Last week I was privileged to attend the NATO Submarine Commander's Conference (SCC) in Lisbon, Portugal. This conference was graciously hosted by José Alfredo Monteiro
Montenegro, Commander of the Portuguese Navy and CAPT Melo, Commander of the Portuguese Submarine Squadron. In attendance were the Submarine Force Commanders from all the NATO submarine-operating nations, as well as observers from the Partnership for Peace nations,
The conference provided a chance to review in detail the impressive portfolio of work done this past year by NATO submarines across a wide range of exercises and operations.
Of particular note:
Exercise PROUD MANTA
. This exercise was run by COMSUBSOUTH in
Italy, and took place in the central
Mediterranean Sea. It is the premier Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercise in NATO – truly world class. Bringing together six submarines from Greece,
Turkey and the United States, as well as multiple surface, air and unmanned assets. PROUD MANTA exercised many aspects of combined undersea warfare, from sub-on-sub encounters to a complex scenario-driven, force-on-force phase where submarines were opposed by a maritime group with an opponent submarine contingent. For the first time, the PROUD MANTA also included the employment of ocean gliders that provided environmental and other information to the ASW commander - a major step forward in the use of this sensor.
Exercise BOLD MONARCH
. The world's largest submarine rescue exercise run by NATO's COMSUBNORTH in
England was held off Cartegena,
Spain in June. Again, a banner event. Over 2,000 participants and observers came from 23 nations, and included submarines from Portugal, Turkey, Spain, and for the first time, a Russian KILO submarine, ALROSA. These submarines were bottomed each day, simulated to be downed and in need of rescue. Providing rescue services were four different rescue systems from NATO, the
Russia, and Italy. Supporting the exercise was the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO). During BOLD MONARCH, each rescue system had the opportunity to mate with each bottomed submarine for a total of 21 simulated rescues. This was a terrific validation of the world's cooperative capabilities and interoperability in this area, and served as a basis for building partnerships amongst submarine nations. In submarine rescue, we are truly "Stronger Together."
The NATO submarine team had an equally productive year in real-world operations. From the beginning, NATO and Alliance Submarines made important contributions to Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR in
Libya. As well, for the first time, submarines contributed to the counter-piracy Operation OCEAN SHIELD, when the Dutch submarine HNLMS ZEELEEUW transited from The Netherlands to the Horn of Africa to join NATO's CTF-508 to take part in that operation. While on station, ZEELEEUW provided unique intelligence and surveillance to the force commander. This operation also validated some unique and collaborative command and control structures to optimize the submarine's contribution from the strategic to the tactical level as well as proving NATO's ability to command and control submarine operations at ‘strategic distance'. And finally, while conducting these first-ever operations, there was also the steady presence provided to Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR, the maritime counter-terrorism operation in the
These are just a few examples of the busy year that NATO had in the maritime and, specifically, undersea domains this past year. It was great to hear about these in detail in
Portugal, and to harvest the lessons from each of the exercises and operations.
As NATO continues with command structure reform, all conferees agreed that it will it be important to preserve this vital and agile capability for the
For more information about the conference you can see the Portuguese Navy's video of the conference here
. For more information about submarine rescue, including Exercise BOLD MONARCH, the article in the Spring 2011 edition of UNDERSEA WARFARE is here.
VADM John M. Richardson
Commander, U.S. Submarine Forces