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FORCE COMMANDERS FORUM – Rear Admiral Miclwel C. Colley, USN


Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. I have been thoroughly enjoying my tour in the Pacific. Its a great job, and I believe we have a very solid team.

Who would have thought at our last symposium one year ago that such sweeping changes would subsequently take place in Europe; and that the calls for significantly reducing our force levels would be right behind.

While these remarkable events have certainly been for the good and have had a big impact on European defense planning, they have not made much difference in the Pacific. The Pacific Submarine Force is still engaged every day in the enormous task of keeping our vital Western sea lanes of communication open and in executing extremely difficult frontline ASW. The Pacific is a critically important Maritime economic theater. It contains two-thirds of the world’s population and produces two-thirds of the world’s Gross National Product. In fact, total U.S. trade with Asian nations is 45 percent greater than that with European states and this imbalance is increasing. The future in the Pacific promises to be fast paced, exciting, and of great continuing importance to our nation. The Pacific Submarine Force will be an integral part of this growing vitality.

Last fall, the force played a major role in the largest postWorld War II fleet exercise in the Pacific, PACEX-89 The objective of this two-month long exercise was to conduct fleet operations in a simulated, conventional war scenario in support of CINCPACFLT OPLAN FIVE TIIOUSAND. The basic concept was to deploy our submarines out in front of the carrier and battleship battle groups, rapidly transit the submarines to patrol areas, and to conduct simulated anti-submarine ship warfare. The force demonstrated extraordinary readiness. Nearly all of our submarines were underway, with no prior warning, within 48 hours of exercise commencement; underway loaded with weapons, food, and spare parts. All three SUBP AC tenders were similarly underway within 80 hours, enroute to their forward refit sites. Each tender was also fully loaded with weapons, food and repair parts. One hundred hours into the exercise, SUBASE San Diego, our largest homeport, was deserted.

The tender USS MCKEE deployed from San Diego to Cold Bay, Alaska, where she met up with OMAHA OMAHA moored alongside MCKEE to simulate reloading torpedoes and the repair of a major sonar system fault. This simulated casualty was repaired using an actual component obtained from the manufacturer, and flown to Cold Bay from Manassas, Virginia. MCKEE also provided support for the airhead, which was established at the runway in Cold Bay. This support was in the form of site security, berthing, and communications. The weather in Cold Bay proved to be our most powerful adversary, with bitter cold temperatures driven by over 60 knot winds.

In early October, COMMANDER SUBMARINE GROUP FIVE, then Rear Admiral Dave Oliver, embarked in MCKEE. He assumed control of all SUBPAC forces for a time after a simulated bomb had destroyed the COMSUBPAC Headquarters. DIXON, our other San Diego tender, deployed after her last tended submarine was ready for sea, and anchored in Wilson Cove, near San Clemente Island. She provided voyage repair services to FLASHER, returning from war patrol with simulated battle damage. PROTEUS, meanwhile, deployed from G┬Ětam and anchored at Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, a small atoll in the South Pacific.

BUFFALO, on patrol, moored alongside for actual repair work as well as repair of simulated battle damage. BUFFALO was underway again within 24 hours and PROTEUS continued on to Manus Island, Papua, New Guinea, to establish yet another forward refit site. The rapid deployment of our tenders demonstrated our continuing ability to provide effective battle damage repair, full reprovisioning, and sustained forward support of the submarine force.

At sea, our submarines were also very successful, once again proving the tremendous offensive capability of the modem attack submarine. Several SSNs were diverted to provide realistic ORANGE opposition to the surface battle forces as they transitted to the Western Pacific. In the Eastern Pacific, five SSNs simulated attacks on sixteen warships. In the Northern Pacific, nine ships were engaged and simulated sunk, and in WESTP AC we had equally impressive results. Overall, PACEX-89 demonstrated our ability to rapidly deploy the force on short notice and to carry the conflict west and north. We also provided that we can sustain our force, on station, indefinitely.

On the strategic side, TRIDENT, our nation’s premier strategic deterrent force, continues to prove its robust reliability, survivability, and flexibility. Under the SSBN continuity of operations program called SCOOP, we have conducted several innovative exercises with the objective of ensuring the survivability and logistic support of our SSBNs in any threat environment. Our principal goal has been to test our ability to resupply and repair, if needed, TRIDENT submarines at remote locations throughout the Pacific demonstrating independence from the base at Bangor. In December, MICHIGAN and PERMIT moored alongside DIXON to demonstrate multiple mooring and resupply capability at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. DIXON provided all necessary support services to both ships, including torpedo reloading of MICHIGAN. In March of this year, MCKEE conducted a remote replenishment of HENRY M. JACKSON while at anchor off Monterey, California. MCKEE used small boats to shuttle supplies to the TRIDENT submarine where they were subsequently onloaded.

The watchword of the SCOOP Program is innovation. We do not limit ourselves to “traditional resupply ships.” We have proven that any large ship can be used as a support platform. For instance, we had ALABAMA alongside USNS MAURY, and oceanographic survey ship, at Bangor. This class of ship has sufficient space and weight to carry spare parts and supplies to a TRIDENT SSBN in a remote location. We have even pressed the Coast Guard into service; and used the icebreaker POLAR SEA to resupply OHIO. To assist in remote replenishment, we had “yokohama fenders” built to provide separation between ships. They can be collapsed down to facilitate transportation. In each of these exercises we have made great strides toward developing the capacity to moor and resupply without the need of tugs in a reasonably protected area. The added flexibility that these remote refits afford the operational commander is tremendous. I think that we have been extremely successful in achieving our objective.

In keeping with our desire to rigorously test ourselves in remote areas of the Pacific, COMSUBPAC, represented by GURNARD, together with COMSUBLANTs SEAHORSE, recently conducted ICEX 1-90 in the Arctic Ocean. Under the direction of the Arctic Submarine Laboratory’s Captain Chuck Armitage, a temporary floating ice camp, APUS-90, was established about 200 nautical miles north of Alaska’s north slope. More than 650 hours of dedicated submarine support services were provided to the 85 scientists and engineers representing over a dozen naval and civilian laboratories in the rigorous two weeks of active camp use. We tested various new types of equipment, studied oceanographic, acoustic and physical properties of the Arctic Ocean; and conducted training in the rigors of submarine operations in the harsh Arctic environment. Every objective of this complex operation, developed and planned over the preceding 16 months was accomplished with what the Secretary of the Navy, who visited the camp and GURNARD, described as “complete professionalism.” ICEX 1-90 was far and away the largest Navy effort ever undertaken in the Arctic. GURNARD and SEAHORSE later surfaced at the North Pole. ICEX 1-90 once again demonstrated the ability of the Submarine Force to operate in the harshest environment in the world.

As I have described, we are continually looking for new ways to show the multi-mission, all-purpose capabilities of the modem submarine. We have frequently demonstrated our ability to project power in conjunction with special operations forces. Last year, for the first time, SAM HOUSTON deployed to the Western Pacific with her drydeck shelter in place. She participated in several Allied and U.S. exercises and tested the full range of her capabilities. Although SAM HOUSTON is scheduled to be deactivated at the end of this year, CAV ALLA, TUNNY, BATES and KAMEHAMEHA have been or will be configured to carry the drydeck shelter. This will ensure our continued participation in the important special operations mission.

With the growing threat of low intensity conflict in Third World Nations, the conventional TOMAHAWK Land Attack Missile gives us the flexibility to conduct precisely targeted strikes throughout the Pacific theater while maintaining covertness. The introduction of the Vertical Launch System 688 class submarine gives us 12 missiles in addition to a full load of torpedoes. We also maintain our ability to monitor the activities of potential adversaries through covert surveillance.

By maintaining a very flexible and multi-mission force, I am confident that we are prepared to meet any challenge. I believe strongly that the worldwide strength of our Navy has significantly contributed to the remarkable political changes we have witnessed since we last mel The Pacific Submarine Force is ready to meet the challenges of the 90’s. We are involved in something important, and we need your continuing support.


Rear Admiral Edward C. Stephan, USN(Ret.)

Decorated Submarine Veteran of World War II

Captain Robert B. Satterford, USN(Ret.)

Naval Submarine League

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