YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Theater anti-submarine warfare (TASW) is like a team sport played on a grand scale, where coordinators and players work diligently to obtain sea control by tracking and deterring enemy submarines.
"It is comparable to a game of chess," said Cmdr. Philip Brock, Commander Task Force 74's (CTF-74) deputy chief of staff (DCOS) for TASW. "There are different assets that you're putting towards a problem set and you have to decipher what the opponent is thinking. You are always trying to stay two steps ahead of him. It often needs to be a series of coordinated maneuvers to position assets accordingly."
Submarine Group 7 has tactical control over many nuclear submarines (SSNs) and submarine tenders, and as CTF-74, is responsible for conducting TASW in the Western Pacific area of operations.
"The misconception with TASW is that it only involves submarine warfare," said Lt. Dan Kuratko, a SH-60B pilot assigned to CTF-74's TASW operations department. "TASW includes all warfare communities."
"Each community has different capabilities and limitations," said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Kelmis, CTF-74's assistant DCOS for TASW. "By having different assets out there, we're able to bring together everybody's strengths in order to accomplish the mission together as a whole."
"I definitely compare TASW to a zone defense," said Kelmis. "You're not always going to have one-on-one coverage out there. You're always shifting between the different assets that are best utilized at that current moment."
"We rely heavily upon naval aviation to support the mission, specifically the maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft (MPRA) community," said Kuratko.
"You may be in a location where a submarine is just not able to go, so a P-3 is just a better asset," said Kelmis. "P-3s can respond quicker than a surface ship or a submarine, but you have the limitation of their on-station time. They can't be up there 24 hours. They need to rotate through. So, while the speed they have to get to an area and start searching is their strength, their on-station time is a limitation."
"Surveillance towed-array sensor system ships are persistent and can be constantly out there," said Kelmis. "They can have a long on-station time to assist in TASW. The same thing goes for cruisers and destroyers (CRUDES), and SSNs."
"Every community has pretty distinct and specific training when it comes to TASW," said Brock. "Every community out here in 7th Fleet has a high level of proficiency in the trade, which makes things good from the start. There aren't a lot of weak players out there and that definitely helps us reach our goals."
A great deal of planning and communication between the communities goes into the TASW process.
"The coordination begins with daily and weekly meetings, and video teleconferences that bring in the key representatives from the different communities," said Brock. "The first step is finding out who is available, how soon they can get to the area and what sensors they can bring. We'll then determine if those sensors are going to be conducive to the water environment and the geographical location. There are also little challenges per asset; the P-3 can only reach so far while the CRUDES may take a couple of days to get there."
Proactive planning is essential in positioning and coordinating efforts for success.
"You have to have a solid understanding of what is available and what they're going to be able to bring to the fight," said Brock.
Different variables come into play that may affect the overall success of TASW.
"You have to factor in the enemy target, weather, and asset limitations," said Brock. "Then you factor in some of the unknowns; things break, ships don't sail, P-3s don't take off on time and you find yourself reacting and trying to recover time lost to again get a couple steps ahead of the enemy."
"I think the most important thing is solid communication lines and feedback, making sure that we all know what the goal is and how we're going to get there, not only to keep everybody safe, but also to efficiently use limited assets," said Brock.
Peacetime TASW provides the Navy with ample opportunity to further develop its capabilities.
"The goals here are maintaining our situational awareness and honing those skills that we would need if we actually had to employ the very end of ASW, which is the engagement piece," said Brock. "We could potentially be fighting a zone defense. We'd need to preserve our assets and take out the enemy forces as quickly as possible to enable carrier and expeditionary task forces and other components of the Navy to succeed."
For more news from Commander Submarine Group 7, visit www.navy.mil/local/csg7/.