I have been in the job for 10 months, and it’s clear to me that, although we dominate the undersea domain today, we must continue to accelerate our efforts to deliver next-generation capabilities to our warfighters. Russia and China recognize the asymmetric advantage of the undersea domain and are determined to close the gap. The CNO challenged us to expand our margin relative to undersea superiority. To that end, we will strive to make our ships and weapons more lethal, improve our stealth, increase our reach, leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning, and get technology in the hands of the warfighter faster. Vice Adm. Richard’s vision is clear: “Prepare for battle!”
Since this summer, I attended the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I.; spoke at the Joint Undersea Warfare Technology Conference in Groton, Conn.; and briefed the Naval Submarine League’s Fall Symposium in Crystal City, Va. Military, government, industry, and academic leaders attend these events, which are critical to align our efforts to swiftly get combat-credible capabilities to the Fleet to increase our lethality. One recurring theme was evident at all the venues and through all the speakers: the United States is once again engaged in a great power competition. To outpace these threats, I firmly believe we will only get faster through experimentation and not through PowerPoint presentations. This is what made ANTX a phenomenal event; participating organizations developed prototypes and put them through their paces in the water. Expect to see more at-sea demonstrations, experimentation, and tactical development exercises in the future.
The continued success of our Submarine Force relies on our ability to train and execute across a broad spectrum of warfare areas. In the CNO’s words, we have to advance our high-end capabilities so we control the de-escalation of conflict across all domains. In the undersea domain, this requires expanding our tool set beyond ADCAP torpedoes and TLAMs; we need more ways to give our enemies a “bloody nose.” As such, N97 is developing a spectrum of weapons and payloads to maximize the lethality of the submarines our Sailors take to sea, give operational commanders increased firepower in our response, and allow us to confront our adversaries from the seabed to multiple domains.
In addition to payloads, our boats must evolve with the threat. The Tactical Submarine Evolution Plan (TSEP) is synchronizing our future submarine design efforts to drive additional capability and lethality into Blocks V, VI, and VII of the Virginia class. At the same time, the TSEP is guiding our development of the New SSN. Finally, we transitioned the Integrated Undersea Surveillance Systems (IUSS) family of fixed, mobile, and deployable sensor systems to N97. Realizing that Theater Undersea Warfare (TUSW) is not just about submarines but is a team fight, this re-alignment within the undersea enterprise puts us in a better position to develop technologies across the undersea domain and build a truly integrated undersea infrastructure.
In this great power competition, we must maintain our advantage in the undersea domain. This being the warfighting edition, I must recognize the principal reason for our strength as a submarine force. We have the best people and the best training. Now is the time to get them the best tools and tactics to outpace our adversaries in this great power competition.
J.W. Tammen, Jr.