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[Ed. Note: 1his anicle is taken from Mr. Chapman’s presentation at the Sixth Submarine Technology Symposium in May.]


It’s 1993, we have a new President, the Cold War is over, and the economy needs a shot in the arm.  The country wrestles with the problem of down-sizing the excess capacity in the military and defense industry while the various branches of the armed  services  vie  for  meaningful  and  defendable  roles  and missions  in the  new  security environment-an  environment  in which Russia is considered less of a threat to our national security and the focus is on regional conflict.

In terms of historical events, the dilemmas and challenges we face in 1993 have many parallels to those faced in the 1946-47 post-war environment. Just as heated discussions are currently ongoing in regard to the size of our military and appropriate roles and missions to support our new and emerging security environment, so too did the same discussions take place in 1946-47. The discussions, both then and now, involved the size and nature of the military forces, as well as the roles and missions of individual platforms. While there was much debate over roles and missions in the 1946-47 time frame, our foreign policy posture left no doubt as to who the enemy was expected to be: the Soviet Union and Warsaw Block countries. Today we not only have an ongoing debate over military roles and missions, but also it is not clear if closure has been reached as to the nature of the future threat to our national security.

It would be naive to expect to solve, in any short period of time, the national dilemma regarding the size of the military, as well as the appropriate roles and missions of individual platforms in general, and the Submarine Force in particular. However, some provocative views will be put forward in this paper on current thinking within the military hierarchy regarding appropri-ate roles and missions in support of the new security environment, as well as innovative employment concepts for the future Submarine Force.

Review of Policy and Guidance Documentation

Much insight can be gained regarding future roles and missions by reviewing policy and guidance documentation that is on the street. The pol icy and guidance documentation has been made available from the national or presidential level, the Joint Chiefs of Staff level, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy, and the Submarine Force or the Submarine Community level. Also, the milestone 0 decision memorandum, mission needs statement (MNS), and the alternatives under consideration for the new attack submarine (NAS)(or Centurion) provide some insight into the Navy and DoD’s thinking as to the future direction of the Submarine Force.

National Security Strate2y Statement. At the Presidential level we have a new National Security Strategy Statement that reflects the demise of the Soviet Union and places emphasis on regional conflict and crisis response. The statement was first unveiled in a speech by former President Bush at the Aspen Institute in August 1990 and contains the now famous “four pillars”: Forward Presence, Crisis Response, Strategic Deterrence, and Reconstitu-tion. The statement forms the basis for the Joint Chiefs of Staffs National Maritime Strategy, the Defense Department Planning and Guidance document, the Navy’s Maritime Strategy, the Navy’s Vision, the Submarine Force’s Vision and current warfare task emphasis. It should be noted that the new National Security Strategy Statement calls for the ability to reconstitute certain aspects of our military capabilities in the event of a world crisis.

National Military Strategy. The National Military Strategy, developed and articulated at the Joint Chiefs of Staff level, translates and couples the four pillars of the national Security Strategy with a select group of strategic principles to emphasize a force package with a base force structure tailored primarily for the regional crisis environment of the future. The base force of the 1990s will obviously be much smaller, but hopefully carefully tailored, and will stress jointness both within the Navy and among the other services.

Dtmartroent of Defense. The Defense Department translates the National Military Strategy into a regional-oriented Defense Department plan set forth in the Defense Planning and Guidance document in support of the five year defense plan or budget. The document also reflects programming for a base force configured for the regional conflict security environment of the future. The number of submarines required for the future base force still awaits the result of a special DoD study. While unofficial numbers range from 55 to 65, the most popular number quoted is around 55 SSNs. SSN force levels as low as 40 units would not appear to be out of the question in the long haul.

Another special DoD study-this one addressing the state of the future military industrial infrastructure-will have a significant impact on the United States’ ability to build submarines in numbers after the turn of the century. This study is also awaiting completion and publication.

The D~partment of the Navy. Within the Navy Department, the key documentation includes the initial attempts at a modern-day maritime strategy in a document issued by former Navy Secretary, H. Lawrence Garrett, and the Chief of Naval Opera-tions, Admiral Frank B. Kelso, II, called The Way Ahead. This document puts forth the concept that the Navy to be successful in the future world order, must be able to affect events on land. The initial attempts at a modern day maritime strategy was followed by a more mature vision statement issued in mid-to-late 1992 by former Navy Secretary, Sean O’Keefe, called … From the Sea, which further refines the Navy’s roles in a post-Cold War security environment and stresses jointness, regional conflict, and shallow-water warfare.

As is now well known, the Navy reorganization disestablished the OP-02, OP-03, OP-05, and OP-07 organizational elements and integrated them into the N8 organization. The N8 organization is responsible for Navy resources, warfare requirements, and assessments.

To carry out the N8 charter with the current emphasis on jointness, NS has created joint mission areas. Each joint mission area, in turn, has been assigned an N8 organizational element responsible for the assessment of each joint mission area. These joint mission areas map into the traditional warfare tasks as outlined in NWP-1, as well as the key operational capabilities as put forth in the Navy’s new Vision Statement, … From the Sea.

With regard to submarines and their role and contributions to the joint mission area, much work will be required to examine the objectives for their combat capabilities in the several joint mission areas. In addition to examining the appropriate role of SSN platforms in the joint arena, the submarine community needs to address and defend why the submarine, and not some other platform; why certain missions do not place the submarine in an unnecessary vulnerable position; and lastly, what special features must the submarine possess in order to carry out the assigned role and mission in the evolving joint mission area.

The U.S.Submarine Force. The Submarine Force came to grips with the changing nature of warfare when it issued its vision statement. The MNS for the NAS (or Centurion) indicates a change in warfare task emphasis that reflects the changing nature of submarine warfare. The higher priority warfare tasks are covert strike, special warfare, and battle group support.

It should be noted that while the emphasis has shifted away from antisubmarine warfare (ASW), and with more emphasis being placed on covert strike, spedal warfare battle group support, indication/warning, and intelligence gathering, the basic list of submarine warfare tasks has remained more or less unchanged since World Warn. What has changed over the past 40 years is the degree of emphasis given to any warfare task or group of warfare tasks, depending on the nature of the prevailing security environment. ASW is today viewed as only one of the important warfare tasks, compared with just a few years ago when it was the Navy’s number one warfare task.

Submarine Warfare Task Emphasis/Prioritization

Combat Systems Characteristics. While the basic nature of submarine warfare tasks has not changed over the years, the advances in technology have certainly had a dramatic impact on the submarine’s ability to perform its mission. This is true especially in the areas of platform, combat systems, and weapon systems technologies. What the future holds in terms of subma-rine warfare task emphasis, only time will tell.

However, with less emphasis being placed on ASW and increased emphasis on strike, special warfare, intelligence and reconnaissance, and battle group support, the relative importance of the individual warfare system functional subsystem is undergo-ing considerable change. For example, the new emphasis on the joint strike mission area will create the need for covert/high data rate communications, as well as onboard strike planning systems that permit at-sea units the flexibility to re-plan and re-target with onboard resources in theater. This reduces the need for extensive shore support; and it must all be accomplished without compro-mising the submarine’s inherent stealth.

The current prioritization of the warfare system functional capability is a significant departure from the past, and our community must make the necessary adjustments in a world that places less emphasis on ASW. Submarine Technical Attributes Emphasis/Prioritization After considering warfare tasks and their associated emphasis,

the next consideration is basic submarine technical attributes and the change in emphasis that has occurred over the years. In the past, stealth was one of the most, if not the most, important technical attribute of our SSNs. While speed was also one of the more important technical attributes in the past, today and in the near future high ship’s speed is less important.

Platform stealth and combat/weapon system technical character-istics have been and will remain two of the most important submarine technical attributes. The combat/weapon system technical characteristics needed to meet future warfare require-ments are currently being examined as the range or options for the new SSN or Centurion during the cost operational effectiveness analysis (COEA) phase of the program, between milestone 0 and 1.

However, thre is one technical characteristic of the SSN that cannot be compromised, and that is stealth. The submarine is the only remaining self-contained military weapon system that, more or less unsupported, carries the battle to the enemy. It must have stealth in its favor to enable it to determine when and where and under what conditions to engage the enemy. It there are no revolutionary changes in submarine warfare tasks and associated platform attributes, what will be the defendable rationale for the submarine’s being a major player in new security environment base force? That is the critical question that will be asked in light of the platform’s high cost and other difficult issues such as the defense industrial infrastructure question.

The Changing Nature or Warfare

The security environment of the future will be much different from that of the past, and in fact the basic nature of warfare will be different from what it is today. Warfare will be conducted with a much different set of rules which include low public tolerance for loss of personnel; low public tolerance for loss of ships and other equipment; willingness to dispatch personnel and equipment to foreign soil only when the need is critical; and goals that are intended not to inflict damage on the enemy but rather to send him a strong message.

Submarine Political/Military Attributes

The submarine platform itself offers many attractive options for the new security environment. Little mention is made in the literature of the submarine’s inherent political/military attributes.

These include:

  • The ability to operate in the enemy’ s backyard, unsupported, where the United States may not have yet established control of the air or battle space.
  • The ability to carry on non-politically intrusive operations in forward areas for extended periods.
  • The ability to operate for extended periods in forward areas without the need for a logistics pipe line.
  • The ability to be covertly or semi-covertly inserted early in campaign for a wide range of multi-warfare task operations (i.e. , intelligence/indications and warning (I&W), special warfare, strike, etc.).
  • The ability to conduct a variety of operations with high degree of assurance of no loss of personnel or materiel assets.

The submarine is a particularly attractive military option because it can be deployed in forward areas for multi-warfare task operations with minimum political risk or exposure, especially in the early phases of the campaign or before the United States has established battle space dominance in the area. It is less susceptible to attack by air (both from planes and shore-based ballistic missiles); it can conduct covert land strikes early in the campaign to soften the enemy and reduce losses of follow-on forces; it can conduct covert I&W or intelligence-gathering operations without alerting the enemy to its presence-and the list goes on. More thought is required as to the appropriate roles of individual platforms or combinations of platforms as a function of the phases of a military campaign, including the most appropriate roles for submarines.

The important message to be put forth is that in our current budget-constrained times, the affordable submarine of the future will probably still cost $1 billion or more and will look more or less the way submarines have always looked. However, the civilian leadership of Congress and the White House must be convinced that it is still one of the more attractive and cost effective weapon systems of choice to handle a wide range of military problems in our new security environment, which will undoubtedly pose many unknown and complex political and military situations.

The submarine platform is also particularly well suited to the earlier phases of a campaign at or before hostilities have commenced where stealthiness, covertness, and the element of surprise are critical. Fire power is not usually a driving factor in the first hours of a campaign. Surgical strike capability is more important at this point. And when fire power is the name of the game, it should be kept in mind that two modified Trident submarines can carry 144 missiles each or a total of 288 missiles. This means that two modified Tridents could deliver a cruise missile strike to a country such as Iraq of approximately the total number of cruise missiles delivered by all platforms in Operation Desert Storm.

Marine Forward Means Dispelling Popular Submarine Myths Several popular myths exist and must be dispelled regarding the Submarine Force’s ability to perform certain types of missions in the new security environment.

Myth No. I. Submarines cannot operate in shallow water. Response: Modern day SSNs are fully capable, trained, and possess the required expertise to operate for extended periods in shallow water depths. In fact, the Submarine Force routinely logs hundreds of submarine days in shallow water. Operating safely in shallow water is no problem for a modern-day nuclear submarine.

Myth No. 2. The submarine platform has limited deterrence impact because of its inherent stealth and lack of visibility.

Response: The submarine can have a significant psychological impact on the leader of a potential hostile nation. In the area of deception, the submarine can be employed covertly, semi-covertly, or overtly. The submarine’s presence in the area can be made known in a variety of ways to ensure that the desired impact is effected:

  • Inform a potential adversary through diplomatic channels that U.S . and/or allied submarines have been deployed in the area and can be brought to bare if so directed.
  • Have SSNs in the potential conflict area make their presence known by making obvious port-calls or other visible events or acts.

The submarine can always utilize its inherent stealth to remain totally covert and perform a variety of tasks until it is called upon for an overt act, such as strike. But the bottom line is that a submarine am have a significant psychological effect on the leader of a potential hostile nation, especially during the early phases of tension.

Myth No. 3. The submarine lacks the fire power to be a credible strike platfonn in the joint strike arena.

Response: If it is desirable to have a high fire power subma-rine for purposes of conducting a covert strike delivering literally hundreds of missiles to enemy targets, a Trident-like submarine can be configured to be capable of delivering up to 144 missiles per ship . As previously mentioned, it should be noted that two modified Tridents can deliver the total number of Tomahawks launched by all platforms during Desert Stonn operations. If moderate fire power is the operational need, one can employ one or more or the 12 VLS-tube-equipped 688 class units.


In the months and years to come, the Submarine Force and the Submarine Community must do its best to make a strong case for the cost effective contributions of submarines in the future security environment. Wherever possible, the contribution of submarines in the new security environment that takes advantage of their unique and inherent characteristics and capabilities should be emphasized.

With the Navy’s ships construction and modernization (SCN) budget hovering around $4 billion, coupled with the fact that the Submarine Force’s historical allocation has been about 20 to 25 percent of that sum, the next generation submarine will need to come in at about $1 bilJion. A multi-purpose SSN that costs about $1 billion or less in production will be a big challenge to say the least-of course there is always the possibility that the SCN budget will be increased as a result of savings from down-sizing the shore infrastructure (a DoD management strategy that seems to be gaining popularity).

While submarines may be built in the future solely to maintain the industrial infrastructure, a mature and well articulated set of defendable submarine roles and missions tailored for the new security environment is a must.

It is most likely that any of the current leaders of our country believe that the United States could be a super power nation without submarines-interesting and challenging times lie ahead.

Naval Submarine League

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