Undersea Warfare Team,
I recently relieved as the Director of Undersea Warfare (N97), and I am very impressed with the acceleration of capability development for the Undersea Domain over the past few years. As the new Director, my focus is to ensure the Undersea Domain is appropriately resourced to be ready and lethal today while pursuing capabilities to ensure our nation’s success in any potential future conflict.
I would like to acknowledge our progress over the last year in the two primary warfighting missions: Strategic Deterrence and Theater Undersea Warfare (TUSW).
On the Strategic Deterrence front, DoD’s number one priority is to ensure the most survivable leg of the nuclear deterrent triad is sustained and modernized to support the requirements of 10 operational SSBNs. We have performed remarkable work to extend the 30-year service life of the Ohio-class submarine to 42 years, and we are committed to modernizing this platform with the sensors and systems similar to the newest fast attack submarines. We have no margin for delay in the delivery of the Columbia-class and there are scores of personnel working tirelessly to ensure the successful class transition while achieving all STRATCOM requirements. The Columbia detailed design contract has been awarded to Electric Boat; construction of the lead ship will start in FY21, and at-sea testing in FY27. The Columbia-class’ first patrol is scheduled for FY31.
Shifting now to the TUSW—one of our priorities for undersea warfare is ensuring we have sufficient forces to meet our Combatant Commander needs, both in peace and war. The most recent Force Structure Assessment, published in early 2017, requires 66 submarines. We are committed to building at least two Virginia-class boats per year, even while construction starts on the Columbia. Today’s global environment is evolving and the Virginia class is evolving with it. Block III introduced the Virginia payload tubes and Block V will introduce the Virginia Payload Module (VPM) and other capabilities. The first VPM boat will start construction in FY19 and will commission in 2024. This will be the first step in preserving our undersea strike capability, reconstituting SOF capability on Virginia class and providing the capacity to carry innovative payloads and unmanned systems. Another investment priority is accelerating delivery of unmanned systems to the Fleet. Capable UUVs, effectively employed by capable warfighters, will enhance platform performance and increase the Navy’s area of reach and influence.
Our National Strategy is clear. “The United States must retain overmatch—the combination of capabilities in sufficient scale to prevent enemy success and to ensure that America’s sons and daughters will never be in a fair fight.” I don’t want our submarines to ever be in a fair fight. My job is to expand our portfolio of lethal options so submarine crews can always kick down the door for the rest of the Joint Force. In a recent appearance in San Diego, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Neller, stated, “As a naval force, part of a maritime campaign, we need more attack submarines… we’re going to have to fight to get to the fight.” Our primary occupation is to be preeminent warfighters to maintain our dominance in the maritime domain. We own the seas!
J.W. Tammen, Jr.