During World War II, submarines were decisive in the battle of the Pacific. Submarines will be equally important to the outcome of any future conflict in the Pacific. This conclusion is brought into question only by a growing Soviet ability to checkmate our submarines. This seeming heresy to submarine enthusiasts is, rather, an admission of improving Soviet strategy and tactics, the sound quieting of their boats and their technological improvements in both submarine and anti-submarine operations. The Soviets have quantitative superiority. To also bow to a Soviet qualitative superiority imperils the future.
“Why submarines?” The 1114lan in the street” oan tell you what submarines are for, what their strengths are, and how important they have been in wartime. But their use in peacetime is not as well appreciated. Nonetheless, tl’ley contribute importantly to our peacetime deterrence mission. On the strategic side, they currently provide our most secure leg of the triad since SAC’s land based missiles and strategic bomber bases can be pretargeted. On the conventional side, aggression is deterred becausE- the: Soviets know they are up against the world’s finest submarine force. Only if the Soviets continue to believe they are second best will our submarine force make a vital contribution to deterrence.
In our efforts to make a point, the word “vital” is used too often, but in this case, it is vital that the u.s. retain technological and tactical superiority in its submarine force.
l~ost commander·s ar·e: prone to rank missions for the submarine force in similar fashion. First comes strategic deterrence. Our squadron of Bar.tor-based TJllDEN’l’ SSBN’ s, armed with 24 TP.IPENT r missiles each, will continue to provide us ~orith a sujtable d(!torrent to nuclt•;w war weJl into the 21st century. Second, there are the things that SSN’s do well surveHlance, jnterdiction through mining, destruction of Soviet combatants, and disruption of Soviet merchant shipping. Third, the submarine’s role in special operations is coming into prominence.
The force is well prepared to do all these things. For the most demanding task, killing other submarines, our new LOS ANGELEs-class submarines with a high speed capability, the latest in sensor and underwater weapons systems, and our most modern sound quieting techniques, give us the best anti-submarine unit in the world. The LOS ANGELES-class is backed up by our STURGEON and PERMIT-class SSN’s which are being modernized with new sensor and fire control systems. There can be little doubt about the Soviets allocating a large number of their submarines to sink our battle groups. To survive, the group must be proficient in the full spectrum of anti-submarine warfare. Our SSN’s are the most effective means to counter the Soviet cruise missile and torpedo firing submarines. On the other hand, our attack submarines will be tasked to sink Sovi~t surface combatants as the opportunities develop. Our attack submarines will allow the commander to disrupt the enemy sea lines of communication by sinking Soviet merchant shipping and, at the same time, by their presence, make our own commercial and supply links with our many allies rimming the Pacific Basin a bit more secure.
All this represents an ambitiouo course of action that will keep our submarines busy. To succeed requires quality platforms manned by topnotch crews. Today, we have both. Technology is producing these platforms, and we continue to attract and retain superior people in the submarine force through the use of special itJctmti ve pay, excellent training and education programs, challenging duty essi&nments, and high prou~.otion ancl ~-dvancement opportunities. This class act must be supported by a substantial investment of our resources if we are to maintain the edge over the Soviets — andt of course- we must.
We have completed our last TRIDENT hull to be loaded initially with the TRIDENT I missile. The next TRIDENT off the ways will be outfitted with the Trident II D-5 missile and the upgraded ship systems to support this new weapon. Starting with the first overhaul of OHIO, the eight initial TRIDENTS will be backfitted with the D-5 missile. The TRIDENT II missile will add to our strategic flexibility by giving us more accuracy and greater throw-weight. Modernized 688-class submarines are making their initial appearance into our order of battle. These submarines have full Arctic capability, are equipped with the vertical launch system for TOMAHAWK, and have a more powerful propulsion plant. The SSN-21 advanced design fast attack submarine project is well underway. This new platform will sport major advances in sensors, weapons, and sound silencing.
Since we suffer from a one to three deficit in numbers, it is not illogical to argue that our forces must be at least three times better than the Soviets. Such a ratio becomes more and more difficult each passing day. The Soviets build new classes of submarines almost as fast as we build new individual units. Their latest models, including the AKULA SSN, are closing the technology gap. The MIKE and SIERRA-class SSN’s are both advanced follow-on designs with quantum leaps in sensor and sound quieting technology. The TYPHOON SSBN’s are difficult to detect with improved tactic~ ar•d a capability to patrol beneath the P.r·ctj c ice cap. New ballistic missiles and cruise missiles are being tested and will soon be ready to deploy. Soviet non-submarine ASW prosecution js getting better and better with the introduction of the nuclear-powered KIROV cruisers, the towed sonar equipped UDALOY destroyers, and brand new, redesigned BEAH 11F11 ASW patrol aircraft.
The increased sophistication of Soviet ASW forces enhances their ability to provide the traditional echeloned defense of their conventional and SSBN strategic assets. Our submarines will have to pass through an expanded three-dimensional sea control/sea denial area populated by increasingly capable surface and submarine ASW forces while overhead the modernized BEAH F1 s patrol farther afield.
Aside from anti-submarine operations, yet another new threat in the Soviet arsenal is the ss-NX-21 submarine-launched cruise missile. Modified YANKEE-class submarines and other general purpose Soviet submarines are expected to deploy this long-range, nuclear-capable, land-attack cruise missile system this year. This system could be used in a theater or strategic role or against U.S. targets such as command, control, and communications facilities and naval bases. The ss-NX-21 will give elements of the Soviet general purpose submarine force a nuclear land-attack role which will considerably complicate our ASW battle management problem since we have no option but to counter.
The Soviets are also aggressively updating their submarine communications and support systems. We expect them to deploy an extremely low frequency (ELF) communications system, which will be used to contact their submarines under most operating conditions. For physical protection, they continue constructing protective tunnels at their submarine bases for berthing and refitting. The Soviet oceanographic research fleet, larger than the rest of the world’s combined, contributes to their increasingly precise knowledge of the oceans, and enables their navy to make optimum use of its weapons, sensors, and platforms.
The Soviet operators are gettine; saar·ter , too. Each year, their large naval exercis~~ demonstrate a progressively greater degree of complexity and sophistication. Their blue water tactics, command and control, and operating experience are accumulating at an astounding rate. We have observed that many of these complex exercises center around ASW prosecution techniques. The Soviets are working har-d and spending a lot of money — and producing results.
Our strength as a world power has traditionally centered on our ability to develop the most technically advanced weapons systems and man them with the smartest, beat trained people. These characteristics remain the keys to maintaining our superiority in submarine operations. It is necessary that we continue with El(:.£:.l·e~H:live research and development programs. We must tend to emphasize to our people programs to make sure we attract talented young men for submarine service, men who can understand and effectively employ some of the most complex defense equipment in the world. Without our continued national dedication to these truths, the Soviets will erode a superiority that is vital to the nation.
Admiral Ron Hayes, USN
Commander in Chief, Pacifio