JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM - Approximately 50 submarine officers and civilians from seven countries cooperated in a Rim of the Pacific 2016 submarine rescue tabletop exercise held at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, July 12.
The tabletop exercise preceded a practical submarine rescue exercise conducted by the U.S. and Chinese navies in the Pacific Ocean, July 13.
"The tabletop exercise is designed to take participants through the critical decision process to search for and locate a disabled submarine," said U.S. Navy Capt. Kenn Knittel, commanding officer of Naval Reserve Undersea Rescue Command Headquarters in San Diego. "We saw thoughtful discussions among all the participants, and I feel that everyone learned something to make their programs stronger."
Knittel said getting a variety of international submarine communities under one roof for the tabletop exercise and for collaborative discussion was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a personal highlight of his naval career.
"As submarines operate worldwide, it is important that the international community be able to work together to [build] common practices and procedures," said Knittel. "This training exercise brings rescue organizations from numerous countries together to develop friendships and trust in a way that can only be done face-to-face. Through this exercise, we'll have developed the mutual trust and respect between our nations to work together to deliver humanitarian assistance to our fellow submariners."
The July 13 practical exercise between the U.S. and Chinese navies will further collaboration between the two nations by embarking on the Chinese submarine rescue ship Changdao (ASR 867) and launching an undersea rescue vehicle LR-7, to conduct an actual mating evolution with a faux NATO rescue seat. This will demonstrate the technical skills and ability of the Chinese system to attach to the standard NATO rescue-seating surface, an international standard in submarine design, and will serve as an important step in demonstrating China's ability to support an international rescue event.
"China's submarine rescue ship is very capable. It is dynamically positioned, has a saturation diving capability and operates a very capable rescue system," said Bill Orr, the U.S. Navy Director for Submarine Survivability and Rescue and technical advisor for the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office. "This will be the first multinational demonstration of the [chinese] system. They will mate to a target plate that will enable us to validate that it could mate to any submarine that has a standard rescue seat. It is always great to watch a nation demonstrate their rescue capabilities that they could deploy in support of any submarine in distress."
Orr said the collaborative exercise represents an important step in U.S. and Chinese maritime cooperation.
"The U.S. takes an active role in developing cooperative submarine rescue capability with other nations," said Orr. "The foundations for cooperation need to be laid in advance of a real rescue. If there is a real rescue event, there won't be time to build trust and communication channels. We will have hours, not days or weeks, to affect a rescue. Learning to cooperate in saving lives at sea is a basic premise of every sailor that goes to sea in ships."
Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971.