- The Senate Armed Services Committee notes in their Report on the FY 1986 Authorization Act that: “The Committee is advised of the operational necessity for submarines which are superior to those of the Soviet Union, but would also like to state its concern about the projected cost of the planned New Design SSN (the SSN-21). This is a particular concern since the unified commanders indicated requirements for more nuclear powered submarines than the Navy plans to fund.”
Last year the Navy indicated a cost ceiling for the SSN-21. The lead ship would not exceed $1.6 billion while the fifth and follow-on ships would not exceed $1.0 billion, measured in 1985 dollars. For comparison, the cost of an SSN-688 in FY 1985, when four were funded, is $626.5 million.
The committee is concerned that the cost of these submarines may preclude the procurement of enough submarines of this class (SSN-21s) to meet over-all requirements which are derived from the threat posed by potential adversaries.
$28.5 million was recommended for continued R & D of submarine laser communications. “The specific pay offs of this technology would be for providing messages to SSBNs at depth, without compromising the submarines’ covertness and increased survivability of the cqmmand control and communications into the post attack period . . . . a satellite-based laser transmitter has been chosen as the baseline system approach.”
In this Report, Senator Gary Hart provides “additional views.” He notes . . “we oontinue to buy inadequate numbers of very expensive weapons especially in critical categories such as attack submarines.” He also says, in discussing “seapower,” that Aegis ships will absorb a great amount of defense spending and that these ships “do nothing but defend a few aircraft carriers from air attack,” while this use of Aegis ships only means “continued weakness in capital ships -that is, submarines. The submarine, not the aircraft carrier is today’s capital ship.” And he notes that, because of the high cost of the SSN21, “our already inadequate submarine force will probably grow smaller.”
- The House Armed Services Committee in their markup of the 1986 Defense Bill recommended a cancellation of the Navy’s $205 million SUBACS submarine advanced combat system R & D program, supplementing it with an “SSN-21 combat system” development effort funded at $190 Million. The new effort stems from problems with IBM’s system, causing the Navy to scrap part of IBM’s SUBACS which doesn’t work and salvaging the rest. The key part being eliminated is the fiber optics computer system that can digest and produce information on several enemy targets at once.
- Aerosoace Daily of May 13, 1985, reports that the Soviet Union is developing a Type 65 torpedo which indicates a greatly improved antiship torpedo technology. With considerable improvement in propulsion, this Soviet torpedo can be fired at great stand-off ranges at NATO shipping, with a speed double that of most NATO equivalent antiship torpedoes.
- In early March, the evening “news” on TV reported a North Korean submarine having gone down in the Yellow Sea. The picture shown on TV appeared to be that of a Romeo (possibly an exChinese) type of diesel-electric submarine — of which the North Koreans have about 12 such boats in addition to their 4 ex-Soviet Whiskey class submarines.
- The Washington Post of March 22, 1985, reported that “A Navy oceanographer who traveled into space on a shuttle flight last fall brought back some fantastically important information that will make it easier for u.s. submarines to hide in the world’s oceans” — according to the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. James D. Watkins. The oceanographer, Paul D. Scully-Power, found large eddies and unknown currents in the oceans during his shuttle observations. According to Adm. Watkins, “He found important new phenomenology that will be vital to us in trying to understand the oceans’ depths . . . When people ask, ‘Aren’t the oceans getting more transparent?’ we say ‘No way, they’re getting more opaque’ because we’re learning more about them all the time. How to employ them in a stealthy sense.”
- Navy News And Undersea Technology of May 10, 1985, reports that the Navy is exploring the practicality of developing a “dumb”, low-cost torpedo like those used in WW II. The submarinelaunched MK 48 at $4 million a copy, if used against surface ships would, it is believed, constitute an “overkill” that can’t be afforded. One Navy source is quoted as saying: “Surface ships are no harder to hit today than they were in 1942.” Thus, instead of using “smart” torpedoes like the MK-48, the Navy is preparing a blueprint for the use of “dumb” torpedos that are fire-and forget and swim straight at a target, and do this at a cost well below $100,000 — and which are used against merchant ships. (It is assumed that against ASW warships the MK-48 is more likely to be used.) However, the article quotes one source as saying that there has been a longtime Navy policy of reducing the number of and standardizing of weapons carried in a sub. “Submarine warfare officials,” according to this article, complained that submarines can carry only a handful of torpedos and they are not willing to give up smart weapons for dumb ones. Also, since the adversary has advanced his anti-torpedo defenses, a dumb weapon would be harmless. (ED Note: The electronic, complex torpedo might be more easily countered by countermeasures or decoys used by merchant ships — than a straight-runner fired from an optimum position, as was done by the British nuclear sub CONQUEROR using old MK-VIII 1s against the Argentine cruiser BELGRANO.)
- Sub Notes of March, 1985, reports: “True to its word to do something about ‘foreign’ subs operating in its waters with impunity, Sweden has bought two Mini-Subs from Yugoslavia, for almost $700,000 to spike up its subsea defenses. These two-man craft will add to the growing antisubmarine armory which also includes six new mine hunters with high frequency sonar and seven subkiller helicopters.”
- Navy News and Underseas Technology, 29 March, 1985, tells of a Navy proposal to develop an oceanographic satellite that will search for safe spots in the ocean where U.S, submarines can hide. This proposal was fueled by findings of a Navy oceanographer that, “the ocean holds more hiding spots that subs would fit into than ever before known.” Melvyn Paisley, assistant Navy secretary for research, engineering and systems, in recent Congressional testimony, said, “Knowledge of the ocean environment is critical to our naval tactical and strategic force employment The Navy will boost break-throughs in oceanography this year.” Part of this program will be to increase support of the Navy Remote Ocean Sensing Systems Satellite and an increase in the number of oceanographic research vessels. The task to better study the oceans has been assigned to the Institute of Naval Oceanography, by Navy Secretary John Lehman.
- The New London Day on March 17, 1985, contained an article by Linda Rancourt on a study of the effects of lack of sun on submariners. The author develops most of her tentative information on work being done at the Naval Medical Research Laboratory at the Submarine Base, New London. Although a “definitive study on vitamin D sunlight/metabolism/calcium, has not been done,” says CDR Kenneth D. Biondi, a research scientist, “we’ve been hitting aspects of it.” Another scientist notes that “levels of Vitamin D drop during three-month deployments . . . the levels go down from the beginning of the patrol to the end much as a 70-day stretch away from sunlight is not yet determined. It still is uncertain whether these deficiencies affect performance.” Sunlight triggers production of Vitamin D in the skin. The ‘human body needs Vitamin D to absorb bone-building calcium, and the Vitamin can be supplied through supplements, fortified milk, eggs, .and fish oil. Other vitamin levels drop during a patrol, including B-6, and this could be because of stress. However, a research scientist noted that: “Sailors become more depressed just before a patrol, but this lessens as the sub gets closer to home and seems related to separation from home rather than nutrition.• The author notes that when a crew sets out for sea, work schedules lengthen, social life nearly halts, exercise and physical activity drop off, and the air in the closed submarine has higher levels of carbon dioxide. Overall, these changes may have an effect on performance, but as yet the scientists have not backed this premise with fact.
- An article in The Washington Post of 8 Hay by Sally Squires says that a Navy financed independent research group — The American Institute of Biological Sciences — has determined that the extremely low frequency communication system (ELF) poses no danger to the public health or the environment. Their study concludes: “It is unlikely that exposure of living systems to ELF Communications Systems can lead to adverse public health effects or to adverse effects on plants and animals.” Critics state that “Scientific evidence clearly shows the potential risk and potential health hazard of ELF,” but then conclude this with. . . “the magnitude of which is unknown.” Identified possible biological effects from ELF waves are changes in the way calcium enters and leaves brain cells, the perception of flickering lights within the visual field and certain behavioral changes. An increased suicide rate from exposure to ELF waves is, for example, suggested. The Research Group examined such reservations and recommended monitoring of these areas and responding to any significant new information introduced. Meanwhile, ELF has a goahead for construction on a 56-mile tract in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a tie-in with a 28 mile Wisconsin portion, successfully completed March 15. ELF is used to send radio signals to deeply submerged submarines.
- In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Force Projection subcommittee on March 19, according to Melissa Healy, writing in ~ ~ ~ Underseas Technology, March 1, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman described the u.s. Navy’s new maritime strategy. “We have to go on the offensive early” he emphasized. “We have to control the Norwegian Sea and force them back into the defensive, fUrther north under the ice . . . To ready American naval forces to seize the initiative early in a war, the service has moved to land U.S. Marines in Norway, 30 days before the outbreak of hostilities — to beat the sea and air-lift shortfalls.” American ships and submarines would put to sea on an accelerated “surge” schedule 10 to 30 days before the onset of war. American attack submarines would be sent well north of the GI-UK gap during the earliest phases of the war, and peacetime stocks would be filled, particularly on the carriers, so ships could go on alert faster, “Our submarines have to go and nullify the Soviet submarine force before we can send any surface ships, and before we send Marines up there in amphibious craft — to land and secure airbases in Norway.” Lehman is further reported: “Once Soviet attack subs have been neutralized, we have to be able to provide later air support to the forces there, so they can do those tasks that are necessary to secure Norway.” Admiral Watkins in later testimony said, “Our unified Commanders see it as a very carefully planned and coordinated roll-back operation with SSN-to-SSN combat in the upper Norwegian Sea.” In more recent statements, Secretary Lehman is quoted as saying that the Navy intends to sink the Soviet’s SSBN’s in the first phases of conventional war in Europe. He sees the American attack subs going after the enemy .ballistic missile submarines “in the first five minutes of the war” and chasing the Soviet SSBN’s under the ice of the Barents Sea and picking them off one by one.
- Timemagazine of March 11 discusses various ideas for the President’s Strategic Defense Initiatives. One concept describes a submarine-launched, laser-generating weapon. It is noted that all laser beams have trouble cutting through the atmosphere to destroy missiles in their boost phase, and would probably be used for post-boost or mid-course interception. But then, it is warned, the enemy warheads (which may have separated from their missiles ) are hardest to find because they’d be hidden amongst a swarm of decoys. This is a form of “pop-up defense.” The submarine’s nuclear device generates laser beams as it explodes. In a microsecond, rods projecting from the device direct laser beams against missiles.
- The Washington Post of May 23, 1985, reports that Chief Warrant Officer John A. Walker Jr., who is accused of passing secrets to the Soviet Union, and who was arrested after he had allegedly left a paper shopping bag with 129 classified Navy documents at a drop site near Poolesville, Maryland, “attended submarine school and served aboard two submarines and several ships.” The article also noted: “Officials said they believed the alleged espionage operation had been under way for at least 18 years and covered at least some or the time that Walker served in the Navy.” In later issues of the Post, John Walker was identified as having handled top-secret coded communications on the nuclear submarine SIMON BOLIVAR from 1965 to 1967 as a radio officer. Later he was a communications officer for the Submarine Force, and that he held a “top secret crypto” clearance before he retired. Also, his brother Arthur who served on many submarines during a 20-year career from 1953 to 1973, has been arrested for supplying classified information to John Walker and subsequently to the Soviets.
- NAUTILUS, the world’s first nuclear submarine on her final voyage left Hare Island under tow on 28 Hay and should arrive at the SubBase New London, by 6 July. There she will become a permanent display for the public. NAUTILUS was commissioned September 30, 1954, and decommissioned March 3, 1980, at Mare Island -where her propulsion system was defueled and inactivated. She was towed to the Panama Canal by QUAPAW (ATF 110) and from there to New London by the RECOVERY (ARS 430).
- The Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, has established a program for developing a cadre of Material Professionals well versed in the business management of systems acquisition. This action stems from an observed need to have better and more permanent program managers for the development of major new systems. Of the 60 flag officers selected for this purpose, tive are submariners: VADH Albert Baciooco, Jr.; RADH John Mooney, Jr.; COHO Charles Brickell, Jr.; COMO Guy Curtis III; and COMO Thomas Evans.
- ALABAMA (SSBN 731) was commissioned on 25 Hay. She is the sixth TRIDENT submarine to become operational and after a six-months work up will join the other TRIDENT submarines at their Bangor base in the State of Washington. ALASKA (SSBN 732), which was launched at Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics on 12 January, should be commissioned in the fall. At that time she will pose a SALT problem by possibly causing an exceeding or the SALT strategic weapon limits by 14 warheads.