Surge Protectors Submarines Prove Vital to the Navy's Fleet Response Plan

Photo caption follows
MA1 James Farrar, assigned to Mobile Security Detachment 22 (MSD-22), provides security for Portsmouth as she sails through the Panama Canal.

In the face of decreasing resources and growing global responsibilities, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) ADM Vern Clark instituted the Fleet Response Plan (FRP) in 2003 to increase the Navy’s effectiveness in maintaining presence with purpose and projecting power from the sea.

“I would rather muster two battle groups for three months and do something really significant internationally – or cooperate with partners in training and so forth – than just go over and hang out for six months without purpose,” Clark told a Navy Times editorial board. “The position that I’m pushing is that we should be less interested in presence and more interested in presence with a purpose.”

The basic goal of FRP is to keep the Navy ready to surge adequate forces at a moment’s notice, without regard to fixed deployment times and intervals. This approach increases readiness and adds significant flexibility to the employment of Navy assets any time, anywhere. Under the FRP, the Navy can provide six Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) in less than 30 days to support contingency operations around the globe, with two more CSGs ready in three months to reinforce or relieve the initial respondors, to continue presence operations in other parts of the world, or to support military action in another crisis.

This concept was tested in Summer Pulse ’04, the Navy’s first exercise using the FRP. Beginning in June and continuing through August, Summer Pulse ’04 exercised the full range of skills involved in deploying and employing CSGs simultaneously around the world. Summer Pulse ‘04 incorporated already-scheduled deployments, surge operations, joint and international exercises, and other forms of advanced at-sea training.

According to former VADM Kirk H. Donald, Commander Naval Submarine Forces, submarines provided a significant portion of the credible combat force that mustered during Summer Pulse ‘04, and they demonstrated the Submarine Force’s ability to surge combat power across the globe quickly for operations in multiple theaters with other U.S., allied, and coalition forces. “Surge deployments in support of the Fleet Response Plan and Summer Pulse ‘04 are historical demonstrations of the Navy’s ability to provide combat power to meet any challenge efficiently,” Donald said. “Every submariner and all those who support submarine operations are contributing to the Navy’s combat force.”

In today’s operations, submarines are providing unique – and often critical – capabilities. “The ongoing global war on terrorism has required rethinking how naval forces, including submarines, prepare to deploy and are sustained during a protracted war,” VADM Donald explained. “The role of the submarine force continues to expand,” he continued. “We provide a unique capability to surge when and where we are needed, arrive on station early, observe the enemy covertly as long as necessary, deploy special operations forces, unmanned underwater vehicles and unmanned sensors, and conduct strike operations with unmatched speed,
responsiveness, accuracy, and lethality.”

While supporting Summer Pulse ’04, submarines also maintained their role in real world operations in several Areas of Responsibility. According to RADM Paul F. Sullivan, Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet, submarines are key to implementing the FRP and remain essential to our ability to respond to contingencies and fight the Global War on Terrorism. “Submarines are a major contributor to both peacetime and wartime operations. Arguably, Commander Pacific Fleet’s primary focus is on anti-submarine warfare, which is potentially a major concern in almost any real-world scenario. Pacific Fleet attack submarines are involved on a daily basis in operations that set the stage for any future conflict, and are likely to have a significant impact on the outcome of any contingencies based on that preparation,” said RADM Sullivan.

“At any given time, roughly eight out of 10 of the Navy’s submarines are able to respond to emergent fleet requirements. The increased surge readiness has already been exploited several times this year to fulfill vital Seventh Fleet operational commitments, including the surge deployments of USS Columbia (SSN-771), USS Salt Lake City (SSN-716), and USS Honolulu (SSN-718) – twice in Honolulu’s case,” RADM Sullivan added.

Sullivan noted that many of the 17 nuclear-powered attack submarines home-ported in Pearl Harbor have proven instrumental to surge deployments. “The Pacific Submarine Force has fully implemented the FRP. The attack-submarine cycle is slightly different from the aircraft-carrier cycle because of different maintenance requirements, but it satisfies all of the FRP readiness goals. Our Inter-Deployment Training Cycle (IDTC) instruction has recently been revised as a Fleet Readiness Training Program (FRTP) instruction that fully implements the FRP,” said Sullivan.

In addition to the attack submarines home ported in Hawaii, two attack submarines, USS San Francisco (SSN-711) and USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN-705) are stationed in Guam under Submarine Squadron 15 and are an integral part of the total Pacific Submarine Force, providing added flexibility to the FRP and meeting surge requirements placed upon the Navy’s heavily-tasked assets.

To demonstrate the concept of surge readiness in the Atlantic, 10 submarines were deployed to four AORs, including USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) and USS Miami (SSN-755), which both deployed during several phases. Miami recently returned from a six-month deployment, where the submarine supported the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) CSG in operations in the Arabian Sea. Then, four months later, Miami surged again to support the Enterprise CSG during Summer Pulse ’04.

Albuquerque was two months into their Pre-Overseas Movement (POM) process in preparation for a deployment in the fall when the surge order came. Albuquerque, along with Miami and USS Albany (SSN-753), participated in Operation MEDSHARK/Majestic Eagle, a joint maritime exercise with ten allied nations to develop interoperability among multinational forces and address critical undersea warfare objectives in the European AOR.

“We did submarine warfare against nuclear and diesel submarines,” said CDR Joe Wiegand, Miami’s commanding officer. “We did surface warfare against ASW-capable units, and we were able to do ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) along the coastline and pass information along to our task group.”

With the participation of submarines from France, Italy, and Portugal, and undersea warfare forces from other coalition and allied forces, these exercises provided a tactical forum for developing active-sonar tactics against quiet diesel boats.

“It takes all the assets in a Carrier Strike Group – the cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and logistic support ships that complement the carrier and its embarked air wing – working together seamlessly to truly implement a concept like the Fleet Response Plan,” said RADM Michael C. Tracy, Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group Two. “This was demonstrated during Summer Pulse ‘04,” he continued, “when the Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) Strike Group carried out multiple roles and missions and exercised the operational concepts of the Sea Power 21 strategy, while working alongside nine other nations during exercise Majestic Eagle. Each of the assets in the Truman Strike Group is integral and essential to the Strike Group team, and all performed superbly during both the COMPTUEX and Majestic Eagle exercises. This demonstrates that our team is really ready to surge.”

“I think the FRP worked fine from a Submarine Force perspective,” said Albuquerque’s commanding officer, CDR Stuart B. Munsch. “We’re usually ready at any time when they call on us, and this was a good illustration of the number of boats that are able to get up and go.”

Both Pacific and Atlantic Fleet submarines have shown that they are able to respond to FRP requirements. According to VADM Michael McCabe, Commander U.S. Third Fleet, the ability to return from a deployment, make necessary repairs, and be ready immediately to go back into harm’s way is something of which the Navy, and in particular, attack submarines, are very capable. “We’ve tightened up our whole approach to the rotation of equipment and personnel and training,” VADM McCabe said. “This will be both more efficient from the financial standpoint and more responsive from the deployability point of view. It will offer the leadership of the country – from the president on down – new opportunities to have forces available to them more rapidly.”

JOC(SW/AW) David Rush serves in the Public Affairs Office for Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific; JOC(SW/AW) Mark Piggott serves in the Public Affairs Office for Commander, Submarine Forces Atlantic; and JO3 Steven Feller serves in the Public Affairs Office for Commander, Navy Region Northeast.

Fall 2004 Cover