As the CNO pointed out in his Guidance for 2006, “Our strength and our future rely on our diversity”. A more diverse Navy means a stronger Navy and – in turn – a Submarine Force with the best and brightest minds.
RDML Joseph A. Walsh, USN, Director, Submarine Warfare
The Submarine Force stands poised and ready to take on the challenges and opportunities of 2006. Our services are in high demand, we are building new ships and we are modernizing the ones we have. Our contributions to the Global War on Terror (GWOT) are significant, and our ability to meet potential future threats is unsurpassed.
Speaking of preparing to meet future threats, in his May 2001 commencement address to the U.S. Naval Academy, President George W. Bush made a reference to the SSGN conversion plan, citing it as a transformational program needed for today’s security environment. With the return of USS Ohio (SSGN-726) to the fleet, 2006 will go into the books as a year of transformation. Ohio embodies a unique transformational spirit and is a shining example of forward thinking and adaptability. You can read more about Ohio and the capabilities she brings to the fleet on page 18 of this issue.
When looking at capabilities and what the Submarine Force brings to the fleet, a relevant topic is our force level – where are we and where are we going? The first ten Virginia-class submarines are under contract and the next contract will be negotiated in 2008. With the current Virginia-class build rate, the SSN force level will remain relatively stable between now and 2013. The current program of record reflects an increase in the Virginia build rate from one per year to two per year starting in fiscal year 2012. Regarding SSBNs and SSGNs, the force level will remain constant at 14 and 4 respectively, for the foreseeable future.
Although we are enthusiastic about our submarine platforms, we are just as inspired by the many new technologies that were developed and came to fruition over the past year. For example, in July, we launched the first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from a submarine – USS Albany (SSN-753). The use of this technology for force protection and reconnaissance has great potential. In November, we successfully conducted a land launch demonstration of the Littoral Warfare Weapon (LWW) – a future subsurface-to-air or surface missile. You can read more about another new technology – an underwater glider – on page 10 of this issue. Innovations like these are just a few examples of the many ways we are working to increase our dominance of the sea.
On page 22 of this issue, you will find an in-depth historical analysis of the loss and salvage of USS F-4 (SS-23). F-4 was the first U.S. submarine to sink with a loss of life. In light of the events surrounding the stranding of the Russian mini-submarine Priz this past summer, submarine escape and rescue is more relevant than ever before.
Moving on to people news, diversity is one of many issues facing the Navy today, and it is not just about numbers. As the CNO pointed out in his Guidance for 2006, “Our strength and our future rely on our diversity”. A more diverse Navy means a stronger Navy and – in turn – a Submarine Force with the best and brightest minds. The more diverse we are, the greater the pool of knowledge and experience we draw from. One of those “best and brightest” minds, CAPT Bruce Grooms, is featured on page 6 of this issue. Bruce, who serves as Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy, is leading and shaping our future leaders.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Naval Submarine League, not only for their tireless advocacy on behalf of submariners everywhere, but for their continued support of UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine’s Annual Photo Contest – an event they sponsor every year. As in previous years, the winning photographs will be announced and featured at the annual Naval Submarine League Symposium, and the summer edition of this magazine. You can find more information about this year’s photo contest on the inside back cover of this issue.
In closing, there is much on the radar for 2006 that should make it a significant year in our Force’s history. USS Florida (SSGN-728) and USS Michigan (SSGN-727) will be delivered to the fleet after their conversion process from SSBN to SSGN, and the USS Texas (SSN-775), the second Virginia-class submarine, will also join the fleet in 2006. I wish a happy and healthy New Year to all of our Submarine Force men and women, and their families. BZ on a job well done in 2005, keep up the great work!