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The Submarine Force has concisely defined the future roles  and  missions  of  the  Submarine  Force. 1  The  nuclear submarine has the critical advantage of stealth, endurance and agility, and is the only platform combining these advantages in a single unit. The submarine should play a major role in future projections of military power, particularly necessary in a changing, unstable world.

Precision strike, the relatively new rote for the submarine is emphasized. “The accuracy and effectiveness of Tomahawk missiles were graphically demonstrated in Operation Desert Storm”. Furthermore, “using the capability to conduct direct precision strikes, the submarine provides the National Command Authorities the ability to exert influence and project power over a large portion of the globe. Over 75 percent of the land can be attacked”. Areas susceptible to attack are shown in a diagram illustrating the global reach of submarine launched Tomahawk land attack missiles.

The arctic marginal sea ice zone (MIZ) should be added to the diagram, as an uniquely specialized zone for missile attack (Figure. 1)  The reach of missiles launched by submarine in the MIZ is illustrated in Figure 2. The proportion of the land that can be attacked is increased to over 87 percent. It also illustrates that a considerable area of North America is wlnerable to attack from the ice covered zone. As a result of operating in nearly all sectors of the MIZ during the past 45 years, we have the technology and submarine capability to deny use of this ice covered zone for missile attack by all known submarine forces today. We also know, from experiments during the 45 years, what special equipment, what modifications, what special information and tactics are required to specially deploy a submarine in the MIZ. Once specially deployed, the MIZ becomes a virtual sanctuary for this submarine-the ultimate manifestation of stealth. And, if we know, we must assume that the whole world knows.

We do not know how to attack and defeat this offensive submarine when specially deployed in the MIZ. Only another submarine can locate and conduct the attack, but we have no concept of the requirements for combat in the sea ice canopy in this situation. Likely, a decade of dedicated research is needed to discern the concept of this combat, hence, the requirements for the defensive submarine. A discussion of the history and problems of this combat is given in Submarine Combat in the Ice, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, February 1992, p. 33.

Today, the submarines of the successors of the Soviet Union are capable of mounting a missile attack in the MIZ-a potential hazard to our national security, but we have the capability and technology to contain this hazard. However, in a changing, unstable world, in 5, 10, or 15 years, where may the threat come from? What advancements may develop in the missile and its delivery? Even now, the knowledge is available to develop a threat by a special deployment which we cannot contain. We should, at least, do the R&D necessary for a defensive submarine to contain it.

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Captain Paul R. Schratz, USN(Ret.)

Naval Submarine League

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