SURFREM Takes First Steps during Valiant Shield 2014


In the midst of the year’s largest U.S. military exercise, Asia’s forward-deployed destroyer squadron is taking steps to ensure surface warfare readiness by leading the Navy in the development of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) that are on the ‘leading edge’ of emerging technology.


Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, working closely with Surface Tactical Development Group (STDG), Task Force (CTF) 70 and the newly stood-up Navy Surface Warfare Development Command in San Diego, has reinstituted the Surface Readiness Effectiveness Measurement (SURFREM) and took its first new steps during exercise Valiant Shield 2014.

“Reestablishing the SURFREM program will help focus DESRON 15 as the forward-deployed naval force in critical TTPs, as well as improve our performance at sea and mission accomplishment,” said Capt. Shan Byrne, commodore, DESRON 15. “Although this benefits DESRON 15, it ultimately benefits the entire surface Navy. It’s an area that we need to focus on, and since we have added so many new technologies to our arsenal, we now need to explore how to best utilize them to maximize our performance.”

The program was initially implemented in early 2000s, but was discontinued due to budget cuts. The renewed interest in tactical development for surface ships has fueled DESRON 15’s initiative to bring the program back to life.

The basis of the program relies on data, collected over time, through a series of tests, mission sets and real-world procedural analysis.

“The program is a derivative of SHAREM (shipboard anti-submarine warfare readiness and effectiveness measurement), which exists for the [anti-submarine warfare] community,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Chapman, DESRON 15, Valiant Shield 2014 lead planner. “The basis of the program is having tactical and technical experts come out observe very narrowly focused procedures on ships. Doing enough of these over time results in a compilation of data that enables us to improve upon existing technologies, prove and disprove theories, and develop new tactics and procedures. All of these improvements have happened over an extended period of time [in SHAREM] and we would like to replicate that in the surface warfare realm by reestablishing SURFREM.”

Analyzing the training continuum and testing and retesting procedural standards allows for experts in existing and emerging technology to implement the newest TTPs in the surface fleet.

“SURFREM is an initiative to improve the assessment of surface warfare technologies,” said Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet. “Additionally it provides an opportunity to test TTPs with surface warfare systems. Because of technological development, it is likely that over the next few years, better systems will be developed and delivered to the fleet. Because of the development of TTPs, it’s likely that we’ll know how to use those systems better. Overall it should increase the combat readiness of DESRON 15, more broadly CTF 70, and eventually naval forces in other areas.”

Valiant Shield is a U.S. exercise integrating an estimated 18,000 U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps personnel, more than 200 aircraft and 19 surface ships, offering real-world joint operational experience to develop capabilities that provide a full range of options to defend U.S. interests and those of its allies and partners. This arena provides the perfect vehicle to initiate SURFREM and allow for maximum data collection and analysis.

“Specific to what we did in Valiant Shield, we had observers from STDG embark three destroyers, a cruiser and George Washington to watch how we executed the (sinking exercise),” said Chapman. “The ships employed some new techniques, tactics and procedures in a realistic scenario that might be found in a wartime environment. After the exercise is complete, STDG will take all the data they’ve collected, look at the results and see what can be improved upon in the future when executing these procedures.”

“The initial feedback we got from STDG, which was a quick analysis of our tactical engagements, was positive; a very successful event,” said Byrne. “There is more data that needs to be extracted before we get a formal response, and we expect to see that within the next couple of months. That report will give us exact feedback so we can take that information and fold it into our TTPs.”

The data collected during Valiant Shield will not only help improve the processes aboard the ships involved, but the rest of DESRON 15 and eventually the entire surface force.

“I am really excited about getting SUFREM back up and running,” said Byrne. “Although it’s great that DESRON 15 was able to participate in SURFREM 2014, it’s not just about us, it’s about the entire surface Navy and becoming efficient in the technologies we have invested in.”

Valiant Shield operations intend to achieve an unprecedented level of joint integration at the service level with the goal of developing pre-integrated joint forces. It seeks to improve integration of air, land, maritime, space, and cyberspace forces in order to provide combatant commanders enhanced combinations of military capabilities necessary to deter and, if necessary, defeat an adversary employing sophisticated capabilities.

DESRON 15 is a collection of seven permanently forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers providing a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Press Release, September 30, 2014; Image: US Navy