between a Chilean submarine and a rescue vehicle.
Established by the United States Fleet Forces Command (USFFC) in 2001 as a U.S. Navy international engagement program, the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) celebrates its seventh year of Fleet exercise support. Over the course of 17 deployments, the program has provided for over 1,700 deployed submarine days in support of Fleet pre-deployment exercises and bilateral tactical development events. Under the DESI Program, the U.S. Navy partners with many South American navies and supports their diesel-electric submarine operations and fleet readiness events in operating areas off the U.S. East and West Coasts. These events provide benefits to both the U.S. Navy and the participating South American navies. For the U.S., the participation of South American diesel-electric submarines in Fleet training and certification events provides the U.S. the opportunity to practice and improve Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) training against current threats. The South American navies benefit in turn by leveraging the skills, capabilities, and experience inherent in the U.S. Submarine Force. All participants benefit from the regular engagement, cooperation, and security in the region.
Commander, Submarine Force (COMSUBFOR) was designated and serves as the Executive Agent for this important Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) program. Our Maritime Strategy identifies fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships with more international partners as a tenant to our strategic vision of globally distributed, mission-tailored maritime forces. Answering the call, active DESI participants have grown to include the navies of Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Brazil with Argentina and Ecuador to possibly participate in the near future. Recent major milestones included the first Chilean submarine, CS Simpson; deployment to San Diego in 2007 in support of U.S. Third Fleet exercises, and the deployment of two Brazilian submarines, BNS Tikuna (2007) and BNS Timbira (2008), as they participated in exercises with U.S. Second Fleet.
UNDERSEA WARFARE sat down with Mr. Richard Current, the Deputy Director for Training, Tactical Weapons, and Tactical Development for COMSUBFOR and Mr. Juan Fernandez, the Tactical Development Director and DESI Program Director for COMSUBFOR to talk about the development of this important Submarine Force Program.
In your view, how does the DESI program enhance training exercises in ways other training exercises cannot?
RICHARD CURRENT (RC): We’re using proficient diesel submarines and we practice with them in CONUS [Continental U.S.]. In the past, we only developed that experience by operating forward deployed. So, it’s better training from the perspective of—we can script it, we can reconstruct it, and it’s “in time” because we are doing that training before we deploy, rather than building on in-theater experience.
JUAN FERNANDEZ (JF): In the past seven years of operating with this program, we have definitely had major enhancements in the reality of the training. The helicopter pilots from Mayport, Florida spend a significant amount of training prior to deployment in the important area of anti-submarine warfare utilizing a DESI program SSK. These assets provide targets that are real representations of the current diesel submarine threat environment and showcase the unique training opportunities provided by this program.
Which countries now participate in the DESI program?
JF: Currently Colombia, Peru, and Chile are participating in the program. Each of the countries deploy at least once a year. Most recently, Brazil participated in our exercises in 2007, and is participating in the program again this summer (2008). We are also working with Argentina and expect their first deployment in the United States on the east coast in 2010.
From a broad perspective, could you please outline your views on the need for international strategic cooperation in today’s global environment?
RC: Recently we met with Adm. Stavridis, Commander, United States Southern Command. He expressed the importance of this program in his brief. He also mentioned that the program is a cornerstone of his theater security cooperation with South American countries. I think, from a national perspective, this is one of our greatest benefits after the unmatched value of actual SSK training. The recurring, annual operations with South American countries provide a regular engagement venue that previously did not exist. Consequently, each of the countries participating with South America has expressed their desire for long-term participation. With each deployment there is a series of different planning meetings where lessons learned are used to develop a long term plan. So, from an engagements perspective, this has been very useful and powerful.
From a Navy perspective, it involves continuous discussions and cooperative engagements which have become a key enabler for our leadership to engage at higher levels, where they did not have the opportunity because the program previously did not exist.
JF: The program works on interoperability solutions. In the region, we have a lot of commonality in doctrine. By bringing the submarines up we enhance and reinforce the established doctrine and work on interoperability with our forces. I think this is key for today’s maritime strategy.
Colombian submariners from ARCPijao(S-28) during DESI professional visit
to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga.
What are your goals for the program moving forward?
JF: Recent senior Navy leaders have stated their support fr DESI, and the quote we are excited about is, “DESI is good, more DESI is better.”
We would like to continue expansion of the DESI program. In 2007, the program expanded to support the U.S. Third Fleet Commander’s needs during a training exercise in San Diego, Calif. We are going to do that again in 2008 and would also like to continue working with other countries in the region to expand that kind of support.
RC: Additionally, early on, we recognized what the U.S. gets out of this is excellent training for our Strike Groups to prior to deployment. We are given an incredible target from an ASW perspective. In addition, these strike group commanders are expected to go into forward deployed regions and bring coalition partners into their strike groups. Sometimes these are coalitions with the United Kingdom and Royal Navy. Other times, they’re bringing on board ships and submarines of countries that are not as technologically advanced as our platforms. We attempt to include this unique training element by training the staffs to incorporate missions that their coalition partners can succeed in. The staff is exercised in working through communications problems such as disseminating the operational plans, obtaining information and tasking, and how to relay information from ships and submarines back to the group. Working with platforms to overcome language barriers and potential technological communications gaps is another benefit that I this program can expand on. Both we, and the participating countries, gain a lot from this because they learn how to join our groups and in turn we learn how to work with other nations.
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