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SUBMARINE TACTICAL DEVELOPMENTS

I am delighted to share with the membership of the Submarine League some thoughts about tactical development in a changing national security environment To those of us operating in the Submarine Force, one of our greatest concerns is the ability of our ships ~nd their tactics to support the military needs of the Nation.

First, I suppose, I should define what I mean by tactics, and the context of my discussion today. Webster has two interesting definitions. His first is “1be technique or science of securing the objectives designated by strategy.” I have always liked his second definition: “1be art or science of using available means to achieve an end.” Both of these get the point across, but the second definition clearly points out the relationship between strategy, tactics and capabilities.

In this sense, tactics is the art of the possible, bounded by the capabilities of the men, their training level, leadership and equipment For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on tactics as a function of our platforms and their equipment This is also the viewpoint of the military planner, who must level the playing field and sidestep leadership and training to a large extent The bottom line of tactics remains mission success. In his book on fleet tactics, Wayne Hughes sought to demonstrate that there is “in the art and science of naval warfare an identifiable body of tactical thought.” Although he dealt with tactics at the fleet level rather than at the unit level, it is the evolution of that “identifiable body of thought” in a changing environment that is exactly the topic of this talk. Tactics will also continue to provide the basis for training -with its glue – doctrine– the foundation of excursions. Tactics also compensate to a large extent for equipment deficiencies, and always have the focus of maximizing the probability of mission success while minimizing the risk with the platforms we have.

The pillars of tactical development remain history, technology, exercises and analysis, combined with intelligence and real world operational skills. As a first principle, we have to understand that the last of these is perhaps the largest single contributor to tactics development in a rapidly changing environment. Operational skills of our current submariners fonn a large basis of tactics, as they gain experience daily and we tum it around rapidly to the rest of the fleet. The tactical development process involves all of these. It is also working on a short time horizon. The system developer has the more difficult task of finding the boundary between the technological frontier, the military requirement, the development risk and the procurement cost as we project twenty or more years into the future. The tactical development horizon is certainly less than a decade. Tactics have a way of becoming stale as intelligence, technology and capabilities continue their work. This short time horizon is a distinct advantage when developing tactics in a changing environment.

National Security concepts fonn the basis for our strategy and have a consequent fallout on our tactical development process. The Submarine Force Tactical Development Plan is an annually updated product which is proposed by the Development Squadron for the Force Commanders, and is reviewed and approved by the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Undersea Warfare. As you can imagine, in the past two years, it has had to respond to several changes — some of previously unimaginable magnitude, others more subtle yet of heavy impact.

All of the changes in the national security environment are reflected in the Submarine Force. That is to be expected. But more importantly, three other aspects of the submarine have led to a natural evolution in the tactical world. First, of the entire arsenal of United States military capabilities, no single Instrument Is truly as multi-mission as the attack submarine. No aircraft, no surface ship, no land vehicle, no space platform, no other military unit brings the dimensions of military capability to the commander that the Submarine Force does. Secondly, if the numbers of the Force will decrease, there is a clear commitment that each individual submarine will bring more to the table. And thirdly, the inherent characteristics of the submarine, but particularly its ability to retain relative stealth in any mission and its endurance, afford an additional region of operations simply not available to other assets, and I am convinced this Is not yet fully appreciated or developed. I like to couple this with a note that the submarine, from a basic design viewpoint, has the highest offense to defense ratio. Attack submarines play offense.

So what is driving tactical change now? There is no simple answer, but predominant are:

  • The changed perception of the nature of future conflict.
  • The proximity of the lessons learned from Desert Storm.
  • The changed concept of the manner in which forces themselves will be commanded and controlled.
  • The continued modernization of the Soviet Submarine Force.
  • The extent to which technology is becoming useable by regional powers.

How are we responding? We are relying on the broadest range of innovative thought combined with the traditional pillars of tactical development All the while we are particularly sensitive to the inseparable relationship between technology and tactics. We see at once both the tactics leading the technology, and in other cases, the technology making available vastly expanded mission capability. And today as always, the standout intellectual requirement for developing good tactics is know). edae or the systems, platform and environment. As with intelligence, the more we know, the more options are available.

Only submariners have a deep enough total understanding of their platforms, of the sensor and weapons capabilities, to develop the broad range of integrated tactics. This carries with it the tremendous responsibility to avoid becoming conceptually bound by the past, or to assume that the missions and tasking will come to us. But rather that we keep the full court press on and force the most out of our capabilities. History is a necessary stop in tactical development. You only have to spend a few minutes in conversation with Admiral Tyree to realize that the Submarine Force has been in the position of searching for its place in a new military order before, particularly just before and after WWII. In a 1946 speech, COMSUBLANT listed 15 missions accomplished by submarines during the Second World War. Two of these missions, transport of fuel and action as a surface gunboat, have lost some of their appeal. The remainder remain valid and are accomplished by today’s submarines. Five would be gathered into the category of Special Warfare, three into intelligence collection, two into strike warfare. The real¬† point here is that Winston Churchill was clearly wrong when he commented on “the undoubted obsolescence of the submarine” in 1939.

As are those who would make the statement today. After looking at history, as we examine carefully the extent to which our current tactics, defined by our operations, exercises, analysis and doctrine support emerging military needs or capabilities; we find that our cup is certainly better than half full. Two examples come to mind when confronted with critics of our Submarine Force capabilities.

There is a perception that U.S. nuclear submarines don’t operate in shallow water, for example, and that this will be a significant limitation in regional conflict From the operational viewpoint, of course, we have routinely operated in shallow water – and in the even more restrictive environments of the Arctic, as in a Bearing Strait transit where we have both the ceiling and the Door to entertain us.

Over the past decade — that era in which we have been criticized for being myopically focused on the deep water antiSoviet ASW threat, we have routinely pursued tactical development in shallow water; The water depth has generally been restricted only by the requirement to provide, in peacetime, some measure of safety by having the submarines work in vertical strata, and a peacetime safe haven when we fire weapons. Naturally, neither of these would apply in wartime. A number of those exercises have been run by the Development Squadron. At least one a year also can be added from the Pacific. A great deal of this knowledge is directly transferrable between regions.

Another example is the diesel scenario, and the extent to which we are or are not prepared to engage that tbreal Again, the tactical development bank has a large foundation already developed by one of my predecessors and by operational commanders in the Mediterranean and Pacific. These are good and proper tactics, but we do not underestimate this challenge and we are building on that solid base of prior tactical development efforts to further develop combination overt and covert anti-diesel tactics.

So where are we headed? Simply put, we are dramatically expanding the tactical base to leverage what we can do best in the broad array of military missions while continuing the development of tactics against the top-line ASW threats. In ASW, General Billy Mitchell’s comment of the 1920’s, that the best defense against submarines is another submarine, remains true today. The Soviet Submarine Force, particularly in the face of the rate at which they are modernizing their inventory, remains the high-end tactical driver. We can’t afford to slacken the pace as they become quieter and better.

In Anti Surface Ship Warfare, we have the developed tactics and have the capability to individually and with the battle croup exercise sea control over a far broader area than ever before. During World War n, special warfare and small scale amphibious operations were an important and common submarine force mission, second only to anti-surface warfare in the number of missions completed. As many as 150 were conducted during the war, with probably the most famous having been the Makin Island raid of Carlson’s raiders in August of 1942. In this raid, NAUTILUS and ARGONAUT delivered about 200 marines and supported their attack with the full range of capabilities from reconnaissance to gunfire support. Today we are undergoing somewhat of a rebirth of special warfare tactics, and the range of capabilities employed in these missions has expanded dramatically. Nothing is inconceivable in carrying out this mission, from rubber boats to helicopters. All attack submarine classes are mission capable.

Offensive mining is a traditional submarine mission. Technically, our mines are much more capable than those used in the 36 missions in WWII, but the essential strengths of submarines in this area have only gained in dominance. The Submarine Force can deliver mines more accurately than any other force and has demonstrated this, and can lay its field covertly in forward areas unaccessible by other platforms.

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Warning Missions remain bread and butter missions for the Submarine Force. All of the submarine strengths come to the fore here, and are being pushed even farther with the technology available. With endurance and stealth as the cornerstones. The value of stealth will only increase. The most difficult capability to export is not a radar or above water technology, but below water technology and the development of this capability in the Third World.

In submarine strike warfare, initiated by Commander Fluckey in his last war patrol on BARB in 1945, we have a natural combination in the modern submarine and the cruise missile.

Tomahawk is less a unique new weapon than it is an extension of the traditional naval mission of shore bombardment that projects the reach of ships and submarines hundreds of miles inshore. The new dimension introduced with the modem submarine strike role is the stealth with which the SSN can approach the target area, launch its weapons and withdraw. The key to the further development of submarine based strike capability will be the extent to which it is flexible, reliable, and timely, and therefore appealing to the campaign commander.

To get a feel for the enormous capability the Submarine Force represents, you simply have to reflect on the submarine firepower equivalent to the assets used in the 1986 Libya raid. This tactical capability exists today. Three submarines could provide the alternative to support aircraft, defense suppression aircraft, primary and backup strike aircraft as well as the two carrier battle groups.

As a submarine force, we are leveraging what we uniquely do. Strike rescue is another mission which has regained emphasis. This is an important mission: 86 submarines participated in strike rescue during wwn, and one of the 504 rescued pilots has a critical impact on our current funding. The importance of strike rescue is indisputable. Aviators sometimes talk of a line beyond which surface ships and helicopters cannot operate without surface and air control. The Yo-Yo line -¬∑ you’re on your own. The only platform which can operate continuously forward along the coast of an enemy is the submarine. In many cases, the submarine moves the Yo-Yo line to the beach and beyond. We can currently link with other platforms to pinpoint downed aviators; our goal is to give the operational commander additional flexibility by having the ability to independently locate and rescue downed aviators.

The foregoing is just a taste of what’s going on. You can see that these are clearly the most exciting times to have my job. We are striving to bring to the task force, battle group, or joint commander a truly responsive, effective military capability. We are at the same time, markedly improving our submarines’ tactical capabilities to use the environment. Actual satellite information showing the major oceanographic features can be transferred to a submarine. We have the capability now to provide this type image to ships and continue to press hard in the area of tactical use of oceanography. And, through the Submarine Force Mission Program Library (SFMPL), we are maintaining at the force level the capability to quickly improve other tactical decision aids available to the Commanding Officer and his crew across a broad range of applications. An important question is, what are the implications of Desert Storm on all of this?

There are many lessons which will be drawn from Desert Storm. Beyond the direct tactical and operational lessons are some less visible but very profound –some are self evident, but some are not. High-tech yields enormous leverage, though cost is another issue. Weapons capabilities and performance in Desert Storm were truly impressive. We have come a long way from Wellington’s complaint that it took a ton of lead to kill a Frenchman, or from WWII in which it took on the average 400 aerial bombs to hit one target. We won’t be able to retreat from this performance. A parallel criteria could be expected to be applied to submarine ordnance effectiveness in a future conflict. The lessons from this conflict with the impact which I consider greatest, but which frankly I have not yet come to grips with, is PACE. The pace of mission accomplishment has always been a major measure of effectiveness (MOE) for the platform/unit commander. But the pace of the Desert Storm ground campaign has changed it into the MOE for a war. The month long air campaign will be forgotten, and with a traditionally impatient nation to begin with, the Submarine Force has to consider its ability to tactically support campaigns which have as a benchmark a 100 hour ground campala=n involving 500,000 men. Clearly, a major key to keeping up with the pace will be the extent to which we develop robust communications and data fusion capability.

In closing, we have to keep in mind the purpose of all this. It is very straightforward. It is to develop in the present and next generation of submariners something called tactical instinct. ~ all commanders have noted, tactics get drastically simplified in combat and Eisenhower reminded us that every war will have surprises. Doctrine will satisfy the predictable, but only a sound set of tactical concepts, coupled with technical knowledge, training and the ability to think will ensure victory against the unanticipated. I can’t overemphasize this. Nimitz said it clearly in a message to one of his fleet commanders:

Tactics are blind without thought -The Lord gave us two ends to use One to think wilh and one to sit with The outcome depends on which we choose Heads we win – Tails we lose.

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