A Chilean submarine powered by diesel and electric systems arrived at Naval Base Point Loma this week, as part of a project that helps increase readiness for U.S. sailors who don’t typically encounter such a submarine.

The 13-year Navy program, the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative, is a partnership with South American navies to employ diesel-electric submarines to educate Navy fleets on the east and west coasts.

A crew member from the Chilean submarine, CS Thomson, in 2010, on a prior exchange with the Navy. Photo credit: Navy.mil/Spencer Mickler

The units, according to the Navy, practice Anti-Submarine Warfare training, because, officials said, diesel-electric submarines can be difficult to track.

“The U.S. does not have any diesel subs of its own to train with and there are 400-plus diesel submarines around the world that we may encounter,” said 3rd Fleet Director of Exercises Cmdr. John Doney, in a news release. “South America has the closest, highest-density of diesel submarines to North America – almost every country in South America has a diesel submarine.”

Chile is the latest addition to the partnership, which includes Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Peru.

The Chilean submarine, the CS Thomson, arrived Thursday. Her crew will train with the U.S. 3rd Fleet through July.

The program, “is a very important opportunity in order to increase international cooperation and the interoperability between our navies,” said the CS Thomson’s top officer, Cmdr. Pablo Correa. “For us, it’s been a long 29-day journey, during which we have improved our ability to share information between our nations.”

The educational exchange extends beyond training scenarios. The Chilean crew is set to take part in tactical seminars, while Correa, who has logged 17,000 nautical miles in submarines, will share his knowledge on the technical aspects of diesel crafts.

“It’s those relationships you build now that will pay dividends in the future, especially when you may need to work together on a common objective,” Doney said.

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