The Navy is taking a page out of its own “Top Gun” book, but this time for submarines instead of F-14s. The service is creating a unit designed to teach submariners how to fight their Russian and Chinese counterparts. The “aggressor squadron” is part of the Navy’s push to prepare for—and, with any luck, avoid—a major war with another major power.
USNI News that the new commander of the U.S. Navy’s Naval Submarine Forces, Vice Admiral Charles Richard, is standing up the new unit as part of a training overhaul for attack submarine commanders and crews. Admiral Richard wants to focus the submarine fleet away from the diversified missions of the post-9/11 period—which often included intelligence-gathering and other anti-terrorism missions—and back on the ability to fight other navies.
Enter Top Gun. In the 1970s, following the mediocre performance of U.S. Navy fighter pilots in air-to-air combat against North Vietnamese fighters, the Navy created the , the legendary school that inspired the Tom Cruise movie. Top Gun pitted American air crews against veteran pilots trained in enemy tactics, forcing them to fight realistic air battles before deploying to Southeast Asia and around the world. Top Gun was an unqualified success, dramatically improving the air-to-air kill ratios of Navy pilots.
An underwater version of Top Gun won’t be quite the same. For one thing, the submarine fleet won’t have its own squadron of “enemy” submarines painted in exotic camouflage like the real Top Gun does. In fact, it won’t have its own submarines at all. Instead, the program will consist of a cadre of submarine veterans, both active and reserve, and civilians skilled in foreign navy operations. Admiral Richard wants these instructors to go head-to-head against submarine crews to create the most realistic combat simulation possible. In military training parlance, such teams are called “red” teams.
The U.S. Navy submarine force currently has , including 40 Los Angeles class attack submarines, 3 Seawolf class submarines, and 13 Virginia class submarines. Soon, all the sailors serving on those boats could be more prepared for a day we hope to never see.
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