ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Chief of naval operations (CNO) and first sea lord and royal navy chief of naval staff went underway together Jan. 26-27, to watch their respective navies' newest fast-attack submarines try to out-flank, out-maneuver and out-wit each other during the Fellowship 2012 exercise.
CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert and Adm. Sir Mark Stanhope hit the deckplates on board the first-in-class HMS Astute (SSN-20) followed by the Virginia-class USS New Mexico (SSN-779) to tour the spaces and meet with each boat's officers and crew.
As submariners themselves, both top naval officers took a keen interest in meeting fellow submariners and seeing how the silent service has evolved. They saw the technological advances of today's submarine fleet compared to the boats under their command years ago.
This historic first undersea meeting of the leaders of the world's most powerful navies provided a unique opportunity for Greenert and Stanhope to see the future of undersea superiority in real time.
"The Fellowship exercise is our opportunity to take some of our best warships, the Astute-class and our Virginia-class submarines, and in an open setting and in a free-play exercise; test them out, test our tactics, our techniques and our procedures," said Greenert.
Several cat-and-mouse war game scenarios were played out during the exercise allowing New Mexico and Astute submariner's skills to come to fruition as both crews swapped from hunter to hunted enabling them to test the full capabilities of their boat.
Greenert said that he could think of no greater adversary to spar with to truly test each platform.
"With the Royal Navy getting together with the U.S. Navy you have the best out there operating together with cutting edge technology and cutting edge tactics, and that's important for each of us to see what we have and see what we're made of, and I would never miss this opportunity, not while I'm CNO," Greenert said.
Stanhope concurred with Greenert and pointed out that each nation's naval service chief deemed the exercise important enough for them to physically be in attendance, emphasizing the support each had for their submarine programs and in each other as allies.
"I think what's important here is to recognize the importance of what we're achieving," Stanhope said. "Here we are on the AUTEC (Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center) range with the best that the United Kingdom can deliver to the future in submarining terms and the best that the U.S. can deliver to the future in submarining terms, both recognizing we need to continue to advance to keep up with the challenges the future will undoubtedly bring to us. By doing so we undoubtedly demonstrate the huge and deeply significant links that we have."
Stanhope said the strategic partnership between the U.S. and the United Kingdom is more than a simple alliance. He said the sharing of training resources and responsibilities in the form of each nation's newest fleet submarines shows a deep sense of confidence and trust.
Astute's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Sir Iain Breckenridge, said that he was honored to host both service chiefs during the Fellowship exercise and equally proud to showcase the performance of his boat and crew.
Breckenridge continued that the principle reason for running the exercise is because Astute is a brand new class of boat and she still needs to be operationally tested and proven.
"The HMS Astute is still very much in trials," Breckenridge said. "To have the chance to go up against what is a very capable and very proven submarine, the Virginia-class, USS New Mexico has been really good fun.
"The great thing about the fellowship exercise is the CNO and my First Sea Lord are going to the New Mexico to pretty much watch the same sort of runs in close proximity action that they saw my team operate here," Breckenridge said. "That's one of the key things about Fellowship is that the heads of service get a view of what they've seen in one boat, they then go see in the next boat and can make a direct comparison."
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