SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The Swedish attack submarine HMS Gotland arrived at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., June 27 to begin a one-year bilateral training effort with the U.S. Navy's anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces.
Gotland will play a major role in the Navy's ASW training by being an opposing force (OPFOR) during exercises against carrier and expeditionary strike groups, air patrols and other forces.
"We have been waiting for this day," said Lt. Cmdr. Jan Westas, commanding officer of Gotland, which was shipped on a container ship from Sweden while the crew traveled separately. "We have all missed Gotland. Everyone is motivated, ready and eager to go to sea and get back to work."
Gotland was selected to be the OPFOR because of its unique propulsion system. Gotland is the first submarine in the world to operate with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system.
"The Stirling AIP system allows us to stay submerged at sea for weeks without having to come up to recharge our batteries or snorkel for air," said Lt. Cmdr. Rickard Boberg, Gotland's chief engineer. "No other Navy in the world except for Japan uses this system, and they bought it from us. With our low signatures and smaller sonar cross section, it will be a little more challenging for the [other] ships and submarines."
Gotland's trip from Sweden to San Diego took about a month. During that time, the crew prepared for its arrival by making logistical arrangements with local contractors for services the submarine requires.
"The time was also used to prepare the crew for operations in San Diego," said Westas. "We also spent some time getting acquainted with the area, enjoying attractions like Sea World and Disneyland."
Gotland's crew is proud to be participating in the bilateral training.
"We have done most of our training in the Atlantic and Baltic Oceans with various NATO countries," Westas said. "So for us to be here representing Europe is an honor."
Sweden is not a member of NATO. Instead, it is part of the Alliances Partnership for Peace program, which is aimed at improving defense cooperation. Through various programs, exchanges and exercises, including Gotland's year-long training effort here, the Partnership for Peace program will help partner countries like Sweden prepare to operate jointly with NATO forces.
Before beginning the yearlong training here, Gotland's crew has to complete a lot of work to make the boat ready for sea.
"This is the first time Gotland has been in the Pacific, which is very different from the Baltic Ocean," Westas said. Gotland was built for operating in the waters around Scandinavia, which has less salt content. "Now that we are in the Pacific, we will have to re-ballast Gotland for the Pacific."
The 30-person male and female crew is comprised of 19 officers and 11 conscripts.
"This is a small crew, and we are very happy to have been selected to participate in these exercises," Westas said.
With Gotland's arrival, ships, aircraft and their crews in the Pacific will now have more realistic and effective training, Fleet ASW officials said.
"We are ready to get to work and challenge your Navy," said Westas. "We are the underdog. However, we are ready to show whoever we are up against what we can do."
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