“It is with great pleasure that I address you for the first time as Acting Director of Submarine Warfare. I look forward to continuing to field the absolute best technology and war-fighting capability to our waterfront Sailors and Submarines.”
RDML Bruce Grooms, USN, Director, Submarine Warfare
Greetings from our Nation’s Capital! My past year as the Deputy Director for Submarine Warfare under VADM Van Mauney’s sage guidance proved invaluable as we geared up for the current budget cycle. Although FY08 was off to a delayed start without a signed Defense Appropriations Bill until November 13th, the Virginia-Class Program advanced procurement plus-up proved to make the Bill worth the wait. Virginia is just one of the many exciting developments I have to tell you about in this issue!
Shaping the Submarine Force and its capabilities for tomorrow while engaged in the fiscal and operational challenges of today is a daunting task. Despite a highly competitive budget battlefield, the Submarine Force continues to manifest impressive success stories. Most notably, the FY08 Defense Appropriations Bill contains a significant increase ($588M) in Virginia-Class Program advance procurement funding, added by Congress, over the amount previously programmed. These advance procurement dollars will allow the acquisition of several major components for a Virginia-Class submarine, and may lead to achieving a two-submarine per year build rate one year earlier than programmed. This additional earlier build if realized, will have a significant positive effect on our downstream force structure numbers.
Ohio’s departure for deployment on October 14 from Bangor marked the latest milestone for this successful program. From initial authorization to delivery in just under five years, SSGN has set the standard for new capability acquisition and is already in high demand by the combatant commanders for her array of unique capabilities. All four SSGNs will be delivered within 1% of a budget goal and 2% of the original timeline set over five years ago. No other major acquisition program over the last few years can make the same claim and we owe it all to everyone’s dedicated and diligent efforts.
Several of our programs are maturing and bringing exciting new capabilities to the fleet. Early in October the USS Hartford (SSN-768) conducted a successful test of the AN/BLQ-11 Long-Term Mine Reconnaissance System (LMRS). The test included a successful end-to-end operation of two fully autonomous Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) from mission load to impulse launch through submerged recovery back into the torpedo tube. LMRS presents a revolutionary capability that provides an intermediate step toward the Mission Reconfigurable UUV System (MRUUVS). The USS Asheville (SSN-758) is operating at sea with the latest ARCI/BYG-1 Sonar / Combat Control System, TI-06. The Integrated Submarine Imaging System (ISIS) is rapidly on its way to the fleet and will allow the integration of Patriot, Night Owl, and digital imaging into the BYG-1 system. Super High Frequency (SHF) communications are also becoming reality and bringing observed transmit/receive capability in the order of 64kbps at periscope depth with satellite logon times significantly less than that of EHF. USS Montpelier (SSN-765) deployed with the ability to conduct high frequency IP communications at depth with the rest of the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) Strike Group via her buoyant cable antenna. Additionally, we continue to make a concerted effort to improve operational availability (Ao), or the amount of time that our submarines are available to the operational commander vice being tied up conducting maintenance in port. We are doing this by looking for ways to perform ship modernizations concurrently with major shipyard maintenance periods (ERO, DMP, SRA) vice doing them in series as they are done today. If this can be accomplished it would restore several months of operational time to the fleet commander. And while this is significant, the real gain will be to keep our ships and their crews from going into and out of major availabilities only months apart.
The pinning of a third star on now VADM Van Mauney signaled the time for departure from his tenure as Director of Submarine Warfare. All of us at N87 would like to thank him for the exceptional leadership he has demonstrated over the past fifteen months. The current trust in our working relationship with lawmakers and confidence in delivering capabilities on time and on budget with taxpayers is a legacy that will benefit the Submarine Force for years to come. Fair winds and following seas to VADM Mauney and his family as he heads to Nebraska to serve as Deputy Commander, U.S. Strategic Command.
Finally, I want to thank our shipmates who have recently departed OPNAV N87 for their tireless dedication to maintaining the most powerful Submarine Force in the world for today and years to come. Their tactical, fiscal, and organizational savvy while battling in the Washington trenches is the unheralded foundation upon which the successes I share with you are built. Farewell to CAPT Doug Prince, LCDR Travis Petzoldt, LCDR Chris Koczur, CDR Steve Hall, CDR Mike Dargel, CDR Rob Weber, and Mr. Seth Rubin. Fair winds and following seas.