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[Ed. Note: This article is taken from Mr. Benedict’s presentation at the Sixth Submarine Technology Symposium in May.]

Potential Drivers

Although a  particular study,  war game or  exercise may A focus  on only one scenario,  it is recognized that future planning and training must be based on uncertainty.  The post-Cold War era is nothing if not unpredictable (and unstable) with a multitude of contingency possibilities.  One can not simply concentrate on rewinding the last war or stress only  1-2 future scenarios, regardless of how convenient this may be to simplify planning and training activity.

Based on a review of U.S . Navy and Marine Corps historical involvements in regional contingencies, a diverse list of military missions is evident. These include: peacekeeping roles (presence, show of support, coastal surveillance); counter-terrorism/ narcotics operations; various peacetime/crisis contingency operations (show of force, disaster relief/humanitarian assistance, non-combatant evacuations, freedom of navigation exercises, and protec-tion/control of air and sea lines of communication including selective embargoes/quarantines); forcible entry/recovery and seizing territory (i.e., various special force and amphibious operations); and strikes ranging from massive sustained operations to more limited strikes to achieve specific objectives (e.g., close air support, fire-support, or retaliatory/coercive strikes). Most of these missions would occur near land (in littoral settings) and would directly/indirectly contribute to achieving joint littoral warfare (JLW) battlespace dominance. Bottom line: mission flexibility is essential in JLW-highly specialized warships wiU be found wanting and need not apply. Future regional contingencies will prove challenging despite limited force levels because of various drivers that are likely to exist. In the threat area, no trend is more significant than the proliferation of high-tech weaponry into Third World regions-modem submarines, surface platforms, and aircraft plus their advanced missiles, torpedoes, and mines. U.S . forces may also face unconventional methods of attack by small boats, craft of opportunity, or mini-subs. Limited technical and operational intelligence may exist on an adversary including the conditions under which he might employ weapons of mass destruction. In the environment area, littoral regions are likely to be either shallow, confined, or both, with resultant impact on usable battle space, combat maneuverability, and sensor performance. Littoral environments are also likely to be complex (e.g., propagation) and confusing (e.g., noise/ clutter). In the operations area, the overwhelming driver for most contingencies will be low tolerance for losses. Objectives must be achieved with damage and casualties commensurate with the importance of the operational objectives. Other operational drivers include unpredictable come as you are contingencies, ambiguous situations (collateral damage concerns, restrictive Rules of Engagement (ROEs) and uncertain basing or overflight rights.

Potential Technology Benefits and Current Capability

Priorities in JLW

A review of various lessons learned and planning documents for each of the services resulted in a list of eight potential benefit areas for technology-common to all services and certainly applicable to JLW. The eight technology benefit areas identified by the author are as follows:

  1. Win the information war (achieve both situation awareness and tactical initiative, but deny the corresponding capabilities to an adversary).
  2. Enhance joint operability for decisive combat.
  3. Achieve economy of force.
  4. Reduce force vulnerability and potential for high casualties.
  5. Improve force deployability and agility.
  6. Enhance force/system reliability and sustainability.
  7. Improve doctrine, training, and planning.
  8. Achieve greater affordability.

Actual warfighting examples of positive trends in each of these eight technology benefit areas can be shown, but only two will be highlighted at this point. The first example relates to win the information war and the change in Israeli air superiority operations that occurred between the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the 1982 Bekaa Valley Conflict. In 1973, Israel lost more than 100 aircraft, or more than one-third of its order of battle, in 19 days of combat. Conversely, in the 1982 Bekaa Valley air campaign against Syria, Israeli aircraft suffered no losses while shooting down 84 Soviet-built fighters (64 of which were destroyed in the first two days along with 19 Syrian SAM sites). Israel made superb use of electronic warfare (ELINT, deception, jamming), airborne early warning, unmanned remote piloted vehicles, and a new generation of smart munitions (AIM-9L, Exocet, anti-radar missiles) to win the information war. This was a clear forerunner to the Air Campaign in Desert Storm.

The second example relates to reduction in force vulnerability and casualties (in this case for the Marine Corps) and is synopsized in the following quote from the 1992 STAR 21 report issued by the U.S. Army:

“In the Persian Gulf in 1991…an entire reinforced marine division suffered 24 killed in action. By contrast, the earlier [lesser] contingency operation in Lebanon …[involving] a single reinforced company had 239 killed in action.”

Clearly, the Desert Storm case benefitted from much technology; whereas the 1983 lesser contingency in Lebanon proved more difficult due to the less than overwhelming forces, restrictive ROEs, and lower technology involved.

Advanced technology solutions can be expensive and will likely result in fewer weapons and platforms than in earlier eras; however, if sufficiently capable, these weapons and platforms can nevertheless achieve dramatic force multiplier effects. “The ultimate force multiplier”, quoting future Director of Naval Intelligence Thomas A. Brooks in the July 1985 U .S. Naval Institute Proceedings, “is the ability to locate, observe and target an enemy force …while remaining undetected and denying that enemy the ability to bring his weapons to bear.” W be r e can technology be best applied to alleviate potential warfighting deficiencies in JLW? Twenty preliminary critical capability priorities were examined this past year as part of the JLW mission area assessment and provide a useful construct for this paper; they were organized by the four key operational capability areas described in the Department of the Navy “, . From the SeaN document and, within a category, are listed in current priority order. In addition, I have provided a subjective indication (low, medium, high) of the extent that U.S. attack submarines appear to be potentially involved in these capability areas. The 20 priority capability areas are as follows:

A. Battle space Dominance

    1. Self defense against sea-skimmers (-)
    2. Mine warfare (M-H)
    3. Area defense against sea-skimmers (L)
    4. Shallow water antisubmarine warfare (ASW) (H)
    5. Tactical ballistic missile (.TBM) defense (L)
    6. Shallow water torpedo effectiveness (H)
    7. Torpedo defense (M)

B. Power Projection

  1.  Integrated strike (M-H)
  2. Enabling components – Marine Corps (L-M)
  3. Mine warfare (M-H)
  4. Aircraft survivability(-)
  5. Naval fire support (L)
  6. Special operations forces (SOF) (H)

C . Command/Control and Surveillance

  1. Joint command and control (C41) (M-H)
  2. Combat assessment-battledamage assessment (BDA) (M)
  3. Surveillance (H)

D . Force Sustainment

  1. Sealift force (-)
  2. Combat logistics force (-)
  3. Protection (M)
  4. Logistics over the shore (-)

U.S. attack submarine involvement (areas of interest) appear to be highest in surveillance, C41, mine warfare, shallow water ASW (including torpedo effectiveness), integrated strike, and the insertion, support, and extraction of SOF assets. The technology examples that follow for the three principal themes of the paper will focus on these areas.

Win the Information War in JLW

Theme #1 for this paper is win the information war, and it has four facets. First, it includes adequate command, control, and intelligence assets to direct and control the employment of forces as well as to manage and to disseminate information among these forces. Second, it involves electronic combat to perform effective force-wide surveillance, recoMaissance, tracking, targeting, engagement, BOA and reengagement functions. Third, it includes countermeasures to deny these same and electronic combat capabilities to an adversary, e.g., by jamming or destroying key nodes. Finally, it involves the supporting areas of operational security and signals management.

What capabilities are then needed to enhance SSN contributions to winning the information war? These capabilities should include the following: improved SSN communications to assure being an integral part of force-wide battle management and surveillance systems; maintenance and development of unique SSN intelligence collection capabilities; enhanced SSN reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting and BOA capabilities (across the electromagnetic and acoustic spectrums) including employment of unmanned underwa-ter/air vehicles (UUVs, UAVs); enhanced SSN precision strike and SOF insertion capabilities advanced deception technology (acoustic, electromagnetic) for employment by SSNs. Two areas of related technologies (to Theme #1) will now be addressed.

To improve SSN communications/connectivity to allow full participation in joint task force operations, a number of technology areas are being (or could be) pursued. These include advanced towed buoys to allow tactical communications at speed and depth, additional data links to allow real time tactical data exchange (e.g., with aircraft), bell ringer technologies (ELF, acoustic, laser), robust SATCOM capability (e.g., advanced antennas, data compression, multiplexing techniques) to allow greater access to surveillance and targeting data, required interfaces with “Coperni-cus”, special communications links for off-board systems or forces ashore, and various communication technologies related to ensuring countermeasure resistance and LPI (low probability of intercept) signal transmissions.

To improve SSN surveillance, spotting and BOA capability in support of strike and SOF missions, SSNs need the capability to control unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and to exploit UAV data in the near-term. In the far-term, SSNs should also be designed to deploy and recover UAVs. Technologies related to UAVs that should be of interest to the attack submarine community would include VTOL technology (to allow SSN employment), light-weight high efficiency propulsion, signature control technology, multi-domain sensor systems, and integrated multi-spectral processing techniques. The exact mix of sensors on the UAV would depend on the application (probably including day-night use) and could include a special TV, forward looking infrared, electronic support measures (ESM), or various types of radars (e.g., mini-synthetic aperture radar, millimeter wave radar or laser radar).

Reduce Potential for High Casualties in JLW

Theme #2 for this paper is to reduce joint force vulnerability and potential for casualties when employed in littoral regions. The following eight operational needs are apparent to this author for JLW: the need to counter-aircraft, counter-warships/fast-attack craft (FAC)/small boats, counter-submarines, counter-coastal cruise missiles, counter-tactical ballistic missiles (TBM), counter surface-to-air missiles (SAM), counter-mines, and counter-terrorism (e.g, rescue hostages). U.S. SSNs could be expected to make either primary or secondary contributions in most of these counter roles; however, only the two needs involving undersea warfare (counter-mines, counter-submarines) will be highlighted later in terms of related technologies of interest to SSNs.

But first, actual operational examples (both poor and good) will be identified for these eight vulnerability categories. Poor and good examples of counter-aircraft performance exist in the British Falklands and U.S./Coalition Gulf War experiences, respectively. To date most counter-warship/FAC/small boat examples have been good including the British in the Falklands, the U.S. during Libyan operations (1981, 1986), and the U.S./coalition forces in the Gulf (1987-1991). U.S. counter-submarine activity has been confined to various exercises and, if recent SHAREMs are any indication, the results have been less than stellar against diesel submarines (even those operated by developing or Third World countries). The ASW experiences of the British in the Falklands and of India in the 1971 War with Pakistan have also not been very encouraging. The U.S.Icoalition counter-TBM (Scud Hunt) and counter-coastal cruise missile performance were poor and good, respectively, although coastal cruise missiles would be a greater concern in other scenarios, e.g., involving Iran and the Strait of Hormuz. Recent counter-SAM examples (1986 Libya, 1991 Gulf War) have been markedly better than earlier experienc-es (1972 Vietnam Linebacker I Operation, 1983 Lebanon Strike). Counter-mine examples from 1950 in Korea to 1987-1991 Gulf operations have been generally poor with the only exceptions being various clean-up operations (e.g., after conflicts are over). Poor and good counter-terrorism examples exist in the 1980 Desert One and 1985 Achille Lauro incidents, respectively. In summary, the overall warfighting trends are good, but significant deficiencies appear to exist in countering mines, countering certain missile delivery mechanisms, and countering submarines.

What capabilities are then needed to enhance SSN contributions to reducing force wlnerability and potential casualties? These capabilities should include the following: enhanced capabilities against diesel submarines, mini-subs and large ships, and smaller craft in adverse littoral environments; maintenance of effective offensive mining capability and development of covert minefield reconnaissance capability; enhanced force alertment capability against aircraft and missile attacks from ashore; improved capabilities to support SSN (and other force) strikes on fixed or mobile sites; enhanced ·special warfare force capabilities; and reduced ability of adversary forces to detect (and engage) SSNs in shallow and confined littoral environments. This last capability related to self-defense would also include adequate mine detection and avoidance capabilities.

To improve SSN shallow water ASW (or near land ASW) sensor capabilities, a number of technology areas are being (or could be) pursued. These include advanced sonar (active, passive) technologies, advanced information processing techniques (i.e., data fusion for effective classification and tracking), and torpedo guidance and control improvements for shallow water and low doppler target conditions. Advanced active sonar related technolo-gies of interest are reverberation suppression techniques, LPI, advanced classification algorithms, and bistatic receivers. Advanced passive sonar related technologies of interest are full spectrum processing, machine-aided detection techniques, adaptive beamforming, and enhanced acoustic intercept receivers.

To improve SSN minefield reconnaissance (or mine detection and avoidance) capabilities, a number of technology areas related to unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) are being (or could be) pursued. These include the following: high-energy density power systems; technologies to support ruggedness, reliability, stealth, and minimum maintenance requirements for UUVs; advanced mission controllers; advanced microprocessors for untethered control, auto detect and classify, image processing, and fault-tolerant computing; ultra-thin low-loss fiber optic cables; precision navigation systems; advanced sensor suites (swath echo-sound-ing/side-scan sonars, cameras); small onboard (SSN) support systems for planning, control, and display; and advanced launch and recovery techniques.

To improve SSN stealth in shallow and/or confined littoral environments, a number of technology areas are being (or could be) pursued . These include signature management and control systems, enhanced structural acoustics design concepts, sail and periscope signature reduction techniques, submarine hull treat-ments (coatings, paints for camouflage), advanced propulsors, magnetic (electric) field reduction techniques, and signature control technology for expendables and off-board systems, i.e., UUV, swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV), communications buoy, weapon launch. Stealth is the quintessential attribute for U.S. attack submarines but, in a cautionary note, it should not be over-designed for future regional contingencies, i.e., a clear vision of potential vulnerabilities {e.g., to modem mines) must be traded off against affordability in future submarine designs. It should also be remembered that designs for new submarines that will enter the fleet early in the next century must be robust enough to pace (or allow pacing) of threat developments through the year 2030 or beyond. Regional threats to SSNs may be relatively low today but that will not always be so, particularly ir ill-advised (short-sighted) cost reduction measures related to stealth are adopted today.

Achieve Greater Affordability

Theme 113 for this paper is to achieve greater affordability in future submarine design. To improve SSN affordability, five technology categories have been identified. First, automation techniques can be used to reduce crew requirements for both operations and maintenance. In the operations area advanced decision support systems, tactical decision aids (TDAs). and improved and automated signal analysis techniques could result in crew reductions. More importantly perhaps, automation tech-niques could reduce crew requirements for ship maintenance. These potential techniques could include high reliability component design, plug-compatible components. fault-tolerant designs, and advanced monitoring/fault-correction systems.

The second and third related technology categories would reduce space and weight requirements for HME (bull, machinery and electrical) and combat systems, respectively. On the HME side smaller nuclear reactor plants,altemative pumpfmotor/ cooling system concepts, and simplified piping and valving arrangements could be investigated. On the combat systems side non-hull penetrating periscopes, reduction or elimination of separate radio rooms, innovative combat system architectures, and reduced size acoustic arrays (e.g., in the bow) should be considered for impact on ship weight and space (and whether associated cost savings would be evident).

The fourth technology category involves computer architectures and interfaces to ease future upgrades to SSNs. Among the concepts under consideration are open architectures, software standards and protocols, reusable software code, and reliance on non-developmental items (NDI)/commercial off the shelf (COTS) systems, e .g. , militarization of commercial work stations. The last related technology area involves advanced manufacturing processes such as design simulation and visualization tools and efficient low volume production techniques.

SSN affordability versus capability trade-off’s will determine eventual SSN force levels and mission utilization. Technology potentially has as much of a role in controlling/ reducing costs as it does in maintaining/increasing warfighting capabilities.


It  is  essential   that  the   correct   balance  between    near-term requirements pull and far-term technology push be achieved  in JLW planning, based on a clear strategic vision. This research, development, and acquisition strategy should not over-react to the Gulf War or focus exclusively on Persian Gulf scenarios; instead planning should be based on a variety of potential contingencies in order to design for flexible mission execution by U.S . attack submarines in an uncertain future.

In addition, the vulnerability of surface forces (and aircraft) in regional contingencies will likely increase as Third World countries gain access to and learn to effectively employ high-tech weaponry. This should result in expanded mission opportunities for submarines if they have the needed technical wherewithal to perform those missions. SSN conduct of both new and traditional roles should significantly contribute to minimizing force casualties (including the indirect benefit of not putting more vulnerable platforms at risk).

The Gulf of Oman/Strait of Hormuz/Persian Gulf littoral region is not only a high interest scenario locale but in many ways it represents the essence of joint littoral warfare, i.e., featuring shallow and/or confined seas and a variety of potential threats. These threats include mines, coastal cruise missiles, missile. eqipped FAC, small boats, submarines, mini-submarines, missile-equipped aircraft, coastal SAMs, etc ..

If during a future contingency the Strait of Hormuz (SOH) is closed to most surface forces for several weeks due to mines or coastal defenses, could future SSNs pick up the slack by operating aggressively in the same region denied to other forces. If not, why not? Because of lack of wartighting capabilities or due to concern for SSN vulnerability while performing certain missions in shallow, confined, heavily defended and minable coastal seas? We can control the answer to this hypothetical question by a prudent investment in submarine related technologies in the coming years.

Technology advances related to SSNs that should be of most benefit in JLW will likely occur in the following areas:

  1. Communications/connectivity
  2. Recce/surveillance/intel/targeting/BDA
  3. Precision strike
  4. Special force insertion/support/extraction
  5. Shallow water ASW
  6. Mine warfare 
  7. Platform survivability
  8. Platform affordability

It should be noted that the “cueing, connectivity and off board systems” theme of the late 1980’s still appears valid for circa 2000-2010. Thus, future attack submarine designs should allow for flexible employment of a variety of offboard systems including SDVs, UUVs and UAVs (Note: with employment unconstrained by the particular dimensions of torpedo tubes).

1n conclusion, stealth can be the ultimate force multiplier in JLW, but only if the platform involved has the requisite warfighting capability enhancements (via technology upgrades) to allow optimal exploitation of this stealth. Quoting Admiral Jeremiah from a recent speech, “we’re moving away from systems that are so inflexible that they cannot be upgraded to exploit new technologies …we’re moving away from systems that are so specialized that they can only be used against a narrow threat or in a very unique environment”. Flexibility is clearly the key in JLW, and technolo-gy is the enabler-thus, future SSNs must be carefully designed to incorporate (or allow incorporation of) high value-added technologies for JLW. So let’s get on with it; the future remains bright for judicious and innovative application of advanced technology to the U.S. attack submarine force.

[Mr. Benedict is a member of the Principal Professional Staff of ‘Ihe Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in the Naval Warfare Analysis Department. specializing in anti-submarine warfare (A.SW). He is Study Director for the Submarine OJ]board Mine Search System (SOMSS) COEA and is a principal investigator for the update to the Congressionally mandated MlW plan. He has a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Maryland and a M.S. in Numerical Science from The Johns Hopkins University].

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