This issue of UNDERSEA WARFARE focuses on undersea payloads. As a young ensign reporting to my first submarine, USS Pollack (SSN 603), I was introduced to our then-state-of-the-art weapons — the MK 48 Heavyweight Torpedo and Tomahawk Land Attack Missile. Today's Submarine Force still fields evolved versions of these weapons, which, while capable against today's threats, may not be enough for the fight of the future.
One of the biggest challenges our Submarine Force faces today is determining which payloads will best take us into the future. There are lots of bounding factors involved, including the cost to develop any given payload and the likelihood of making it to production — all balanced against being able to effectively operate in the threat environment of the future. It's a daunting task when you step back and consider the challenges.
Adding to this challenge, we must press forward payloads in today's tight fiscal environment. We cannot afford to chase exotic solutions that do not fit into a broader picture of how the Navy can most effectively use its submarines. We will continue working to balance our books while at the same time providing the Navy a Submarine Force ready to fight and win both today and tomorrow.
That said, there is no better group than the people we're currently working with to take us in the right direction. Admiral Richardson and Admiral Wears have put together a logical process that ensures open and transparent communications, sharing of ideas, partnering with industry and the technical labs, etc. — all focused on formally generating priorities that we can work on collectively. Along that line, one of our most important payload issues is restarting production of the MK 48 ADCAP Torpedo. We are scrubbing every dollar to find a way to fund that effort — and we will continue to do so until we succeed.
We'll continue to work the details of how we align and prioritize the budget, but efficiently spending the taxpayers' money is an all-hands responsibility, so I'd like to ask for your ideas on how to best invest in the payloads of the future. If you have any ideas that you feel we ought to consider, please let me, or anyone here on the N97 staff, know about them. Although we no longer preach D.W. Demming's mantra of the best ideas coming from the ones who are actually "doing," we haven't forgotten that the undersea warfare community — you guys (and I mean that in a gender-neutral way)— are among the smartest, hardest working and most innovative people in the world. So I look forward to hearing your ideas.
In this issue you will read about torpedo lessons learned the hard way — sometimes at the risk of our Sailors. You will also read about how we took those lessons to heart and what our torpedo test program does today to prevent repeating those mistakes. We then address some future payload concepts and a vision of how submarines will deliver the right payloads, in the right quantities, to keep our nation safe. We're looking at everything from large-displacement unmanned undersea vehicles to the ability to launch a Prompt Global Strike weapon from a large-diameter payload tube in an SSGN or an enhanced Virginia. We're working to enter the next stage of warfare with vigor: Information and electronic warfare are becoming ever more important, and both will need payloads (perhaps autonomous underwater vehicles) to get them in position.
Finally, as undersea payloads and capabilities continue to evolve, we must also evolve the fleet-wide CONOPs that embrace the Undersea Warfare Commander, giving him the authority and direction to take the battle to the enemy and win. And the list goes on.
I recently had the chance to speak with retired Admiral Frank Drennan about some of our payload initiatives. In the picture above, we are standing in front of an SSGN mock-up showing the Universal Launch and Recovery Module concept for launching, recovering and stowing large unmanned underwater vehicles. The left tube shows how two commercially available vehicles could fit vertically inside one SSGN tube. The right tube shows the ULRM extended to provide a "runway" for UUV takeoff and landing. This mock-up has become a real conversation piece in the Pentagon and has helped people better visualize the possibilities.
We are in the middle of an exciting time of change — and there is a lot going on. Superb!
I hope you find the articles in this issue interesting — and I look forward to hearing your ideas about payloads.