The Navy has talked for several years about the Maritime Strategy. This has certainly been advantageous from the point of view of force building and for trying to articulate what should be done to support the Navy. Unfortunately in today’s fiscal environment, with a flat or descending budget, you have to moderate the programs that are in place. In order to defend these programs, you tend to lose your ability to look ahead. Based on my last two years in the government and my two years outside of the government, I have formed the opinion that it is almost impossible to put together a forward looking program because of the zealous oversight from those in the Pentagon and on the Hill. There seems to be a view that new programs imply that the current programs have a problem.
The current Navy submarine program presents not only an assured strategic deterrent, but should represent an assured tactical deterrent. A lot of you believe that, but you have to give the submarine force the tools to perform this function. What can be done is suggest ideas to help support this idea.
The SSN-21 is long overdue. The Submarine Community is clearly the best organized of the various parts of the Navy and has excelled in clearly articulating their current course. The recent strong defense of the SSN-21 bas resulted in a program that is clearly going forward — but it has not been without a lot of trauma. The historical reluctance to start new submarine classes is replete with many studies, all sorts of discussions, and all kinds of budget cuts. The starting of a new program was complicated by the submarine force itself .The complicating factor was the success of the 637/688 Classes. It is hard to get people interested in developing a new submarine when the rest of the Navy is hurting so badly. This was compounded by skippers coming back from patrols with great successes. Thus it was hard to convince others that we needed a new program. The Soviets, however, have made the case for us. They have continued to build submarines at a tremendous rate. As a matter or fact, their submarine program currently looks like the program the United States had back in the days before the 637 Class. We built several hulls, and propulsion systems. Finally we settled on a design that we committed to production resulting in the 637 Class first, followeD by the 6~8 Class. In the mean-time, the Soviets continued to move ahead with new designs. While their actions provided us an opportunity to respond, and the SSN-21 is clearly that, the U.S. has been put in a reactive mode by the budget process. So now is the time to take bold new thrusts to maintain preeminence in submarine warfare.
What I will describe are strictly a series of ideas. They clearly need significant debate without penalties to the people presenting them, or without people being upset about new ideas being invented that perturb current concepts. To best examine these ideas what is needed is an effort along the lines or the STRAT X Study that took place before the TRIDENT Program got started. We can only pursue a few new things on top of the current programs. No matter how ambitious, and how wonderful it would be, I don’t believe that any rational budget process will allow us to pursue more than a few new ideas at a time.
There are two separate areas that might be considered. The first one is the addition or off board devices to support submarine ops. The second one is more controversial — new platform concepts. I will refrain from suggesting underwater aircraft carriers and discuss briefly the few ideas that appear to have merit.
Starting with off-board devices, tethered and untethered devices for sensing, communicating, and for providing standoff weapon capability are all possible. Fortunately new technologies are here now and are coming along which will allow these things to happen. Foremost among these are fiber optics. They represent a huge step forward in terms of tethers and sensors. They are light-weight, strong, they have high bandwidth, and they are relatively inexpensive.
The other major technology that most of you are familiar with is VHSIC (Very High Speed Integrated Circuits). They represent an opportunity to do an enormous amount of processing and also will become the host for the kind of smarts that will be required for off~board sensors of all types.
The first off-board concept (figure 1) would be a tethered or untethered, underwater, unmanned vehicle. This device could be used for a large number of missions ranging from a decoy to an off board sensor system. Communications could be by any of several methods: direct fiber optic tether, buoy to aircraft or satellite or buoy to buoy if the distances were not too great.
Propulsion options for off-board devices are also coming along with things like lithium thionyl chloride batteries and other types of devices. It is clear that these types of devices will provide the submarine force with a tremendous complemen-tary capability — allowing our submarines to maintain an advantage over whatever adversary that will evolve.
The capability depicted in Figure 2 is more debatable. The submarine force now has a new weapon system for sea and land attack, TOMAHAWK. TOMAHAWK is designed to do a number of things; for example, to sink ships. Clearly the land-attack TOMAHAWK is designed to go inland and destroy harbor facilities and ships in port. The problem that submarines always have had was knowing the location of distant targets and what happened to them after an attack with over-the- horizon weaponry. This represents a tremendous problem. Clearly what we need is a Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) to provide targeting and battle damage assessment. There is no question that utilizing RPVs from submarines is within the state of the art. If you can shoot a HARPOON or TOMAHAWK out of a submarine, you can certainly shoot an RPV. What this figure tries to depict is that such an RPV could be launched through a torpedo tube and data retrieved through a buoy. Or, I believe you could fire an RPV and have it feed out fiber optic cable and have it linked directly back to the submarine without a sea buoy. This is an exciting concept, and as we move forward with the SSN-21 with its large payload, this concept will give an already stealthy platform in the Navy an added dimension in terms of forward operations.
Another area which deserves some comment is communications. Communications could become the Achilles heel of the overall ASW problem — not just for submarines. The submarine force has the potential to improve submarine communications with the submarine Laser Communication Program. It has tremendous merit, and I believe that with some innovation, up-link concepts could be developed that would provide a two-way capability. This would really improve the potential for submerged, wide-bandwidth communications.
Now as to some new platform considerations, it should be recognized that there is a widely held belief that the submarine force is capped -100 SSNs plus the SSBN force. Over the last several years, outside interests have suggested that we could have more submarines by substituting some number of SSNs with diesels at a 3:1 ratio. But the submarine force bas rightfully believed that in the end they would still only have 100 submarines. They have fought that issue correctly and have not allowed themselves to be beguiled by the idea that if they give up 10 SSNs, they would get 30 diesel boats. And I’m not sure what you would do with those diesels if you had them.
In the context of this thrust to consider new ideas, however, it should be kept in mind that the submarine SSNs are fenced and the three new ideas presented here are not intended to be a replacement for anything in the current force.
First of all, there should be asubmarine that can be used for H&D of all types. For maximum flexibility a double hull submarine looks attractive. The pressure hull could be modified and smaller in diameter, it would certainly be a survivable submarine, well compartmented and configurable to do whatever mission you want, and you would have space between the hull for various items. The outboard configuration could optimize hydrodynamic shaping for the outer hull (figure 3).
The outer hull would also present a great opportunity for a large hydrophone farm. If we could build a submarine with sufficient outside area, and take advantage or hydrodynamic shaping it should be quite a detection platform. We certainly should try to build a submarine that could be used as a test bed. Incidentally, the reason I bring up the double hull issue as we get into off-board devices and sensors is that the area between the hulls would make a fine storage area. The initial basis for the propulsion could be a derivative of the SSN-21.
What is being discussed is a true R&D submarine. While we were debating the ACSAS program a few years ago, we were really stymied by the lack of an R&D hull. The potential benefits of such a submarine and its configuration needs to be recognized.
The second platform mentioned here would solve a long term problem. It would probably require two units, one for each coast. The issue of offensive mine-laying has been a real problem. (Figure 4). Those or you who have been involved in studies of mine warfare find that when push comes to shove, there is no one to lay the mines a lot of mines. Everyone says the P-3s or the A-6’s are going to do this. But how are you going to get them there? The air assets always have 40 other things that are of higher priority, and it seems that if we had a very large submarine, which would be very easy to build, it would be capable of laying something on the order or 200-300 mines. This would allow the closing off of a whole area and in contested waters; this sort of capability would greatly reduce the mobility of a hostile force.
In addition, it wouldn’t take much imagination to think of other things to use this submarine for!
A final concept for the future, in support of the Maritime Strategy involves the reduction of the second most feared threat — air attack. Clearly, forward attrition of Soviet Naval Air, to at least reduce the number of forward missile firing aircraft reaching the currently viewed weapon release line, is a major goal. Some of you have worried about the difficulty of destroying the long range naval air threat. Thus, why not build a submarine that is capable of carrying an AEGIS system with a limited number of missiles. It sounds bizarre. The idea would be to forward base a number of these submarines. Then with cueing, the submarine would surface. The hostile aircraft would be well within the envelope of detection and engagement or the submarine weapon system. In order to reduce the exposure of the submarine to missile attack, the need to have semi-active missile illumination of the aircraft target would have to be eliminated. This could be accomplished by developing a multi-mode guidance for the submarine launched missiles — once it fired the missiles, the submarine would be free to submerge. As to how many such platforms might be needed, six on each coast appears reasonable. Just think of a six-submarine fan covering a sector or some hundreds of miles without an enemy force knowing they were there.
Our submarine force leaders should be encouraged to take on a serious study of new concepts to articulate the course for the next 20-30 years. Obviously ideas like those presented here are not going to happen right away — but they are more likely to happen if an active dialogue is generated amongst those interested in the future of the u.s. Submarine Force.