Chile’s SS-20 Thomson Submarine Participates in DESI 2016
By Carolina Contreras/Diálogo November 08, 2016Chilean Navy Captain Óscar Manzano Sanguinetti, commander of the SS-20 Thomson Submarine, manifested his satisfaction with the results and experiences during his participation in a U.S. Navy-sponsored international antisubmarine training, called Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative 2016 (DESI). DESI was held from September 9th to October 9th. “I am very happy and excited to work in cooperation with the U.S. Navy,” said Capt. Manzano at his arrival at the Pont Loma Naval Base in San Diego, California, to participate in the naval exercise with a crew of 44 divers. The United States Navy created the DESI exercise in 2001 with the aim of jointly training its submarine units with South American navy units. These are high-complexity exercises which include confrontation tactics, close encounter operations and weapons systems tests. The exercise's mission is to put participating countries' underwater warfare capacities to the test. The objective is to have the preparation to confront a real emergency by means of a joint task force. Chile participated in DESI for the first time in 2007, making this the seventh time it participates. For the SS-20 Thomson, this was the third time participating, after doing so in 2010 and 2014. Crew members from the navies of Colombia, Brazil, and Peru also participated in the 2016 exercise. “Chile's participation has been especially relevant this year,” said Chilean Vice Admiral José Miguel Rivera, naval operations commander. “It shows the Chilean Navy's professionalism, its high degree of coordination and the importance that joint work has taken on for countries embedded in the Pacific Rim,” he added. CHILEMAR VI As part of the DESI program, Chile and the United States participated in the CHILEMAR VI bilateral submarine search and rescue exercise, which consisted of a simulation of a damaged vessel which had an accident underwater, and whose crew had to be rescued and brought to the surface with the help of support units. As part of the exercise, the SS-20 Thomson submarine was designated as the damaged vessel and received different types of U.S. Navy support. In the first phase of the exercise, called “search,” the submarine lay at the bottom of the ocean for more than 40 hours, during which time an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, a nuclear attack submarine, helicopters, and unmanned vehicles operating from the surface searched for it. While awaiting their rescue as a response to the mock emergency, the crew had to implement a plan to control their oxygen intake, the generation of CO2, and reduce their consumption of food. Trained to save lives The second phase, which began once the vessel was identified, involved a special submarine rescue vehicle. Transferring personnel from the shipwrecked vessel was carried out in a coordinated manner by means of a vehicle-coupling technique with the SS-20 Thomson. This way, the crew was successfully moved to the surface. Among the rescued individuals were naval authorities from the U.S. and Chile. “Besides being able to work alongside a highly-professional crew from the United States, CHILEMAR VI allowed the SS-20 Thomson to train and standardize underwater-emergency-rescue procedures,” stated Vice Adm. Rivera. “Both countries had training on rescue systems, methods checks, streamlining their times, and verifying their rescue procedures,” he said. The SS-20 Thomson oceanic submarine has a displacement capacity of 1,390 metric tons and can reach a maximum underwater velocity of 21.5 knots. It has eight tubes that allow it to launch 533mm heavyweight torpedoes. The Chilean Navy commissioned it in 1984 along with its twin, the SS-21 Simpson submarine, and named it in honor of Commander Manuel Thomson Porto, who died in service on February 23, 1880, while commanding the Huáscar monitor-class ship during the War of the Pacific. Coming home At the conclusion of the CHILEMAR VI exercise, the SS-20 Thomson began its journey back to Chile. “It will arrive there on December 22. Its first stop in Chile will be the Port of Valparaíso, where Navy authorities will give it an official reception, and later it will travel to its homeport, Talcahuano, in Southern Chile, for maintenance at the Navy’s Docks and Yards, ASMAR. The goal of this maintenance is to prolong its optimum operability until the year 2025,” concluded Vice Adm. Rivera.