RADM Malcolm I. Fages
The vision paper, Forward...From the Sea,
shifted the operational focus of our Navy from warfare on
the high seas against a single, well-understood enemy to
potential conflicts with a wide range of littoral-based
enemies about whom we may know very little. Our Navy is,
and will be, expected to execute missions from peacetime
presence to land attack on short notice and with
consistently successful results. Our enemies, whether
nation-states, terrorist groups, or world-class
criminals, will grow in technological sophistication as
an increasingly competitive arms market seeks to sell
them the latest weaponry and sensors. Since U.S. forces
will operate closer to the shore, often within visual,
much less radar range, our growing littoral focus will
make our adversaries detection and targeting tasks
easier. Finally, the shrinking number of Navy ships,
combined with the political impact of near real-time
coverage of our actions by media, such as CNN, will place
an ever greater premium on protecting our forces from
The offensive weapons U.S. forces will face may well include:
Operating in the littorals will become synonymous with operating within an enemys weapons range, allowing the enemy to choose the time, place, and manner of his attack.
Thus, our strategic vision places the modern Navy in a unique and very challenging environment. Fortunately, the Navy and the nation will be able to rely on the unique combination of attributes brought to bear by Americas nuclear submarines. Submarines provide Americas warfighting commanders unparalleled stealth, endurance, agility, and firepower.
Original Stealth Platform
Stealth allows the imposition of force at the time and place of ones choosing. It creates uncertainty in the mind of an adversary, and it imposes financial and operational costs to counter the submarine that may be lurking in his littorals.
Endurance The Submarine and
Naval Maneuver Warfare
The nuclear submarine fulfills this need. Her stealth allows non-provocative, unobserved access to all ocean areas. Her nuclear propulsion permits high transit speeds for extended periods without the need to refuel. Her small, highly trained crew can operate, maintain, fight, and repair her while on station. Her small logistics footprint eliminates the need for an elaborate supply train as long as the food (and the mess specialists imagination) hold out. And, her high state of readiness allows rapid surge capabilities when crisis looms.
What does this mean for the theater commander?
In a real sense, like the frigates of Nelsons era or the cruisers of the age of steam, submarines are key elements of naval maneuver, able to roam the oceans and take the fight to the enemy. Of greater value, submarines can accomplish this with an impunity unknown to their historic forebears.
The Agile Teammate
This tradition of building multi-mission capability and of fostering hardware research and development, and tactical innovation continues today. Submarines, with their inherent stealth, are the only truly covert method for inserting Special Operations Forces (SOF). The Advanced Swimmer Delivery System (ASDS), currently under construction, provides SOF with a true mini-sub, capable of significantly extending their combat radius by providing a dry, climate-controlled environment. The nine-man lock-out chamber in the New Attack Submarine (NSSN) will allow the entire ASDS complement to lock-out in one operation.
Developments in Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUVs) will provide a much improved, organic mine reconnaissance capability, with the promise of even more exciting undersea warfare opportunities as we develop UUV expertise. Extending their reach above the surface, submarines have successfully controlled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and received their real-time imagery downlinks to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, as well as allowing SOF commanders on board the submarine to better monitor and control their missions. Submarines also provide commanders with a unique covert offensive mining capability, which could allow U.S. commanders to bottle up opposing forces in harbors prior to the initiation of conflict.
To maintain our submarine fleet combat ready, we have implemented a program to back-fit and forward-fit new capabilities. Many of the technologies and improvements discussed above will be back-fit into our Los Angeles-, Seawolf-, and Ohio-class submarines. On the forward-fit side, these and other advanced technologies will be built into the NSSN, the first of which is under construction at the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Connecticut. NSSN will be capable of conducting all of the missions our SSNs currently perform, and she will be able to do them with unparalleled stealth and survivability. NSSN is the first submarine specifically designed to fight in the worlds littorals. Stealthier than the Seawolf-class, she is our first submarine to have non-acoustic quieting requirements. Because she will operate in more constrained waters, considerable effort has gone into reducing inadvertant non-acoustic radiation, such as her electrical and magnetic signatures, to minimize the chances of detection by non-acoustic ASW sensors.
Some of the most exciting and innovative developments are coming in the area of submarine connectivity and interoperability with other Navy and Joint forces. High data-rate antennas will allow the transmission of submarine intelligence and reconnaissance data, such as real-time periscope imagery, to commanders ashore and afloat. No longer will commanders and analysts have to wait for the mission report to be delivered by courier to get useful submarine intelligence they will be able to access it in real time. These improved communication links provide new horizons for tactical innovation. The submarines ability to participate in coordinated battle group operations has never been better. Several ongoing advanced technology demonstrations, working toward improved two-way connectivity while the ship is submerged, will enable even greater flexibility in operating with surface force and air assets.
In all of these areas, the submarine is building on her legacy as an agile teammate, able to perform missions for which she was always capable, but often down-played by our Cold War ASW focus.
Submarine Firepower The Naval
The submarines contributions to strike warfare can be particularly useful. Able to operate inside the enemys area- denial umbrella, her strike weapons can be launched close to shore, maximizing the number of targets within range and minimizing flight time to close-in targets, an important concern when some of the most important targets are mobile. As a result, she can help clear the field for follow-on attacks by strike aircraft, dramatically reducing the risk and increasing the effectiveness of their sorties.
The Submarine Force is moving in tandem with our surface counterparts in developing the Navys strike weapons. Today, submarine-launched Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles fill a significant proportion of strike requirements around the world, as was amply demonstrated during Operation Southern Watch in the Persian Gulf in early 1998. Tactical Tomahawk, the next generation of a battle-tested missile, will reach the Fleet after the turn of the 21st century. In addition to the Tomahawks precision strike capability, Tactical Tomahawk will have a built-in reconnaissance and retargeting capability to allow real-time intelligence and battle damage assessment to guide strike planning, rather than relying solely on pre-planned missions.
The ultimate expression of submarine firepower can be found in the Strike/SOF Ohio-class Trident ballistic missile submarine (SSBN-726) conversion concept. This concept, which is under review, envisions the conversion of Trident submarines no longer required for strategic service to a combined Strike and Special Operations platform. Missile tubes would be either converted to accommodate Navy Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) Advanced Swimmer Delivery Systems, or loaded with containers carrying up to seven Tomahawk vertical launch cruise missiles. Armed with up to 154 Tomahawks and deploying about 100 SEALs, a Strike/SOF submarine would provide the National Command Authority with a powerful theater asset whose massive firepower could be used in combination with other Joint strike assets.
Lurking far forward in the worlds littorals, submarines contribute significantly to U.S. presence operations in peacetime and to preparation of the battlespace as conflict approaches. If diplomatic efforts fail, submarines can strike key land targets quickly and effectively, reducing the risk to follow-on strike assets. The submarine can be viewed as a naval sniper, capable of striking with deadly precision at the heart of the enemys command and control networks, severely diminishing his ability to strike back, even before he knows U.S. forces are in town.
Making a Difference The People
of the Submarine Force
The process of becoming a submariner is one of the most rigorous in the military, and applicants are only accepted after careful screening and evaluation. Successful candidates attend the Naval Submarine School/New London, in Groton, Connecticut, and later receive more specialized technical training throughout their careers. Once at sea, hands-on training and formal qualification tests are required to earn the prized dolphins insignia. The dolphins, silver for enlisted and gold for officers, indicate that a new submariner has successfully demonstrated an overall knowledge of the ship and her systems, damage control equipment and procedures in any compartment, and most importantly, his ability to perform in a highly dynamic and stressful environment. They are a great source of pride within the service, as they represent the successful culmination of a demanding, but rewarding journey.