Operation Aspirantex 2017, a Great Military Deployment
By Roberto Caiafa/Diálogo March 15, 2017Operation Aspirantex 2017 set out to sea from Rio de Janeiro Naval Base on January 12th as Task Group 701.1 (GT 701.1, per its Brazilian Navy designation). Nearly 2,000 service members were deployed to six ships: the V-34 Barroso corvette; the NDM G-40 Bahia multipurpose landing craft; the NDCC G-25 Admiral Sabóia tank landing craft; the G-23 Admiral Gastão Motta tanker, and the class 22 F-46 frigate Greenhalg and F-49 Rademaker frigate. Also participating was an S-30 Tupi submarine; UH-12, UH-15, SH-16, and AF-1 Brazilian Navy (MB, per its Portuguese acronym) planes; and an A-1 AMX, a P-5 Bandeirulha, and a P-3 AM Lockheed Orion Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym) planes. The MB invited Diálogo to observe the exercise from the Almirante Sabóia vessel. During Aspirantex 2017, yet another phase of crew training and ship readiness was completed. Meanwhile, 203 second-year cadets from the Brazilian Naval Academy, who had been deployed to the exercise, chose their service branch and their careers after putting into practice the lessons learned at the academy. During the first phase of the voyage, participants performed exercises on abandon-ship drill stations, damage control, firing at flares, tactical daytime operations, light cargo transfer, light line transfers at night, star navigation, mock submarine attacks, submarine mast and periscope demonstrations, air operations, and fast-rope rappelling. On January 19th, GT 701.1 arrived at the Río de la Plata estuary, where the crew divided into two groups of warships. One group set sail for Mar del Plata, Argentina, and the other for Montevideo, Uruguay, making their first port call during the second phase of Aspirantex 2017. The third and final phase — returning the newly reunited GT 701.1 to Rio de Janeiro — began on January 23rd. “FUBAR” training These different exercises, divided by interest area, were meant to train all the vessels’ crews in response situations. Such response situations are called pregos (nails) by MB members (similar to how “FUBAR” is used in the U.S. military). From a malfunctioning vessel’s gyros (simulation of a failure in the gyroscopic needle), or rudder malfunctions (simulation of a failure in the steering system), to flag signaling (in radio silence), to the difficulties of damage control, firefighting, and the flooding of critical compartments, everything was tested. These FUBAR situations can occur at any time, day or night, with no advance warning. Before returning to Rio de Janeiro, the vessels moored at two ports in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina (Itajaí and San Francisco do Sul). While docked there, a sabotex mission (onboard security test) was carried out. Sabotex is a mock infiltration of the ship by unauthorized persons who intend to cause damage or incapacitate the vessel. Public visits In the docking phase of the exercise, public visitation was encouraged so people could get closer to the MB. Nearly 7,800 people visited the Bahia multipurpose landing craft, and the Rademaker and Greenhalg frigates. Among the activities held after the ships left port were undocking in combat positions (asymmetric threats), day and night light cargo transfer, underway fuel transfer from stern to stern, underway water transfer, resupply by in-flight helicopter, shipwreck search and rescue by helicopter, man overboard search and rescue, VERTREP and pick up, nighttime tactical maneuvers, and search and rescue by airplane. Another exercise conducted by the vessels in the convoy, such as the G-25, was a mock crash in which there was a hard landing, followed by a fire aboard the aircraft. The vessel’s crew, who specialize in flight operations, helped to get the fire under control and save the airmen. Live torpedo launch A key feature of Aspirantex 2017 was the first live launch of an MK-46 Mod 5 torpedo by an SH-16 Seahawk MB helicopter. To perform the mission, the entire depth-measurement procedure was implemented using a water scoop (hovering with hydrophone lowered). Once the target is detected, the equipment is stored on board and the high-speed attack chase commences, which is when the torpedo is launched. The operation was a success, validating the SH-16’s full operability as a weapons system. Recently, this same model launched a Kongsberg Penguin infrared guided anti-ship missile at the hull of a decommissioned MB ship, proving its ability to take out the ship. The GT 701.1 also conducted two air attacks for the purpose of training the missile systems operators on the frigates. The first of these attacks was carried out by FAB planes —an A-1 AMX flying out of Santa Maria, and a P-95 Bandeirulha flying out of Florianópolis— and the second, by MB AF-1 Falcon fighter jets. During the event, cadets were able to witness the importance of the air power provided by the Navy Air Corps, and they were thrilled by the low fly-bys that two A-4 Skyhawk fighters did over the ships before they returned to São Pedro da Aldeia Naval Air Station in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The most important day for these 200-plus cadets was January 26th, when they decided their career paths by choosing between the Navy Corps, the Marine Corps, or the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Three weeks after it began, the exercise ended on February 2nd.