THE CASE FOR A SUBMARINE-BASED
I would like to thank you for publishing Richard Thompson’s response (THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, July 1991) to my January article on the submarine-based anti-satellite system. I feel responses such as his provide an impetus for further thought and discussion. As a matter of completeness, however, I would like to respond to Mr. Thompson’s concerns.
Although I often refer to various companies by name in the following discussion, it is only for historical purposes.
(1) The original concept for a submarine-based interceptor system was proposed to SOlO (Strategic Defense Initiative Office) in November 1986 by the Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell International. The earliest concept was known as HYVINT, for HYperVelocity INTerceptor, used in a strategic anti-ballistic missile (ABM) role. This was followed by a briefing in 1987 to the Center for Naval Analysis and the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. A modified Trident 726-class with a 196 missile Ioadout, and a lengthened SSN-21 with 60 missiles, were suggested as platform options. The advantage of the approach was forward-basing providing boost-phase intercept, and the survivability and mobility provided by a submarine.
In February 1988, the anti-satellite system was proposed by Rockwell to the Navy’s Naval Surface Weapons Center (NSWC) and Strategic System Program Office (SSPO). It was a natural extension of the concept, relying on the same technology. Compared ·to the ABM, the ASAT mission had the advantages of less stressing timelines and fewer engagements, which made it ideal for deployment on a space-limited attack submarine.
(2) I remember the Proceedings article Mr. Thompson refers to about sea-based antipode basing. However, it is ironic that he mentions General Dynamics as the first to publish the idea because Rocketdyne briefed it as part of the submarinebased interceptor program to Gerald Cann (then Vice President of General Dynamics’ Undersea Warfare Center and now Assistant Secretary of theN avy for Research, Development, and Acquisition) and John Shilling (Director of Programs) in July 1988. To support the brief, I did the operations analysis and addressed missile-launch tube interface issues. GO, however, was not interested in a teaming agreement. This was unfortunate because later, when the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) decided to give the program to the Army, rather than the Navy, Rockwell was selected as the system’s sole contractor, including system integration. There was a rumor of GO filing a protest, but nothing resulted. It is interesting to note that only recently (Inside the Navy, 15 July ’91) has the submarine’s contribution to such a system, albeit tactical, been recognized again in the open literature.
(3) Regarding the Standard missile’s performance for the ASAT mission, several concepts were analyzed by Rockwell as to platform, missile, and launcher options, and their utility and cost of modifications. The object was to use existing assets as much as possible to reduce cost and development time. The Block IV SM-2, with a kick stage, was found to aUow the intercept ranges predicted in the short term. The modified missile length was 14 to 19 feet, allowing use of existing launch tubes.
It is important to remember the complementary, yet parallel roles, played by kinetic- and directed-energy weapons. The two systems have different capabilities and require different countermeasures. Like the Triad, it is a sensible approach. The KKV (Kinetic Kill Vehicle) is envisioned as being operational within a 10-year time frame. While this may seem long, it is optimistic nowadays. The KKV system’s inherent performance limitations have always been recognized. Effectiveness must be examined in the context of cost versus increased range, accuracy, lethality, and time to IOC. The weapon is viewed as an interim solution until directed-energy weapons become viable and cost-effective. Systems such as the chemical oxygen-iodine high-energy laser and beam control system developed by the Air Force, will provide the needed range, and are likely to be operational by the year 2000.
The Army KKV weight is likely to be less than the 20 kg that Mr. Thompson quoted. (With the exception of deployment of the early F-15 ASAT miniature homing vehicle weapon, the Air Force is not involved in the KKV program.) High terminal velocity and/or long range is possible in smaller vehicles, in part, because of the development of gelled propellants providing the performance of liquids and stability of solids. The latter result in a much higher degree of safety, which is a concern in storing propellants aboard aircraft and ships. As a result of continued research by companies such as Aerojet and Rocketdyne, a high performance KKV the size of a coffee can is conceivable by the IOC date of the KEW (Kinetic Energy Weapons) system. The garbage disposal-sized systems that have been shown in the press are concept-of-validation units, and not intended to portray operational systems in size and weight.
By the way, the KEW terminal guidance system is likely to use both visible and passive IR, rather than one of the two. The reason for this is to help defeat countermeasures. This, and proposed hanger tests, are the primary reasons Rockwell won the sole source contract.
(4) Using the Trident and Poseidon SLBM for ASAT deployment is not realistic. This option was studied closely as part of the original HYVINT program, and later as part of SDI’s Maritime Adjunct Committee Study. Missile verification is a nightmare. It is not likely an adversary would accept a strategic arms treaty allowing construction and basing of additional SSBNs which are indistinguishable from their nuclear warhead counterparts. Launch during a contained conflict could result in escalation if decisions were based solely on signature data (image or metric) measured by a space-based surveillance platform. Even the use of a Tomahawk- or Standard-missile envelope is subject to future arms negotiations and reduction, since weapons of this size may play a quasi-strategic role, i.e., similar in range and lethality to early SLBMs.
I hope this clears up any misconceptions that may have resulted from my article. As is often the case, papers must be shortened ·in the interest of space and cost. This paper was no exception, requiring editing from the original 100+ page report to about eight. Certain areas, such as oceanographic ASW and missile interfaces, were either shortened or deleted.
David Nahrstedt, Ph.D., Optical Engineer
Air Force Maui Optical Station
THE ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION
(SUBMARINE REVIEW, October 1991)
It is certainly useful to get such high level submarine people together to define the future of nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) in the expected environment of Third Power contingencies. Unfortunately, the Kuwait War was not one in which SSNs could play a significant role. In fact, the actual use of U.S. nuclear attack submarines in the “Gulf War” seemingly demonstrated an inapplicability of SSNs in the probable low intensity conflicts of the next several decades.
A look at what happened in the Iraq War shows that: the land-locked nature of Iraq, the shallowness of the Persian Gulf, and the dangers of the transient Iraqi mines and fixed minefields forced U.S. submarines to operate at great distances from their cruise missile (Tomahawk) targets; the consequent firing ranges for SSNs made it less costly and more reliable to deliver Tomahawks by surface ships which were much closer to the same targets; there were no torpedo targets; the presence of SSNs in the general area of the Iraq aggression had no apparent deterrent effect on Saddam – if he even considered them as an element of threat to his plans; furthermore, the SSN’s quality of stealth had little or no significance in submarine operations; and the submarine surveillance mission had only a few enemy ship movements which might be observed.
The Iraq War was the wrong war for deriving profound judgements as to the future of U.S. SSNs. But the major utility of SSNs for most Third Power contingencies can be established – if the SSN’s operational advantages and limitations are properly recognized. The Discussion group, it should be noted, produced a sound picture of the SSNs important role in future low intensity conflicts, but it was perhaps overly optimistic. Why overly optimistic?
For one, stealth was considered to be an absolute, unvarying premium quality of the U.S. SSN. However, stealth of an SSN is more than its quietness. There are other signatures which are detectable by airborne means which an SSN might generate in various modes of operations, and particularly when operating close to the surface. In that aspect, an SSN has a number of different types of signatures (IR, inner wave effect, visible wake, magnetic anomaly, nuclear traces, vortex disturbances) which might be detectable by airborne means. Thus, an SSN operating in shallow waters and necessarily close to the surface is likely to have its quality of stealth significantly degraded.
A second qualification should be applied to the SSN’s cruise missile which is somewhat less than an ideal weapon. This is true of the Tomahawk missile as it is configured now; and this was recognized by the Discussion group. But for Tomahawk to evolve into a very good weapon for SSNs belies the past history of attack submarine weapons (missiles as well as torpedoes), and the Tomahawk requirement for near-time target data. At the same time, the submarine community’s avowed focus on missiles as their bread and butter, remains suspect.
SSN operations in the Iraq War suggests that their future lies in their employment of long range, appropriate-warhead cruise missiles with torpedoes finding little use, and that the SSN needs a means to project its submarine power into shallow waters other than with the SSN itself – allowing the SSN to operate in waters where it can minimize all of its signatures including noise so that it continues to maintain a high degree of stealth.
Enclosed is a check in the amount of $175.00 to cover the cost of a life membership in the Naval Submarine League for my father, Keeven Martin Hurtt, Gunner’s Mate Chief, United States Navy, Retired. This life membership is to be a Christmas gift to him.
It seems fitting to honor my father in this manner during the 50th anniversary year of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My dad spent virtually aU of the World War ll years serving aboard submarines in the Pacific. At the time of his retirement from the Navy, be was serving as the first Chief-of-the-Boat aboard the USS SEA WOLF. I am grateful for the sacrifices which my dad made so that I can live comfortably and safely today. It is because of men like him that this country is so great.
Thank you for taking care of this matter for me. I am proud to be associated in some manner with the silent setvice, one of the most unique outfits (fighting or otherwise) ever assembled on the face of the earth.
Sharron I. (Hurtt) Hanzel Gooding