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YOKOSUKA, Japan - The Virginia-class attack submarine USS North Carolina (SSN 777) and aircraft deployed to CTF-72 participated in a Snapdragon exercise Dec. 30 to Jan. 1 in the Philippine Sea approximately 350 miles southeast of Okinawa, Japan.
A Snapdragon exercise involves CTF-72 sending an airplane to fly over a submarine to practice detecting and classifying the sub, and simulating attacking it.
The main goal of the exercise is to provide training for the aircrews of the P-3s and the new P-8s involved, but also to provide a training opportunity for the subs as well.
"The sub can get used to hearing what radar that is looking for it looks and sounds like on their displays," said Lt. Adam Frisch, CTF-74's assistant exercise officer. "If the sub is at periscope depth and the plane flies directly over it, the sonar technicians can identify it as an airplane flying directly over it going from one direction to another."
There are two types of Snapdragon exercises.
"There's one where the submarine just transits and we tell the airplane where it's going to be, and the airplane practices detecting it," said Frisch. "We might ask the submarine to make extra noise so the airplane can hear it more easily."
"The other kind of Snapdragon is where, if the submarine has extra time, we will ask it to run a preset series of points so that if the airplane has a difficult time finding it, we can cue it to say where the submarine should be at a certain time to try to make it easier to find it," said Frisch.
CTF-72 has two different P-3 squadrons and a new P-8 squadron in 7th Fleet right now. The P-8 is the Navy's newest maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft (MPRA). This is their first deployment to this area of operations and the exercise provided them with much needed flight hours to certify their crews for operations.
"I think this is ultimately good for CTF-74 because we are the theater anti-submarine warfare (TASW) commander out here in 7th Fleet and CTF-72 provides us with aircraft," said Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Kim, CTF-74's exercise officer. "In the long run, we'll have more P-3s and P-8s available to fly and do certified missions."
"Our subs hadn't operated with the new P-8s back in 3rd Fleet or out here in 7th Fleet before, so the exercise gave our sub a chance to see the different characteristics of this new aircraft," said Kim. "Now, when we do future operations with P-8s, we can distinguish them from P-3s. That's what I think the benefit is for our submarines in participating in these exercises."
"This iteration of the Snapdragon exercise series with North Carolina provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate and shakedown P-8A's systems, capabilities, and interoperability with existing infrastructure and aircraft on a real subsurface contact," said Lt. Mathew Hahn, CTF-72. "North Carolina proved to be a challenging ASW target, providing crews with a dynamic scenario on an extremely quiet submarine."
The Virginia-class submarines are the newest and most advanced submarines operating right now. They focus on littoral missions, specifically special operations support, intelligence gathering, and counter mine operations.