At-Sea Training 

The U.S. Navy conducts training and testing activities in many areas around the world, including the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Most Navy training and testing activities occur in designated air, land, and ocean areas where Sailors can safely train with aircraft, vessels, and sophisticated systems, such as weapons, sensors, and related equipment.

Military training and testing activities must be as realistic as possible to provide Sailors with the experiences necessary for success and safety. Realistic training and testing ensure Sailors maintain the highest level of readiness and capability. Diverse training ensures personnel are able to react swiftly and decisively to a wide range of potential situations, from combat to civilian evacuations and humanitarian or disaster relief. Read on for some examples of the training exercises that occur in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.​

Helicopter Crews

Helicopters desginate an at-sea surface target with a laser or with optics prior launching a precision guided high-explosive or non-explosive practice munitions missile. If explosive, the missiles detonate at or just below the water’s surface.

Helicopter crews rescue military personnel at sea. Helicopters typically hover 50 feet above the water, after locating personnel to be rescued. Rescue swimmers jump from helicopters at altitudes of 10 to 15 feet, plunging into the water feet first.

Helicopter crews use sonobuoys and dipping sonar to search for, detect, classify (or identify type), localize, and track a threat submarine. The goal of the exercise is to determine a firing solution for launching a torpedo to destroy the submarine. Recoverable air-launched torpedoes may be used against submarine targets.

Surface Ship Crews

Surface ship crews engage surface targets with large-caliber guns designed to provide defense against enemy warships and smaller boats.

The exercise begins with a threat target, such as an unmanned boat, approaching from about 10 nautical miles away. The ship crew tracks the target on radar. When the target comes within a predetermined range, the ship crew fires a warning shot with the large-caliber gun. As the target gets closer, ship crews may engage all weapons to disable the threat. This exercise may involve a single firing ship or multiple ships during a coordinated exercise. 

Ship crews choose the best available designated anchoring site and drop an anchor. The crew then uses all means available to plot the anchor's exact position in relation to the planned anchorage location. The goal of the exercise is to drop the anchor within 100 yards of center of the planned anchorage.

Surface ship crews search for, detect, and track threat submarines to determine a firing position to launch a torpedo and attack the submarine. Passive or active sonar is employed depending on the type of threat submarine, the tactical situation, and environmental conditions.


Aircraft, ship, and submarine crews deliver ordnance on a seaborne target, usually a deactivated ship, which is deliberately sunk using multiple weapon systems. A sinking exercise is typically conducted by aircraft, surface ships, and submarines in order to take advantage of the ability to fire live ordnance on a full size ship target. This exercise ends when the ship sinks, which typically takes four to eight hours. 


Submarine crews search for, detect, and track a threat submarine to develop a firing position and launch an explosive or non-explosive practice munitions torpedo. A single submerged submarine operates at slow speeds and various depths while using its hull-mounted or towed array sonar to track a threat submarine. Passive sonar is used almost exclusively.