This is a great day for the submarine force. And it provides a fitting and proper occasion to reflect on our splendid past, on the very satisfactory state of affairs in the present, and on the exciting future.
The present is well represented today — just take a look around at these superb ships and the wonderful people who sail an them and command them. Those of you whose memories go back that far, recall that less than 35 years ago, our force was 100 percent diesel electric. Those were tough ships — the best we had at the time — and they could and did operate against the enemy in any environment. But the margins were much finer than today. OUr skippers like Bart Bacon, ( the new COHSUBLANT’s rather) had to get in very close to shoot; they had to attack at night or constantly watch their batteries during daylight submerged approaches; for every action there was a trade-off.
But look at where we are today. Like the Navy overall, the submarine force is in great shape. It is operating at a high tempo, with total professionalism and with historically high levels of readiness and capability. Our submarines can go anywhere undetected, and they can stay on station indefinitely. A lot of people share in the credit for today’s success. Some of them are standing beside me on this ship, others are visible in their neat ranks all around you, and one man, Vice Admiral Dan Cooper, whom we honor in this ceremony, has played a particularly important role. I’ll have more to say about Dan’s superb performance in a moment, but for now, think of the total support, the incredible investment in training and material throughout the chain of command that make ships like USS NORFOLK and her sisters such going concerns.
Now that leaves the Future, and what a thrilling era that promises to be. In my 39-plus years or wearing a uniform, I can think of few times when the future has excited so much attention, not only in the submarine force, but throughout the navy. It may be the approach of the next millennium; it may be what is happening in the Soviet Union and the prospect that there will perhaps be fundamental changes in relation-ships among the community of nations; it may be the tremendous explosion of new technology and the anticipation that the navy in general, the submarine force in particular, is going to depart from the present plateaus and begin one or its periodio adventures scaling heretofore unknown heights of capabality. Whatever the reason, “the future” has become almost a finite entity for our ambitions. It seems much closer than the horizon, and there has been a tremendous activity aimed at capturing all of its remarkable potential.
What potential? Well, for submarines, the potential that having become true submersibles, with unparalleled advantages in covertness, mobility, and endurance, they would now turn those advantages into perfect integration with the other capable platrorms or the striking fleet; and that, increasingly undetectable to potential adversaries, they would become increasingly employable, responsive, and capable in support of all the warrighting missions a fleet commander may have to undertake.
Specifically, we see a potential that submarines could apply forward pressure against virtually any aggressor — not just against its submarines and surface ships, but against land or air systems essential to the offensive military operations on which its aggression would depend. Today, we know that the potential of our submarines to undertake expanded missions in strike and anti-air warfare deeply worries the Soviet union. As Marshall Ahkromeyev told us during his visit to the United States last month, the Soviet military consider the NATO navies their number one military threat. They see themselves surrounded by the distributed, offensive firepower of highly capable aircraft carriers and, increasingly, by sea-based cruise missiles. In the 1960s and 1970s, one or the primary elements of their strategy was to attempt to nullify the striking power or our carriers through anti-carrier weapons systems like the CHARLIE-class submarine with the SS-N-7 missile. We have countered that effort through superiority in both area and battle force ASW. And now we have made their problem even harder through development of the TOMAHAWK missile system capability that will go to sea on nearly 200 surface and submarine platforms. That worries them a lot. That really does put them in a defensive frame of mind, no matter in which direction their doctrine goes, that’s deterrence working, and it’s something we must be careful to protect.
In the future, the prospect that our submarines and surface platforms will be able to undertake new missions, that the battle sphere will be electromagnetically knit together from the seabed to deep space, and that submarines themselves could be used to help reconstitute our satellite space capability in the event of degradation — these things can only increase the uncertainties of potential adversaries and thus enhance our own security.
Now all this will not happen in one magical night, of course. We won’t wake up and find ourselves living in an era called “the future.” Our advantages will have to be won day by day, step by step, just as they are being won today. The recent highly successful operational demonstration of the MARK-48 advanced capability torpedo, tired from almost directly under my feet on this submarine, is one example. The evolutionary process that took the SSN-688 class and iaproved-688 class as far as it could go, and that then designed the SSN-21 to incorporate capabilities already proven at sea, is another example. The identification of a dedicated research and development submarine to maintain submarine technology on the leading edge will be a third.
All these things don’t mean that the problems are solved. A lot more work needs to be done in nitty-gritty areas; areas like produoeability and maintainability, which in turn depend on the technical training and education of our nation’s youth; areas like affordability, which depends in part on the right national political will; and areas like operability across the spectrum of hostile environments, to make our platforms superior to anything that can be brought to bear against them; even seemingly mundane areas like electromagnetic engineering need our continued attention it our strength in the future is to be real and not merely perceived.
The threat is also improving. To meet this challenge, our submarines, armed with new sensors and weapons, invested with new mission responsibilities, must nevertheless continue to lead the way in antisubmarine warfare; but as all submarines become quieter, that gets tougher.
Still it is a bright future, a future limited only by imagination and ambition. Regardless of potential, however, the key to success for any naval force is taking what you have today and making it work. And those are two things that the submarine force Atlantic has done superbly. And for that, much of the credit goes to Vice Admiral Dan Cooper.
As COMSUBLANT, Dan Cooper has been both the administrative and the operational commander of 29 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, 54 nuclear attack submarines, one nuclear research submarine, one diesel attack submarine, and 23 supporting surface ships. His responsibilities have included every aspect of those 108 ships from start to finish — from development and execution of a constrained budget; to maintenance support at every level from depot to ship’s force to training and tactical innovation; to geostrategic planning in the national, NATO, and bi-and tri- lateral arenas; and finally, to the bottom line, successful employment at sea. He has discharged all responsibilities with absolute professionalism and inspirational command leadership. He has operated his submarines in virtually every ocean environment, from under the Arctic ice to the Drake Passage. In the process he has saved millions of dollars in maintenance and operating costs by doing things more efficiently. He’s led the way in proving submarine technology for tomorrow and in the design and development of systems beyond tomorrow. He has inculcated in his command an attitude of being war-ready at all times — the obverse of national political will, and just as indispensable to deterrence. Finally, he’s continued to place his emphasis on people, on personnel excellence, on challenging each sailor in his command to do his or her best and become the best. And as we look toward the future, we know that no matter how capable our systems become, good navy people will continue to be the irreducible difference in our greatness.
Dan, yours has been a superb tour in command. Now we need you to bead up all our undersea warfare programs to help make that future a reality. Congratulations to you on outstanding success across the board.
Roger (Bacon), you too have been in the forefront or submarine operations. For nearly two years you have helped to maintain the credibility of our deterrence in that vital region on the southern flank of NATO, at a time when the navy’s operational requirements around the globe, and in particular in the Persian Gulf, constrained our ability to operate in other theaters. You did a great job as Commander Submarines Mediterranean, and it is in recognition of your abilities that you now come to this, our most important submarine command. I know it will be an exciting and productive tour for you.