Faced with an expanding set of requirements and a fixed amount of resources in order to maintain a world-wide naval presence, the Chief of Naval Operations recently articulated his vision of a 1000 Ship Navy, leveraging off the contributions and strengths of our allies and coalition partners. This innovative concept serves as an important force multiplier in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).
In support of the CNO’s vision, the Commander, Naval Submarine Forces (COMNA VSUBFOR) has earmarked the potential contribution of 224 submarines from 27 different allied or friendly countries. This additional pool of resources represents both a high and low-end submarine mix, with a variety of capability and propulsion to include diesel-electric, air-independent propulsion (AIP), and nuclear systems.
As Commander, Fleet Forces Command’s (CFFC) Executive Agent, COMNA VSUBFOR has cultivated a special relationship with our allies in South America, representing a field of six diesel electric capable countries with a total potential contribution of 24 submarines to the 1000 Ship Navy. Created five years ago under the rubric of the Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI), there are currently three very active South American participants to include Colombia, Peru and Chile. Eventually, the DESI program could expand to incorporate the participation of Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil.
The concept behind the DESI program is simple enough. With the emerging diesel submarine threat, we rely on our allies to provide the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets the opportunity to train with dieselelectric or AIP equipped submarines. Enlisting the support of our South American allies affords to the fleet the opportunity to train in the location, tracking and prosecution of these high-threat dieselelectric platforms. Honing these skills during pre-deployment training can radically improve Carrier and Expeditionary Strike Group ASW readiness while deployed.
Every good idea has associated costs, but as our Navy continues to refine its Enterprise approach to doing business, it should be noted that the DESI program provides an excellent return on the taxpayer’s investment. In the first five years of the program, the total investment amounts to $7. 76M, but in return has provided over 450 days of ASW training time during nine South American submarine deployments. This amounts to about $17K per day to allow U.S. aviation, surface and sub-surface forces the unbridled opportunity to train on a capable real-world SSK diesel submarine threat. To put this in context, we often pay more than this per day for husbanding services during port visits inside or outside CONUS.
Since the beginning of the program, DESI program participants have proven their professionalism over and over again. On a typical deployment, the SSK remains at sea for 65% of the time. Let’s take a look at a typical DESI submarine deployment. During SUBDIEX 2006, the Peruvian submarine, BAP PISAGUA, deployed from Peru on 14 February 2006. Her total deployed time amounted to 160 days, 65% of which was underway OPTEMPO. In return, the U.S. Navy received 75 days of dedicated training time at a total compensation cost of $1.1M or $14.7K per day.
DESI program submarines participate at the varsity level with units of the U.S. Navy to include participation in COMPTUEX and JTFEX with our Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) and Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESG). Additionally, South American SSKs have participated in numerous tactical development exercises, antisubmarine warfare exercises, Submarine Command Course (SCC) operations, and various research and development operations. The reviews from participating U.S. Navy units have been highly favorable.
In return forthe DESI submarine’s participation, there is payback for the allies in the form of training, maintenance and the highly desirable opportunity to work with the world’s most sophisticated Navy. Prior to arrival on station, DESI program participants receive training from COMNA VSUBFOR on submarine movement directives (SUBNOTES) and the processing, execution and dissemination of operational message traffic. While in CONUS, DESI program participants are given access to premier training facilities such as the submarine damage control trainers, virtual submarine navigation trainer, basic sonar operator training, virtual fire arms training simulator, and the submarine firefighting team trainer. All of these facilities are state-of-the-art and highly effective at improving the proficiency of our DESI program crews.
So it is a two way street. We, in the U.S. Navy, get the opportunity to work with some of the finest and most professional diesel boat sailors in the world, while building strong alliances and good will with future coalition partners. In return, our allies gain experience, training, and enhanced readiness through access to our maintenance facilities. In short, it’s a win-win situation for both parties.
The combination of American good will, camaraderie, and the inclusion of our submarine capable South American allies in Fleet training and exercises makes for a stronger, more cohesive and interoperable international force. The dividends are obvious for the 1000 Ship Navy. At some point in the future, we may find ourselves in a scenario that requires a continuous submarine presence. It is hopeful, then, that there will be a force of viable and willing coalition partners, to help relieve the stress of an extremely high optempo currently maintained by U.S. naval forces. For this very reason, the DESI program should be continued and expanded. It makes perfect sense for the enterprise.