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New Mexico Tests Its Capabilities During Fellowship 2012

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120131-04
image: Top News Story

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Lawlor, Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The crew of the Virginia-class USS New Mexico (SSN 779) joined the Royal Navy's newest Astute-class, fast-attack submarine HMS Astute (SSN 20) for the Fellowship 2012 exercise, where the boats tried to out-flank, out-maneuver and out-wit each other.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert and First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the Royal Navy Adm. Sir Mark Stanhope, both with careers that originated in the submarine community, were welcomed by their submariner brethren who reveled at the opportunity to impress the service chiefs with their operational capabilities and four-star hospitality as part of the Fellowship 2012 exercise.

New Mexico's Commanding Officer Cmdr. George Perez said he and his crew were honored to host the two highest distinguished naval officers and submariners in the U.S. and British fleets. Perez also said from a training standpoint, he appreciated the chance to tactically compete with such an accomplished and advanced Astute boat and crew.

"This is a great opportunity for the crew, for the Virginia-class program, the U.S. Navy, and submarine force to have this opportunity to take this boat out against what we in the submarine community consider is the best competition out there," Perez said. "The crew has enjoyed every minute of it."

Perez said he hopes to do more exercises like Fellowship in the future because the value added by performing real time tracking, deterrence and attack scenarios cannot be replicated to the same level of authenticity by other forms of training.

Ensign Steven Connell was the junior officer of the watch for section one aboard New Mexico during the exercise. Connell said the exercise provided him and his shipmates with a better appreciation of what they and their boat can do.

"It let us see our capabilities versus their capabilities and it's a very close match between the two countries," Connell said.

Sonar Technician (Submarine) 3rd Class Michael Deline, assigned to New Mexico's sonar division, said his division was responsible for finding, mapping and tracking the Astute. Deline said he was extremely satisfied with the performance of New Mexico in her first international operation.

"The Navy puts in so much research and development into its submarines," Deline said. "And with this submarine, most of us from my division have been here since the beginning, so we've watched the progress of a Virginia-class submarine from the ground up."

"Having the First Sea Lord and CNO onboard you could feel the energy on this boat," Connell said. "Everyone was real excited about this exercise, morale was high, and it was just overall a really good thing for both countries."

Connell said he was not surprised that the CNO and First Sea Lord attended the exercise.

"What better time to visit?" Connell said. "These are two of the greatest warships in the world right now and we're both going head to head. What better time and place than right now to tour these boats and see them first hand?"

Both Greenert and Stanhope said their presence aboard New Mexico and Astute during the exercise was a unilateral showing of support and trust between the two long-standing allies as well as a poignant emphasis on the importance of the continued development of the submarine program.

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