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Posted: 7/22/2008 1:37:02 PM EDT
Anti-sub training goes global in TR workups

MC2 Regina L. Brown / Navy The Italian air-independent propulsion equipped submarine ITS Salvatore Todaro prepares to pull into port at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. It marks the first visit of an Italian sub to the U.S. since World War II. Todaro's port visit is supporting the upcoming Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group joint task force exercise.

By Andrew Scutro - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jul 22, 2008 11:19:59 EDT

NORFOLK, Va. — Iran and China operate lethally quiet diesel-electric submarines, carrier cripplers and the scourge of the surface fleet. Thankfully, so do navies from such South American nations as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Chile. And under a seven-year-old agreement with the U.S. Navy, their diesel-electric subs regularly train in fleet exercises as opposing forces.

From Monday through the end of the month, the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group and the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group will engage in Operation Brimstone, their pre-deployment joint task force exercise, off the southeastern U.S.

Lurking below throughout the free-play exercise will be the Peruvian diesel-electric sub Arica.

Juan Fernandez, a former U.S. submariner, runs the Navy’s Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative, which arranges for and funds subs like the Arica to simulate undersea killers.

“It definitely has elevated the difficulty and realism of our fleet training events,” he said. “If I can bleed more in a training scenario, the less I bleed in a real war.”

The Arica will be the 17th sub from South America to take part in fleet exercises under the DESI program. Seven U.S. surface combatants also will operate as an opposing force during Brimstone.

The Italian Type 212 submarine Salvatore Todaro, a German-designed diesel-electric sub with air-independent propulsion, also will join the exercise’s opposing force.

The British aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the Brazilian frigate Greenhalgh will join U.S. forces in contending with the diesel subs.

French pilots will qualify on TR’s flight deck in Rafale fighters and their own Hawkeyes.

Likewise, the French navy’s nuclear-powered submarine Amethyste also will take part. Homeported in Toulon on the Mediterranean, it arrived July 16 in Norfolk.

Amethyste has a crew of 70 commanded by 38-year-old Cmdr. Frederic Dreher. The French submariners wear coveralls and blue boat shoes, and the master-at-arms on guard topside wears a flat-top sailor hat adorned with a big red pompom. The crew can drink beer and wine in moderation when off duty, but as with the U.S. Navy, women cannot serve in the Forces Sous Marines.

Dreher, who took a tactics course at the Navy’s submarine school in New London, Conn., said the Amethyste has the tools common to any submarine force.

“The assets are the same, and we dive as deep as the others, more or less,” he said.

Dreher heads to Germany for war college in August, and he said it will be sad to leave his sailors after two years together.

“We are a team,” he said. “Tonight, I will go to the disco with my crew.”
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