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An address by VADM Dan Cooper, USN (Op-02)
to a U.S. Naval In..vtitute Seminar — 27 Febnuuy 1990

I appreciate this opportunity to address the Naval Institute membership and its distinguished guests. I am reminded of Augustine’s law XL VIII The more time you spend talking about what you have been doing, the less time you have to do what you have been talking about. Eventually, you spend more and more time talking about less and less. Until finally, you spend all your time talking about nothing.

It is fairly appropriate, however, that, in my somewhat “august” position as ACNO (Undersea Warfare), I participate here. My billet, of course, oversees the interesting broad spectrum ranging from Strategic Deterrence, to Integrated Undersea Surveillance Systems, to Attack Submarines. My people are intimately involved, or maybe I should say submerged in the subject of this meeting.

A second reason for me to participate is that of the seven panel participants, only Admiral Coward (Flag Officer Submarines, Royal Navy) and I are submariners. However, without the type of platform we support, this whole ASW question becomes moot. (Both Admiral Coward and I increased our expertise just last night — at the premiere of “Hunt for Red October.”)

(I will tell you, with no hesitation, that both Admiral Coward and I are biased; but I prefer to think it is because we firmly believe in the potential of these platforms and the threat they represent when their full capability is used by an enemy.)

I would like to diverge a second, if I may. Barbara Tuchman has written several books, one of which was recommended to me by a friend several years ago. The title is The March of FoUy (from Troy to V’Jetnam ), and it talks to governments which through history have pursued “policies contrary to their own interests.”

In a particularly cogent section in chapter one, she defines one major factor of such folly as wooden-headedness. Wooden-headedness is “actine accordine to wishes not deflected by facts.” It is the refusal to benefit from experience.

The title of this seminar, phrased as a question, is interesting and may be a little presumptuous since both the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations have stated that the Navy’s number one program ~ ASW. This position has been repeated unequivocally in speeches, editorials and statements to Congress. The CNO designate, Admiral Kelso, has also strongly endorsed the subject in his most recent testimony.

On a different plane, just the fact that ASW is discussed or questioned in so many forms, means that it is exceedingly important — submarines are the major threat.

It should not surprise you that I shall not deviate from the Navy’s position that ASW remains the top warfighting priority! Detecting modem quiet submarines is the most difficult task in modern warfare. And we do not have a fool-proof system for all oceans under all conditions.

Defense Secretary Cheney stated recently: I don’t think there is any question that the U.S. is now and will want to continue to be the preeminent naval power in the world.

• The primary unit of a maritime power is the SSN. the attack nuclear submarine. The Soviets, despite Perestroika, Glasnost or the status of the Berlin Wall, clearly understand this; consequently, their leaders have stated that the principal ship in their navy is the submarine. My compatriot, Admiral Brooks, has stated that they continue to build several modem classes of submarines at rates which have not slowed down regardless of words about arms reductions. As previously mentioned, nine submarines were commissioned by the Soviets; our authorized number of SSNs in the budget of 1989 was three, and in 1990 is one. In 1991 we are requesting two. That is an average of two over a three-year period.

• The SSN will determine the maritime battlefield. (Note, I don’t say the U.S. SSN will- the SSN of any country can.) Through its inherent stealth, mobility and endurance, the SSN is the one platform which can determine where, when and if the engagement will occur. This forces the opposition into a defensive posture. The SSN can operate anywhere in the world remaining virtually undetected until the commanding officer chooses to attack. The SSN can operate independently, remotely and covertly, without replenishment for extended periods, up to several months.

• Until there are no submarines. there must be effective ~ As long as a submarine threat exists, we have to be able to counter that threat. Admiral Brooks discussed the numbers and condition of the Soviet submarine force. Currently, 43 countries in the world are operating submarines. Of those, a majority is fully capable of pursuing anti-U.S., antiNATO or anti-Allied activities. The ASW problem not only applies to the Soviet threat but also to quiet diesel submarines of third world adversaries which could be used in low intensity conflicts.

We must remember that the attack submarine’s tremendous capabilities go well beyond ASW; SSNs are, in fact, multipurpose platforms. The SSN has crucially important missions in strike warfare with land attack cruise missiles, special warfare, surveillance, and mining. Even for U.S. forces, as the submarine threat changes on a day-to-day basis from theater to theater, the force and battle group commanders suddenly realize the potential his own submarines have for many missions (while held in reserve for their ASW potential). That same ability to do many missions is present in all submarines, thus making ASW paramount.

• The submarine is absolutely necessary for effective ASW. Obviously, it is not the only effective ASW weapons system we have, and great improvements have been made in all platforms over the last decade. Similarly, the submarines of other countries, including potential enemies, have improved.

Combined arms is a viable and proven concept which takes advantage of the synergism of the several types of platforms involved. But the opposing submariner chooses his battleground and may not choose to operate in an area convenient to combined arms or convenient to any platform which does not have the inherent stealth or covertness and mobility of the submarine. He may choose to operate in an area where air superiority, if not in his favor, was neutral. There are areas of the world where only the submarine can be used for ASW.

• Genuine ASW is directly coupled with Anti-Surface Ship Warfare (ASUW). The submarine was originally designed to sink surface ships.

The advent of submarine launched anti-ship missiles has added tremendous ASUW capability to submarines. The Soviet OSCAR-class SSGN is armed with 24 SS-N-19 cruise missiles with a range in excess of 300 nautical miles. As mentioned earlier, they are building at least one of this modem, quiet class of submarine each year. The formidable threat posed by the OSCAR certainly accentuates the need for ASW to protect the battle groups.

The SSN’s effectiveness in ASUW was dramatically evident in the Falkland Islands War. The sinking of the GENERAL BELGRANO by HMS CONQUEROR virtually eliminated further participation by the Argentine surface fleet in the conflict. The Argentineans could neither measure nor oppose the threat of the British SSNs and subsequently operated their surface fleet in home waters far from the campaign.

On the flip side, the Argentineans deployed two diesel submarines during the conflict which the British correctly perceived as a real threat. Consequently, the British had to devote a significant amount of their attention and assets to a submarine threat. In subsequent reports, we know about 150 ASW weapons were used to attack suspected submarines which were not there.

• As a maritime nation, we are dependent on the seas for our economic health. and we have critical alliances across both oceans. U.S. world trade routes are the overseas lifeline to Allies in Europe and other trading nations. We must be able to protect our sea lanes of communication (SLOC). The submarine threat can interdict and sever the SLOCs. In World War II, the submarine was incredibly effective in disrupting trade and resupply. In the Atlantic, German Uboats sank over 2,700 ships (14.5 million tons) — until the Allies solved the problem. In the Pacific, U.S. submarines sank about 55 percent of all the Japanese shipping. That country’s strong reliance on oil and supplies from Southeast Asia was severed.

The submarine today is a major threat as long as a potential enemy has even a single one — because we frequently will not know where it is. If he has a force of them, we may not know how many submarines might be in the vicinity of our objective. The knowledge that a submarine is near makes that threat multiplicative; if we know several are there — do we know where each is? How will we know what it will do or where it may be on the next day? The CNO’s posture statement states: Detectin& and killin& modem quiet submarines (nuclear or diesel) is the most difficult task in modem warfare. That sentence is underlined.

ASW must be the United States Navy’s top priority because:

• We are a maritime nation

• Submarines are the major threat

• We do not have the answer to ASW

• We cannot depend on Soviet restraint while their submarine potential continues to increase and improve.

To fall off that #1 priority is to do so at our own peril! I repeat Barbara Tuchman’s definition of Woodenheadedness; “Acting according to wishes not deflected by facts.”

I realize I may have been fairly muted and subtle in my statement, but ASW is the Navy’s number one priority!


Construction of the Naval Undersea Museum is 95% complete. While the first role of the museum was envisioned as a place to chronicle undersea warfare and its applications, the Navy in 1987 enlarged its mission to represent all undersea activities for the Navy and all aspects of the technology and phenomena used to explore the oceans.

The museum is the only one of its kind in the nation and houses artifacts related to all aspects of undersea exploration, including commercial and military applications. It is much more than a collection site for relics. It will serve as a national repository for technological advances in the field of undersea technology and will be a viable resource for researchers and scientists, and educational institutions, including elementary through high school classes. The museum of 68,000 sq. ft. houses an extensive library, orientation theatre, a 450 seat auditorium, an 18,000 sq. ft. Exhibit Hall and an 18,000 sq. ft. Repository.

In July 1979, after a nationwide search, the museum was donated by the U.S. Navy — adjacent to the Naval Base property at Keyport, WA After its completion the Navy will maintain and operate this facility. There will be no general admission fee to tour the museum. Of the $9.1 million needed for the facility $7.3 million has been raised to date. If present fund raising efforts are successful the museum can be opened to the public this year.

Acquisition of remarkable artifacts continues. The museum was fortunate in obtaining the deep submergence vehicle TRIESlE II, a deep sea exploration and research craft, which is displayed on the museum grounds. It will join an impressive list of acquisitions including a KAITEN torpedo (a one-man submerged Japanese KAMIKAZE) and a World War II submarine 5″/25 wet mount gun.

Recently the museum welcomed a new addition to its historical collection with the arrival of the MAKAKAI, a manned submersible built by the Navy to study the use of new materials and devices underwater. It was used for two-man observation dives, marine ecology studies, observation of experimental work stations, study of oil leaks, and underwater photographic work.

This Museum facility will be a national asset and enable the Navy to preserve it’s heritage and hard earned knowledge obtained through its efforts to utilize the ocean’s depths both in peace and in defense of the nation.

Individuals who have artifacts, documents, appropriate undersea memorabilia to donate, or would like to become a member of the Foundation should contact the Naval Undersea Museum, Keyport, WA 98345. Phone (206) 396-6218 .

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