Undersea Warfare The Official Magazine of the U.S. Submarine Force Fall 2003 U.S. Submarines… Because Stealth Matters Cover of Fall 2003 Issue
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“All round look, coming down on point Alfa... raise attack!” From the periscope control panel aft of the conn, the scope operator raises the scope quickly to eye level as the Duty Captain folds out the training handles for a low power search of the horizon, bent low to expose only the head window above the surface. His steady scan belies the multiple threats lurking outside.
“Bearing... that! Down.” The scope sinks to the bottom of the well as the Duty Captain pauses to brief the party. The Nav Plot plots the bearing to navaid Alfa and reports, “Fix on, fix safe, 200 yards left of track, 1.8 kiloyards to go, SOA required – one knot.”
“All right team, we still have the frigate and the patrol craft visual but not on our track, and no sign of the helo. We’re in a safe position navigationally, just outside the 50-meter contour, the warship isn’t active, so there’s no risk of sonar counter-detection, we’ve got one hour left in our window, and the mission is a ‘go.’ We’ll proceed in deep and return to PD in the take position. Helm – 10 down, keep 30 meters; propulsion – dead slow ahead.”
The helm and propulsion operators carry on with their orders as the rest of the team organizes for the return to periscope depth and taking photos.
Daring To Go Dutch Nuclear Officer Masters Diesel Submarine in Dutch Perisher Course by LCDR Todd Cloutier, USN
 
   
   
   
   
   
The Dutch Frigate HNLMS Witte de With
is spotted at 1,200 yards and charging. This photo was taken as the sub was going deep.
 
   
   
 

Like a dream, this scene is familiar enough, but there are just enough differences to make one realize that “I’m not in Kansas anymore.” This is a vignette from onboard the Dutch submarine Bruinvis during the Netherlands Submarine Command Course (NLSMCC), also known as PERISHER. Not to be confused with the SSN PERISHER course still run by the British Royal Navy (RN), NLSMCC maintains the original RN PERISHER curriculum using diesel submarines and shore facilities of the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN). It is run once yearly from the RNLN base at Den Helder, at the northernmost tip of Holland.

I was the second U.S. student to be sent to the NLSMCC, and I was more than a little apprehensive about it from the start. As a fellow participant recently noted, “This’ll be the first school I go to that I had read about even before I joined the Navy.” There’s a legendary reputation to overcome from the outset, as PERISHER is touted as perhaps some of the toughest training a submariner can get.

CAPT Mike Connor, the former Atlantic PCO Instructor, arranged for some additional preparation that I think made all of the difference in ensuring my success. The first introduction I would have to diesel submarines would not be in Dutch, but in Australian. In January 2003, I was sent to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) base, HMAS Stirling, near Perth for a three-week PERISHER introduction.

The Australians were generous hosts and went out of their way to make sure I was well prepared. I spent the first week with CDR Ian Salter, RAN, a served CO now on the squadron staff, who took the time to run me through basic periscope drills in “Brit-speak,” talked me through the PERISHER course expectations and inshore operations, and answered all of the questions I could muster. I also spent several hours in the attack center observing a Collins-class crew during their work-up so that I could become familiar with the routine in action.

Pictured here are… Top row: Course “Teacher” CDR Marc Elsensohn, RNLN; Middle row: LCDR Todd Cloutier, USN; LCDR Mark Hammond, RAN; LCDR Jeroen Van Zanten, RNLN;
Front row: LCDR Glen Miles, RAN; LT Brian Ottesen RDN.
Photo caption to the left

For the second and third weeks, I was joined by the two RAN PERISHER students, LCDRs Glen Miles and Mark Hammond, both served-XOs aboard Collins-class boats. We spent a week together practicing periscope safety runs in the trainer, then a week of inshore operations in which I was exposed to chart preparation, navigation, and the expected standards. LCDR Mark Potter, an Aussie graduate of NLSMCC 2002, ran a tight trainer, inserting “surprise” contacts, helos, reduced visibility, set and drift changes, and anything else he could imagine we would face later off the coast of Scotland. It was like drinking from the proverbial fire hose, but those three weeks likely made the biggest contribution to the successful outcome of my PERISHER experience. I had a lot more confidence facing a known challenge, vice a legend, and the bonds of friendship I formed with my fellow students proved particularly rewarding.

Fortunately, the NLSMCC course is run entirely in English except for one word, “Wegduiken!” which translates roughly to “Emergency deep!” Because PERISHER started as an RN course, the Dutch crews are all familiar with British orders and doctrine and have adopted them as their own. Like LCDR Steve Mack, who attended the RN PERISHER course last year, I had some adjusting to do in learning how to phrase my orders to avoid having the helm put the rudder over when I was actually making a target-bearing call, but Steve had warned me about this beforehand. [Ed. Note: See “PERISHER, Submarine Command Training in the Royal Navy,” in the Spring 2003 issue of UNDERSEA WARFARE.]

There is one more Dutch phrase that one must master to earn the respect of the crew – “Een Uit!” – pronounced AIN OUT – which gives permission for everyone to have one quick cigarette before things get busy again. This is critical to maintaining morale on a submarine where smoking is normally allowed nearly everywhere onboard. When the attack team is stationed, the smoking lamp is out in the Control Room unless the Duty Captain can fit in an Een Uit. My Dutch PERISHER course lasted from early March until late June and was run under the watchful eye of “Teacher,” CDR Marc Elsensohn, RNLN, who had served as CO of a Dutch Walrus-class submarine, XO of an RNLN frigate, and in the RN equivalent of our TRE team. Our group consisted of officers from four nations: Holland, Denmark, Australia, and the United States.