A few questions about the U.S. submarine aggressor squadron

The U.S. Submarine Force created the aggressor squadron (AGGRON) in 2019. This unit is dedicated the task of emulating the enemy in exercises, which means that other submarine crews get mere realistic training against the doctrines and tactics of the recognized enemy.

There is something uniquely impressive about having so many submarines that you can dedicate some of them to playing the enemy in exercises. On CIMSEC, Dmitry Filipoff has an interesting interview with Captain Eric M. Sager about the aggressor squadron:

What are the risks of mirror-imaging blue force methods in training and force development? What unique value and realism comes from being well-versed in adversary capabilities and doctrine?

The risk is we will not train like we will fight; we would instead train against our own tactics, techniques, and procedures instead of that of our competitors. This methodology risks developing a false understanding of our capabilities and tactics as they relate to the competition, which would not maximize our lethality in combat.

Folding in OPFOR realism creates an entire force of warfighters that are experts on the nature of the competition. Each person is a link to success and when each person knows adversary capabilities and doctrine as well as the adversary themselves, there are less unforeseen circumstances in combat, therefore enhancing combat survivability and lethality.

I wonder how accurate their knowledge is about the potential enemy’s doctrine and tactics. There has got to be a substantial risk that instead of playing against a mirror image of yourself, you play against a stereotype of the enemy. There is also something particularly fascinating about how it is done in practice. Submarine warfare is an intrinsically technical endeavor, and how do you emulate the enemy without using the real equipment with its distinct technical characteristics?

A submarine aggressor squadron is a good idea because a trained aggressor crew makes better guesses about the enemy’s capabilities and tactics than the average submarine skipper. But still, there must be accounted for substantial uncertainty. Somehow the art of emulating the enemy seems easier with aircraft than with submarines.

It would also be interesting to know how AGGRON split their attention between the Chinese navy and the Russian navy. AGGRON’s shirt patch shows both a Russian bear and a Chinese dragon, but I’d assume they spend more time on the Chinese.




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