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Chilean Submarine Forces Commander: Chile and the United States Have a Common Vision on the Importance of Navies

Chilean Submarine Forces Commander: Chile and the United States Have a Common Vision on the Importance of Navies

By Richard Araujo
September 30, 2021

The SS Carrera, a Chilean Navy Scorpène-class submarine, participated in the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) exercise at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, California, which took place from June to September 2021.

DESI is a U.S. Navy exercise with South American countries that supports their operations with diesel-electric submarines and fleet availability. This was the ninth time that Chile participated in the exercise.

Rear Admiral Juan Pablo Zúñiga, commander of the Chilean Submarine Forces, spoke with Diálogo about the importance of Chile’s participation in DESI, the current threats that the Chilean Navy is combating, and its strong relationship with the U.S. Navy.

Diálogo: How important is it for Chile to take part in DESI with the United States and other countries of the region?

An MH-60R helicopter assigned to the U.S. Navy’s Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 41 Seahawks flies over the Chilean Navy Scorpène-class submarine SS Carrera, during DESI 2021, in San Diego, California. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Chelsea D. Meller)

Chilean Navy Rear Admiral Juan Pablo Zúñiga, commander of the Chilean Submarine Forces: Participating in DESI is tremendously important as a way to achieve interoperability between the two navies and increase the level of training in anti-submarine warfare. Similarly, the Chilemar submarine rescue exercise is a highly complex exercise that requires training in the procedures and equipment standards that allow us to carry out these events safely. Knowing each other and building operational trust is beneficial to both navies and nations.

Diálogo: What were the lessons learned from this exercise, and how is Chile implementing them with its Navy?

Rear Adm. Zúñiga: The main lessons are training with the most advanced anti-submarine warfare resources, so being under the highest operational requirements is very demanding. Similarly for the U.S. Navy, operating with a state-of-the-art diesel-electric submarine and a trained crew is a perfect threat. In the same way, a submarine deployment for more than five months, far from our country, is also the perfect opportunity to put into practice our logistics, planning, and management systems to sustain the submarine operation and its crew without setbacks, even during a global pandemic.

Diálogo: What is the Chilean Navy doing to help combat and deter illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing on its maritime borders?

From left, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Wall, reserve deputy commander, Atlantic Submarine Force; Chilean Navy Rear Admiral Juan Pablo Zúñiga, Submarine Forces commander; and U.S. Navy Captain John Friedman, Submarine Squadron 11 commander, pose in front of the SS Carrera at Naval Base Point Loma, San Diego. (Photo: Steven McLoud/Diálogo)

Rear Adm. Zúñiga: The Chilean Navy maintains constant surveillance of our Exclusive Economic Zone and areas of responsibility in compliance with the New York agreement [the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea], with all the State of Chile’s naval and air resources. Control and monitoring is constant.

Diálogo: What are some of the other threats that the Chilean Navy is combating?

Rear Adm. Zúñiga: The Chilean Navy, in addition to safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity, is always vigilant in monitoring our maritime spaces to avoid illegal fishing, smuggling, narcotrafficking, illegal immigration, and climate change. In the same way, [we monitor] our waters to prevent pollution.

Diálogo: The Chilean and U.S. navies have a long history of combined work. Why has this partnership lasted for so long?

Rear Adm. Zúñiga: Because through the years, we have built mutual trust and knowledge of our operational standards, demonstrated through DESI, RIMPAC, Team Work South, and other operations that both navies have carried out over the years. It has lasted because we have a common vision of the importance and contribution of the navies to our nations.

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