In the last issue, I stressed the need to accelerate next-generation capabilities to the warfighter to maintain our margin on undersea superiority. Attack submarines are critical enablers of the National Defense Strategy and represent one of the nation’s most lethal asymmetric advantages. It is critical that we maintain our undersea advantage and remain versatile in an unpredictable environment. We need to be able to create scalable effects to complicate our adversaries’ calculus. The Subsea and Seabed Warfare Initial Capabilities Document was recently approved and provides the framework through which we incorporate new capabilities that extend the submarine’s reach to very deep and very shallow areas where we have limited influence today. The Initial Capabilities Document is just the first step, bringing scalable effects to the seabed and undersea domain. Our first step is getting Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) in the hands of the operators at scale. My goal is to get small and medium UUV launch and recovery from torpedo tubes on par with that of towed array deployment and retrieval.
The days of UUV operations being a niche mission are over. We will continue to develop and deliver a sustainable inventory of all classes of UUVs, with adequate inventory, proper manning and training for employment, and Fleet systems to enhance our reach and lethality throughout the undersea domain. The technology still needs to mature, but UWDC, the TYCOMS, and N97 are aligned to get the warfighters the CONOPS and capability in the near term. UUVs are a different challenge than UAVs; there is no man in the loop and they need to be 100% autonomous. They are truly on independent ops. Set/drift, prevention of mutual interference, and underwater navigation are challenging for manned submarines and will be much more difficult without an operator. However, I am convinced we can solve these challenges with our collective efforts.
J.W. Tammen, Jr.