Given that the principal goal of the Naval Submarine League is to educate both our members and the general public so as to better support the Navy and the Submarine Force, we must continue to expand our understanding of the roles of submarines in a changing world. The recent experience of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm could influence those future roles and is worthy of review.
Also given that several League members are involved· in a variety of activities that afford them unique insight to those dramatic events, it seemed appropriate to formulate a comprehensive index of top-level thoughts about the future. Accordingly, a Roundtable Discussion was held in early June. Admiral Trost sponsored the meeting. Vice Admiral Kauderer acted as the Moderator.
Attendees at the 5 June session of the Roundtable were:
ADM Bill Crowe ADM Carl Trost V ADM AI Baciocco V ADM AI Burkhalter V ADM Dan Cooper V ADM Chuck Griffiths V ADM Bud Kauderer V ADM Ron Thunman RADM Jerry Holland RADM Sumner Shapiro CAPT Jim Hay CAPT John Vick In addition, the following were unable to attend but have contributed to the conclusions of the Panel: ADM Bob Long ADM AI Whittle VADM Jon Boyes Dr. Doug Johnston RADM AI Kelln The discussion focused on the thesis and questions posed in the paper Questions about Desert Shield/Storm and the Implications for Submarines which precedes this article.
The Moderator asked, “Is Deterrence still a viable concept in the post-cold war era; and if so, will the Submarine Force continue to be a major player?” The Panel strongly affirmed deterrence as a principal element of defense and asserted that submarines will continue to have a unique role to play in both strategic and non-strategic deterrence. The distinction between the two types of deterrence should be made more explicit because the public perceives them separately.
The role of the SSBN force is preeminent among the several strategic systems. With, however, the significantly reduced number of SSBNs, it is extremely important to maintain both the superior professional skills of that force, and the training and logistics infrastructure which supports it.
In discussing the non-strategic (or theater, or perhaps the Third World) case, two major points were made: (a) the cruise missile has caaved out a very important niche in the non-nuclear deterrence, particularly with the technological advances currently in development and (b) although arms control relative to SLCMs (sea-launched cruise missiles) has been somewhat ambiguous in the past, we can expect that nuclear and the nonnuclear missiles will be treated separately in the future.
The potential of the submarine launched cruise missile to deter aggressors in the Third World is based on the marriage of the stealth of the submarine with the demonstrated success of the cruise missile for both defense penetration and pinpoint accuracy. The Panel concluded that, in order to be effective, the ability to apply force which is unacceptable, with weapons that are invulnerable to countermeasures, has to be both published and demonstrated to the Third World in such a way that the full implications of a cruise missile-capable U.S. SSN force are clear.
The Panel believes that an advanced submarine-launched land-attack cruise missile weapons system will provide the U.S. Navy strike forces with a major increase in capability and could significantly reduce the attrition of our own air and surface forces by a Third World enemy that has received advancedtechnology air defense and anti-surface ship weapons systems.
In discussing the specific subject of cruise missile employment from submarines, the present Tomahawk was acknowledged as quite successful in the Gulf War. The Panel believes that the cruise missile from a stealthy submarine is an ideal weapon for future naval warfare, however, system improvements are critical to realize this enhanced capability.
The optimum employment of sub-launched cruise missiles is as PGMs (precision guided munitions), with the obvious implications for both the numbers required and the mechanics of targeting. Warhead improvements in an advanced technology version will greatly enhance effectiveness, while the ability to target cruise missiles autonomously on board submarines is a critical requirement. Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (CJI) for targeting can be handled by a submarine at periscope depth without appreciable risk. The location and acquisition of mobile targets remains a technological chaUenge, but one that might be solved by submarine-launched unmanned air vehicles (UA V) for surveillance or by more advanced space systems.
Submarines lo the Third World:
With regard to the submarine threat posed by Third World nations, there was recognition of the potential risk to the U.S. for interference with operations at the least, and significant political damage at the most. In another Desert Shield/Storm operation the protection of U.S. sealift could require extensive participation by the SSN force. While the threat of Third World submarines must be addressed by the U.S. Navy, the fractionated nature of that threat makes the grand total an inappropriate factor upon which to base force level. That is to say, we do not expect Jill Third World submarines to rise against us in unison; therefore, we can be confident of the ability of a portion of our SSN force to take on and defeat the submarine forces of any potential enemy, or plausible group of enemies, in the Third World.
On the important issue of U.S. submarine involvement in Third World conflicts, it was agreed that our strongest suite is stealthy operations in littoral water. There was lengthy discussion of three aspects of naval operations in Third World littoral waters. The first, and by general agreement the most important, was the mine threat to be expected in any conflict with even a moderately sea-capable Third World country. A very promising counter to the perceived mine threat resides in UUV (unmanned undersea vehicle) technology, presently under development in both the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Navy. Secondly, was the issue of Submarine ForceSpecial Warfare Force integration and cooperation and the increased emphasis being placed on that capability. Lastly, the problem of incomplete understanding of submarine operations, on the part of both our own and enemy forces, was recognized as important in considering submarine involvement in Third World conflicts.
Command Control Communications and Intelligence C3I:
The discussion focused on the need for an improved I architecture in order to more fully utilize the submarine platform by the operating commanders. Elimination of any perception of submarine communication limitations is important.
The Panel demurred in defining real-time other than that necessary to meet the mission requirements, but noted that the most restrictive need for real-time communications is in strategic warfare. The Panel felt strongly that we do have that capability now in our SSBN force and a continuing effort must be exerted to correct any residual negative perceptions. However, in looking to greater use of submarines in Battle Group operations (Strike, Mine Warfare, Surveillance, Special Force Operations, etc.) this is most important for SSNs.
Real-time tactical communications is an issue in only a very narrow range of scenarios today, as when the submarine has a long term commitment below periscope depth — during ASW search and destroy operations. It is for the future that an enhanced eli capability is needed. Four conclusions which the Panel drew from its discussion of submarine tactical communications requirements and capabilities are:
(a) eli requirements are mission dependent. Degrees of capability can be made to fit those needs.
(b) Communications issues can not be resolved without taking into consideration the command and control circumstances.
(c) The Gulf War proved once again that in war, difficulties with eli are common to all forces.
(d) Submarine eli is adequate today for assigned missions, but enhancement will improve the contribution and responsiveness of submarines to operational commanders. This is particularly important to submarines conducting Strike Warfare missions, either independently or as part of a Battle Group.
The Soviet Submarine Threat:
The Panel was asked to comment, from the viewpoint of the U.S. Submarine Force, on the severity of the threat posed by Soviet submarines in a future which may be dominated by concerns with the Third World. In general, there is a perception that the Soviets can not now wage a protracted war; and because they are primarily a continental power, they will not use their Navy in a sea war which does not involve the major strength of their armed forces. The intentions argument, therefore, says that a U.S./Soviet naval confrontation is not likely in the immediate future. The capabilities side of the Political-Military argument, however, says that because the USSR is still a superpower, they might not have to wage ·a protracted war in order to harm the U.S. and its Allies. Regarding the Soviet capability in general, a major caution was raised concerning the invalid belief which can arise from the Gulf War about Soviet equipment being inferior to that of the western forces.
SSN Force Level Concerns:
The Panel was asked to comment on the implications of decreasing force levels. One of the biggest problems to be faced in a smaller force, operating in a new security environment, will be providing the motivation necessary for the recruiting and retention of top-quality people. A closely related issue will be the balance of commitments and assets so as not to overload the remaining ships.
The Panel believes we will need a robust submarine Research, Development and Shipbuilding Program to support future naval warfare. The Panel believes that SSBNs will continue to be the dominant factor in the nation’s strategic deterrence and that SSNs are, and will be, major contributors to naval warfare. In addition to present missions, such as ASW, ASUW, Strike and Mine Warfare, the Panel believes that submarines will play an increasingly important role in Third World contingencies where stealth and reduced attrition of our own forces are important.
The national defense policy, as presented by the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and as articulated for the Navy in the recently published The Way Mead by the Secretary of the Navy, the CNO and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, was felt by the Panel to be a perfect fit for the versatility and multi-mission capability of the modem submarine. It was emphasized, however, that the message has to be delivered to the public and to the planners and to the decision makers. The warfightfng potential of submarines Is unlimited, and waiting to be tapped.
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