Undersea Warfare The Official Publication of the Undersea Warfare Community.  Summer 2003 Issue.  U.S. Submarines… Because Stealth Matters Image of magazine cover
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The Sailors of USS O’Bannon (DD-978),
its embarked air detachment from Light Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HSL) 46, and Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 recently took full advantage of the unique training opportunities offered by participation in the Peruvian
Navy’s Silent Forces Exercise (SIFOREX). In an intense three-day anti-submarine warfare (ASW) training program, surface Sailors from France, Peru, and the United States refined their ASW skills against three Peruvian Type-209 diesel submarines.
Photo of The Peruvian submarine BPA Chipana surfaces during SIFOREX, providing an HSL 46 aircrew the opportunity to snap a photo. Chipana was one of three Peruvian Type-209 diesel submarines that participated in the exercise. Peru has six Type-209s on active service, all built in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s and displacing 1,180 tons submerged on a length of 184 feet.
SIFOREX Tests U.S. ASW Capabilities Against Multiple Type-209 Diesel Subs by LTJG Ligia Cohen, USN

These stealthy platforms and the expertise of the Peruvian submariners provided a rare training opportunity for U.S. Navy forces to engage multiple diesel-electric submarines as part of an exercise. ASW training against conventionally-powered submarines is normally conducted in the U.S. Navy with computer simulations at stateside trainers.

“Traditional training methods are quite good, but they can’t compare with an actual submarine and crew acting and reacting to your actions. There’s no substitute for that!” said LTJG Joseph Simpson, an HSL-46 pilot.

SIFOREX put the ships’ and aircrafts’ anti-submarine capabilities to the test from the very moment the force set to sea, when the ships managed to find and evade a submarine lurking at the harbor’s mouth. During the following days, the surface force operated together in a variety of scenarios to counter sub-surface and air threats.

“The most beneficial evolution for me was repositioning for a multi-threat encounter,” said Sonar Technician 3rd Class William Thomas. “Our whole sonar team loosened up and came together in this complex and intense evolution.”

Another interesting event was a “choke-point” transit, in which O’Bannon was escorted by two Peruvian frigates, BAP Carvajal and BAP Villavisencio, while evading an “orange” submarine. “Working alongside surface ships from other countries gave us the opportunity to coordinate precise tracking and prosecution of submarines,” said LTJG William Hubbard, O’Bannon’s ASW Officer. “I feel that these unique training opportunities with South American ships have greatly broadened our tactical prowess as both an ASW platform and a command-and-control platform.”

Diesel submarines are difficult sub-surface targets to track. The experience and skill of the crews of the Peruvian submarines BAP Antofagasta, BAP Chipana, and BAP Arica added to the difficulty of the exercise.

“Most of the training we receive routinely incorporates the target tactics used by our [U.S. Navy] submarine captains,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Anthony Arini aboard O’Bannon. “The tactics that the Peruvians use are very different from ours, so it’s a real challenge to operate against them in this environment.”

"Getting this type of training with diesel submarines is crucial for our naval forces. Diesel submarines can be purchased by almost any nation, and some potential adversaries already have them."

In addition to including more than 60 hours of ASW training, this year’s SIFOREX schedule of events was expanded to include gunnery exercises, anti-air warfare, and combat maneuvering. “Including other warfare areas in the SIFOREX schedule increases interoperability among participant navies,” said CDR Oscar Luna, Peruvian liaison officer at U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO), headquartered at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

During the Naval Surface Fire-Support (NSFS) exercise, Marines from the Second Marine Expeditionary Force teamed up with the O’Bannon crew to demonstrate how the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps collaborate to carry out more effective and accurate firing tasks. Immediately after the ship took station in its firing position, Marine spotters began to call firing missions, which were accurately executed by O’Bannon’s gunnery team. “NSFS is the ultimate teamwork effort,” said Operations Specialist Chief Petty Officer (SW) Fred Warren, USNAVSO’s exercise coordinator. “The Bridge, Combat, and Fire-Control teams have to work together more than at any other time.”

This is the third time U.S. Naval Forces joined their Peruvian counterparts in planning and executing this multi-threat ASW exercise. Planners from USNAVSO and the Peruvian and French navies developed the exercise with the objective of providing realistic training while simultaneously increasing the readiness of all the participating forces.

“Getting this type of training with diesel submarines is crucial for our naval forces,” said CAPT Basil Read, USNAVSO Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations. “Diesel submarines can be purchased by almost any nation, and some potential adversaries already have them.”

SIFOREX provided Navy participants an unusual opportunity to operate in the southern Pacific with both coalition and NATO forces. Multinational naval exercises like SIFOREX increase interoperability, broaden “area awareness,” and promote cooperation among the U.S. Navy and its allies.

LTJG Cohen is assigned to COMUSNAVSO Public Affairs.

Photo caption follows Sonar technicians onboard USS O’Bannon spent many hours listening for and tracking Peruvian diesel submarines during the complex scenarios of SIFOREX, a multinational ASW exercise conducted off the coast of Peru. Diesel submarines on battery are considered to be one of the hardest sub-surface targets to track.