DIRECTOR of DEFENSE RESEARCH & ENGINEERING
It’s a great honor to be here and I want to thank Admiral Long very much for his very kind introduction. I feel very much at home in this particular community of sailors because for almost 20 years I have been a student of Admiral Long’s. I have had the privilege of being associated with him in a variety of interesting tasks. I was exposed to a great deal of his wisdom and experience and knowledge and I hope that you will find that I was a good student.
I want to talk about a number of rather important matters. The world has changed and is changing a great deal and this will impact our military posture. We need to talk about how the United States defense technical community should respond to these changes; some trends in the U.S. science and technology program; and I do want to say something about the U.S. forces of the future.
The changes are really worldwide that we see but they are not completed. It is simply too early to say where it will all come out. The one thing we should agree on – it’s not going to be a particularly safe time. I think the people who think that are not remembering history. The things that have started to happen in various parts of the world, such as the Soviet Union, are potentially very dangerous evolutions because change, rapid change and dramatic change involve risks, and we are to remember the Soviet Union remains, as Secretary Cheney is fond of pointing out, the only country in the world that can destroy the United States in one hour. And no matter what agreements are going to be signed, it will remain the largest military power in Eurasia for probably as long as we live, which I hope to be a good long time.
Proliferation of high technology weapons to potentially hostile nations poses serious problems to this country. For example, in the next decade some 30 countries will have chemical weapons, 10 will have biological weapons, 15 will produce or own ballistic missiles of some significant range, and five or six are working on acquiring nuclear capabilities. Unfortunately, the same countries are on all three lists, so you are faced with some significant threats in the future.
As far as this community is concerned, there will be many modem submarines that are not Russian. The air independent propulsion submarines will be hard to detect; they will be hard to track; and there will be real problems to be sure. The range will probably be limited, and I think we need to hedge a little to think about it.
Mr. Cheney and others have pointed out that our defense strategy must be based on technological superiority because we must make up in quality what we cannot match in numbers and we must be committed to that, and I think this community is fully committed. There will be cuts in defense spending. This is absolutely certain unless something strange or very dramatic or untoward happens. And the real issue is how to handle this and what kinds of reductions to make. There will be serious reductions in force structure. I don’t think there’s any question about that.
One of the interesting evolutions that comes out of this is that I think it is likely that for the next 20 years or so we will not be building very many new large platforms, or large numbers of any kind of aircraft or ships or tanks or whatever. We will be working a long time on systems we are developing now, including SEA WOLF of course, with the aircraft we are developing now, and the land vehicles we have developed. The emphasis therefore, will shift to improving these platforms and upgrading the systems they carry — the sonars, the weapons, the electronics, the communications, the countermeasures suites. And I realize with increasing satisfaction that the people who are designing the current platforms are taking this more into account than they used to so that it will be easier to make significant upgrades. You will not have to rip the whole platform apart to put a new major subsystem in. I think ifs terribly important and I think it really represents what’s called a paradigm shift, a major shift in how we look at things. For the next 20 years at least, it is not likely that we will be back in the days of the 60s or 70s or even the 80s when we started many platforms sort of simultaneously and from scratch. There were no old bolts or screws in the new one from the old one. I think those days are gone for awhile, and the faster we adapt to this and the faster we exploit the potential of that situation, the better off we will all be.
One of the major functions of the technology community will be to make available the options that will be needed for these upgrades. To make them available in time, to make them available in a manner thaf is appropriate to their use and a manner that makes their use affordable. Those are difficult challenges and my action plan for the next few years is to try and set us on this course. In this way we have to support the submarine community with the best we can put together and that can be put into the platforms and that will be affordable.
One important aspect of this is that I think we will want to emphasize more manufacturing technologies and training technologies. I think there is a great deal of money to be saved by using modem techniques of computer aided instruction and simulation as training systems. While nothing will ever replace at-sea live firin~ with our systems, I think the preparation time for these events can be reduced and made more manageable, and it will be easier to measure actual performance, all of which will be important.
Let me now make a couple of comments about submarines in the future. We’ve been on an evolutionary road ever since the first nuclear submarines were built. That in itself was a revolution. This evolutionary approach has been good for us. I think we did things in an orderly manner and we got tremendous capabilities. We got good numbers of ships this way, and the important thing about the SSN-21 is that it continues this trend. Many of the detractors or critics do not take into account that building on a solid base is worth a lot in terms of time saved and trouble saved. Now, we must get enough SSN-21s and there is a great deal of debate going on about what enough is. I don’t plan to get into that here.
The next set of questions that I do want to spend time on here is what do we do after the SSN-21? Let me remind you that I am trying to look at this with a 20 year time horizon. Designing and building a really new ship or big platform of any kind, particularly a submarine, takes a long time, 10 to 15 years from the start to when the first one gets wet. I think we should start thinking about what it is we want after we get the complete run of SSN-21s, and how do we get there. So the question is, wheo and how do we get started? I don’t think it’s too early to ask these questions. I think there is relatively little danger in asking these questions now, that doing so will undermine the production of the SSN-21 because we would have a terrific hole in our capabilities if we didn’t fill this hole with the SSN-21.
I’d like to raise the question, but not really answer it: what will be the role of the submarine in the 21st century? Let me concentrate on the attack submarine world rather than the ballistic submarine world About two years ago, the Navy asked the National Academy to do a study called Navy 21. Admiral Long and I were involved in this, and served together advising the study. The study grappled with this question what will the future of submarines be in the next century? -and you can imagine the wild swings of opinion that were expressed and were debated. And the real question comes out – will the submarine be the “real” capital ship of the Navy? Some said yes, others said no, and still others said maybe. My view is that it will be “a” capital ship but not the only one. The demands on the United States Navy will remain so diversified into the next century that a single class of capital ship, no matter what it is, will not be able to fulfill our security requirements, but the modem submarine will be one of the main platforms for exercising naval power in the 21st century. Some opponents say surface ships will be vulnerable because they will be easy to detect, much easier than submarines under any circumstances that are reasonable, and we should not be confused about thaL On the other hand, aircraft carriers, which I hate to mention in this company but will, can do something submarines cannot do. For one thing they present a fearsome appearance and sometimes that’s very important. And so I believe in the next century we will wind up with several types of capital ships.
How are we going to find out what kind of submarine we really would like to have after the SEA WOLF. I think we should build models, small ones. We are already doing thaL We may want to get back to an era where we build a very small number of carefully thought out experimental submarines that can really go into open ocean and show their stuff. That’s terribly expensive I know. These things cost half or a quarter of a real submarine, so to say. On the other hand, I think the question is important enough that we ought to think about persuading the country to do that. I’d like to see how far we can expand the envelope of operations of genuine true submarine ships – how fast they can go, bow deep can they go, how quiet they can be made, how undetectable they can be made, how many weapons we can hang onto them. What is the right kind of ship construction? Multi·hull or single bull? I think we may find, in the future, real reasons for double hulls. And I believe that, in addition to what we can do in the laboratories and with the small models, the construction of one or two, quite different, well thought out, advanced technology submarines that are experimental submarines would be very instructive.
There will be spinoffs of other applications in other ship types, to unmanned vehicles and others. I think these big models should not be driven by mission goals, but by technol· ogy goals to see bow much can be done on one platform in one dimension or two, say, speed and depth, or speed and quieting. The possible combinations are quite rich here. The time is coming where we need not only research on new materials and new subsystems but also on the concept of how we build submarines, how we design them. I believe we can work on better ways to construct them. I think we’ve learned a lot about building surface ships in the last 20 years. We’ve also learned a lot about building submarines. I think there are further opportunities we need to look into.
Another dimension concerns the increase in the operating life of submarines significantly, to cut down on the number of overhauls and reactor refuelings. Can we do something really significant here? I don’t know, but I think it’s a challenge for all of us to find out because if we can, it would make our ability to field a strong and effective force very much better.
So my bottom line is: as time goes on, the submarine community most likely will become more important, not less. It will need better ships, and more, ( and it is getting better ships but at the moment, fewer,) as far as the long run can be predicted. Can we do things that will enable us, after the class we’re building now, to build a ship that is better, that we can afford to build more of, or that we keep longer in service without giving up performance?
We have a very full agenda here, to study, to simulate, to game the utility of the submarine’s different capabilities, to find out the really good combinations of the capabilities we think we can get What are the best tradeoffs? We need another round of studies for the next generation. And only when we are satisfied that we have a really good mix should we begin to design the next platform. It’s a very long process; it takes 10 to 15 years. So when I am asked, “When do we start?”, I answer, “Why, right now, of course!”
BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC
Dr. Robert Denney, Ph.D., Manager, Office of Conferences and Special Programs, Division of Continuing Education, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858-4353, has advised NSL of a conference concerning combat activity off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina during the first half of the year 1942. This BA1TLE OF THE ATLANTIC conference will be held 22 and 23 February 1991, at the Sheraton Hotel, Virginia Beach, Virginia. During the two day conference, various speakers will address a wide range of subjects related to the Eastern Sea Frontier Campaign from both sides of the battle. Program examples: Dr. Jurgen Rohwer will speak on: “The German U-Boat War and the United States Atlantic Fleet from 1941 to June 1942”; Homer Hickman will speak on: “Torpedo Junction: The Book and The Battle.”
Others will address ASW aspects, underwater archeology, shipbuilding in North Carolina, experiences and observations by Outer Banks residents, etc. For more information and to obtain conference brochures, contact Dr. Denney at the address above. The telephone number is (919) 757-6143 and the telefax number is (919) 757-4350. This should prove to be a very interesting and informative conference and of particular interest to submariners.