The Colombian Navy’s 209-class submarine ARC Pijao returned to Cartagena in early December after a successful participation in the 2023 Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI), an anti-submarine warfare exercise conducted with countries of the region in waters off the east coast of the United States.
The DESI initiative, spearheaded by the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, which began in 2001, aims to strengthen and bring together the capabilities of participating navies’ diesel-electric submarines to deepen interoperability and mutual trust between the navies of countries of the region.
“The participation of the ARC Pijao in international operations such as DESI highlights the importance of interoperability between different navies,” Colombian Navy Captain Harvey Murcia, commander of the Submarine Flotilla, told Diálogo. “Collaboration with allied forces, such as those of the United States, involves sharing experiences, standards, and operational procedures, which strengthens the ability of submarine forces to work together on complex missions. This international cooperation contributes to the creation of a shared security environment and strengthens bilateral relations in the region.”
The DESI initiative, which is conducted between the U.S. and South American countries with conventional attack submarines, helps maintain a high standard of training between the different navies. For Colombia, DESI 2023 leaves lessons learned that are fundamental to face the specific challenges of its Navy.
“This operation represents an invaluable opportunity to strengthen the capacity of the submarine forces, allowing us to improve our tactics, techniques, procedures, and doctrine in an international and collaborative environment,” Capt. Murcia said. “In addition, the participation of the ARC Pijao contributes to Colombia’s commitment to regional security and international cooperation to address common threats.”
On this occasion, the Colombian crew of 43 military personnel tested anti-submarine warfare procedures, tactical communications, detection of enemy means, search and rescue, and aeromedical evacuations, among others, for 72 days. It was the first time a Colombian submarine conducted anti-submarine warfare exercises with the Atlantic Submarine Test and Evaluation Center, in the area known as The Tongue of the Ocean in the Bahamas, where it was able to perform evasive and escape maneuvers, silent navigation, and special operations with the U.S. Helicopter Maritime Strike Weapon School Atlantic and Commander Patrol And Reconnaissance Wing 11 units, the Colombian Navy said in a statement.
“The lessons learned in terms of coordination, communication, and execution of submarine operations will directly contribute to our ability to address threats in our territorial waters,” Capt. Murcia said. “The transfer of knowledge, the practice of our doctrine, and the implementation of best practices in terms of naval warfare will allow us to improve the readiness of the crew to respond to possible situations that threaten the security of the nation.”
Exercises were also carried out with the U.S. nuclear submarine USS Pasadena, where tactics for the detection, tracking, analysis, and classification of submarine units were evaluated, which help to increase the level of training in high intensity scenarios. The Colombian crew members acquired new knowledge and expertise in highly complex scenarios, without neglecting the high standard of their doctrine, by executing very demanding training with other submarines, helicopter squadrons, and maritime exploration aircraft, the Colombian Navy said.
“The Submarine Force is considered a strategic weapon of importance for the nation’s naval power which, through the proper use of its systems, plays a crucial role in the fight against drug trafficking and allows securing our territorial waters against any maritime threat that may arise,” Capt. Murcia said. “Hence the importance of continuous training of our crews, to efficiently operate these units, as well as for maintenance and conservation to ensure the proper functioning of equipment and systems.”