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Pearl Harbor Sub Participates in Undersea Warfare Exercise with ESG

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Corwin Colbert

The nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Pasadena (SSN-752) participated in an Undersea Warfare Exercise (USWEX) with the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 near Hawaii Feb. 21-24.

Pasadena Commanding Officer, Cmdr. John Heatherington, said the exercise provided his crew with valuable experience.

“We had the chance to experience realistic submarine combat conditions,” said Heatherington. “We were also able to provide and assess crucial submarine warfare training to the ESG, submarine squadron and crew.”

USWEX is an exercise that assesses the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities of a carrier or expeditionary strike group, including the command and control of air, surface, subsurface and theater assets. The Peleliu ESG’s exercise was planned by the Pearl Harbor-based Commander Antisubmarine Warfare Force Pacific, or CTF 12.

“USWEX is designed to evaluate, at a fleet level, how good we are at ASW,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Knollmueller, CTF 12’s air operations officer.

CTF 12 coordinates with multiple commands to incorporate surface, air and sub-surface assets to provide situational awareness of submarine activity throughout the Pacific.

“For this exercise, CTF 12 did the majority of the planning, such as coordination with many different commands, federal agencies and facilities,” said Knollmueller. “It evaluates the Navy’s ASW capabilities.”

Aboard Pasadena, Heatherington said that the Pearl Harbor-based submarine acted as the opposition force for the exercise, helping the Peleliu ESG prepare for its upcoming operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. He also said USWEX is the closest you get to actual battle without firing live rounds.

“Our part was to simulate a real world submarine threat,” he said. “We gave the ESG the opportunity to conduct ASW operations as a team.”

Knollmueller emphasized that submarines are a serious threat in today’s world and it is a high area of concern in the fleet.

“Threats from opposing submarines are lethal. With more and more countries purchasing submarines, we must stay alert, and that is why the fleet and specifically the ESG did this exercise,” he said.

In a speech last month to the Asia Society in Washington, Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Gary Roughead noted that because there are about 140 diesel submarines operating in the Pacific, ASW is his top warfighting priority, and a capability for that requires constant training.

“We, as a Navy, are good at anti-submarine warfare. We can always get better, and that’s what we’re doing because we have to be able to dominate that growing submarine capability,” Roughead said.

ESG 3 includes Peleliu, USS Reuben James (FFG-57), USS Port Royal (CG-73), USS Gonzales (DDG-66), USS Ogden (LPD-5), USS Germantown (LSD-42), and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The six ships and nearly 6,000 Sailors and Marines departed San Diego Feb. 15 for a six-month deployment.

During pre-deployment training in January, the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Asheville (SSN-758) joined the ESG 3 ships for 13 days off the coast of Southern California. Though Asheville is not actually part of the strike group, the exercise helped to prepare the ESG commander to effectively employ a submarine if needed.