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By Rear Adm. Phillip G. Sawyer
Commander Submarine Group 7
Commander Task Force 54/74

It’s a great time to be a Submariner in the Pacific!

In this issue of UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine, we focus on submarine forces in the Asia-Pacific region. As articulated in Undersea Warfighting, the companion document to our Design for Undersea Warfare, “The importance of undersea forces to the national security of the United States and its allies grows with each passing year.” Arguably, this is nowhere more true than in the Asia-Pacific region.

From the early submarines of the Civil War to the Holland-class submarines in the early 20th century; from the diesel boats that carried us through successful undersea engagements in WWI and WWII to the advent of nuclear power with USS Nautilus (SSN 571) in 1954 and throughout nearly 4,000 SSBN strategic deterrent patrols; our submarine industry and the warriors who take our boats to sea have relentlessly pushed the boundaries of design creativity, operational ingenuity, and tactical innovation.

Starting from humble beginnings, our Pacific Submarine Force began operations in direct support of U.S. Pacific Fleet with the arrival of four F-class boats in Hawaii in 1914. These first four boats were soon replaced by four K-class and six R-class submarines, and the U.S. Pacific Submarine Force was formally established three years later. By WWII, we had 51 submarines in the Pacific, 22 of them homeported at Pearl Harbor. Today, 41 of our nation’s submarines operate as members of Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

As Commander, Submarine Group 7, I am honored to lead our forward-deployed undersea forces and to work with our many allies and partner Submarine Forces. Together, we are a tremendously capable undersea force that contributes significantly to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

The articles you will read in this edition of UNDERSEA WARFARE were written by some of my counterparts and close friends – leaders of the submarine forces of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, Republic of Korea Navy, Royal Australian Navy, Republic of Singapore Navy, and Indonesian Navy. You will read about some of the oldest and newest submarine forces in the Asia-Pacific region, about their histories, and about how we work together to build important partnerships in submarine operations.

Driven by a unique bond of mutual respect and concern for the safety of all who operate in the often harsh and challenging undersea environment, we cooperate with submarine forces throughout the region in two vital areas—submarine escape and rescue and managing safe submarine operations in our shared waterspace.

Held annually, the Asia Pacific Submarine Conference (APSC) and exercise Pacific Reach (PACREACH) bring Submariners from every navy in the region together to share technologies, procedures, and lessons learned and to advance our collective capability in the critical mission of submarine escape and rescue.

APSC is attended by representatives from nearly every Submarine Force in the Asia-Pacific region. This year, Commander, Submarine Flotilla 9 of the Republic of Korea Navy hosted submarine warriors from 22 nations, including the United States, Russia, China, Australia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam during APSC in Busan, Korea. APSC focuses on submarine rescue assets and capabilities of partner nations, enabling valuable discussion among submarine partners with a common interest—ready assets, personnel, protocols, and procedures to rapidly respond in the event that fellow Submariners require rescue from their submerged and disabled submarine.

Exercise PACREACH takes all of the great work from APSC and puts it into practice; testing, assessing, and improving on our collective ability to rescue Submariners in distress. Shared equipment and procedural standards, established through the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), are tested to ensure interoperability of various platforms and clear understanding of coordination, communication, and rescue execution processes. Through PACREACH, we positively demonstrate and build confidence in our international response capability for submarine rescue.

Along with submarine escape and rescue, prevention of mutual interference during submerged operations is another area of common interest. Today, well over 200 submarines operated and maintained by more than a dozen countries deploy from ports throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and the number is growing at a remarkable pace every year. The increasing density of submarines in the region makes our operations progressively more challenging and compels us to work together to mitigate the risks posed by operating quiet, often undetectable, submarines in the same body of water. Through mutual understanding of waterspace allocation procedures, we are able to operate safely in our shared undersea environment.

I would like to thank my submarine counterparts who contributed to this issue of UNDERSEA WARFARE. Their articles highlight our shared legacy as Submariners, the importance of our international relationships, and the tremendous value of our close and enduring partnerships. I am deeply committed to strengthening these friendships at every opportunity.

I would also like to thank the many Sailors of our forward-deployed Submarine Force. I am exceptionally proud of your incredible contributions and operations in support of SEVENTH Fleet warfighting readiness, building important relationships and capabilities with our allies and partners, and enhancing peace, stability, and our national security in the Asia-Pacific region.