Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


Good afternoon. It is an absolute honor and pleasure to be here today.

As I look around the audience and see so many familiar faces I am sure that much of what I say here will not be new to you and that’s good news because that means we like the plan we have told you about in the past and we are sticking to it.

In the past, I have talked to you mostly about today. Today I’d like to focus on tomorrow-the future-what the world might look like and what we as a force may be asked to do.

I think it is important to this audience to understand that although daily brush fires consume much of our time, the Submarine Force has put in place a well conceived plan to help us make decisions on how to keep our future on track.

Shortly after the first of the year, Admirals Emery, Barr and myself commissioned a group of our finest Captains to look at our Submarine Force strategic planning and to give us recommendations of how to proceed.

Although the submarine community has always enjoyed close coordination on key issues, it was clear that due to declining budgets, shrinking force structure and a changing security environment that it was time to revisit our action items. We needed to ensure that we remained focused on the issues and had a solid framework for engaging other decision makers.

There were two key findings from this study that really set the stage for any decision making for the future. First of all, nothing on the want list was free-and the want list was much longer than the give-up list. In an era of zero sum financing, it is clear that we must be prepared to give up some things or change our way of doing business, and that is going to be hard-in fact, it may break some paradigms.

The second outcome of this review to really get your attention was this thing called Revolution of Military Affairs (RMA). Now, if you asked ten different people in the Pentagon how RMA is defined, you will get ten different variants. The one constant in the definition though, will be things are going to change. They are not only going to change for our forces, but they are also going to change for potential enemy forces.

Why We Must Change

This revolution promises to fundamentally change the way we fight in the future-whether in the littoral or the open ocean. The case could be made that there are two principal components of this change that affect our submarines.

The first is what I call the gee whiz! component: technologies, systems, system of systems and platforms. Remarkable advances in science and technology in both the military and civilian sectors promise to diminish the fog of war, by facilitating our knowledge of our adversary’s thought process, denying him knowledge of our intentions, and allowing us-at times and places of our choosing, not his-to attack him with pin-point accuracy and near-single-shot kills.

Second, and perhaps ultimately more important, is the institutional, organizational, and cultural component of change-how we exploit the gee whiz! component to accomplish tasks. This component focuses our attention on our concept of operations-how we .fight. We must be prepared to develop the organizations, command structures, and military culture, that allow us to use technologies and systems to remain inside our adversary’s decision making cycle, to keep him off guard, to attack his weaknesses and avoid his strengths, to defeat his strategy and to convince him that he cannot win.

It is the combination of these two components (technology and organization} that will bring about real change. Willingness to change the way we do business may also include maintenance and training. The money that we spend in all of these areas is linked and interchangeable, and we may be called upon to be very innovative in some areas, in order to enhance others.

Additionally, we cannot assume that future developments will be unmatched by other nations, or that we will be able to exploit the revolution more efficiently and effectively than those who would oppose us. Our adversaries are also seeking changes in the way they exert influence through military might. We are already seeing the results of this as the Russians get quieter and the proliferation of submarine technology continues at a rapid pace.

When you look out to the year 2015, it is almost certain that we will be dealing with an opponent who is also on the information superhighway. He may be utilizing space based, airborne and subsurface surveillance and reconnaissance systems, in addition to having sophisticated and capable cI and lethal strike systems. By the year 2015, it is safe to assume that when dealing with most Bad Guy Countries, if he can detect you, he will be able to attack you, often in ways you least expect.

Today as our naval forces operate forward from the sea, there are four major categories of weapons that concern us: ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, submarines and sophisticated mines. In 2015 they will concern us even more because they are easy to get. And this should not be just a naval concern-it should be a national concern. If the enemy is effective with these weapon systems, he can deny the arrival of tanks for our Army friends, Marine troops and even logistics for Air Force aircraft. In short, the conflict environment of the littoral will continue to grow in sophistication and lethality.

The good news is that the Submarine Force is poised-perhaps as no other element of the Armed Forces can be to take advantage of these future situations. Our traditional core competencies of stealth, essentially unlimited operational endurance and logistic self-sufficiency, mobility, and multi-mission firepower, provide the foundation for supporting our other uniformed brethren. The submarine is the one asset that is invulnerable to ballistic and cruise missiles, can effectively avoid mines, and can dominate enemy submarines. In short, we already have-naturally-what others seek to achieve-invisibility from the enemy. That gives us a significant leg up on being able to maximize our resources-to enhance our offensive punch.

What the World Might Look Like

When you think of any military encounter, you really have to understand that there are at least two very distinct phases-battlespace preparation and battlespace dominance. Both phases have unique requirements because, for example, preparation may happen during peacetime, while dominance is clearly in a hostility phase.

Our new stealthy, multi-mission SSNs of 2015 must be able to prepare the battlespace for subsequent operations:

  • by providing a non-provocative covert forward presence for months at a time, as our civilian leadership labors over political issues;
  • by supplying continuous intelligence data to our leadership;
  • by conducting minefield reconnaissance
  • by introducing Special Operations Forces into the equation if needed;
  • by working with on-scene carrier battle groups, amphibious ready groups, and other JTF elements to hone skills and rehearse the concept of operations, should they be needed.

Battlespace preparation takes place before the first shot is fired-maybe months before CNN reports there is a problem. With the onset of hostilities, however, our on-station SSNs will still be in position to immediately support combined-arms operations to achieve battlespace dominance. This absolute control of the undersea, surface, and air battlespace, as well as the extension of the fleet’s offensive reach well into the adversary’s homeland is dependent on our Navy’s expeditionary force’s ability to:

  • launch high-volume, precision strikes with advanced land-attack missiles;
  • control the undersea and surface threat with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles;
  • neutralize minefields and/or lay mines to deny enemy naval movements;
  • protect the flanks as our Marines demonstrate operational maneuver from the sea;
  • land special operations forces;
  • support ground forces ashore and
  • conduct information warfare.

In short, these are exactly the things that our multi-mission platform was designed for, but we will have to improve our weapons accuracy, mining capabilities and special forces activities if we are to properly support the fight of 2015.

Another term for battlespace dominance is kicking down the door. And since kicking down the door is truly a naval mission, submarines will remain key to its success. However, the reason for kicking down the door is to get other fighting forces to the scene of action. In order to accomplish this task, we must ensure that all follow-on shipping and naval movement, in the littoral regions and choke points, as well as on the blue-ocean highways that connect them, are safe. In that regard, we will continue to be called upon to thwart our opponents’ efforts at sea denial. An open door is no good unless someone is there to enter.

What We Need to Invest in to Preserve Our Place in the RMA

So, what are some of the specific programs and/or ideas we are pursuing/studying? What size boots are we going to buy so that our submarines remain the primary kicker in the future? Four key areas are quickly identified as examples: c*I, off-hull sensors, on-board sensors and weapons.

Let’s First Look at C’I. Perhaps our most dramatic post Cold War modernization effort, next to the New Attack Submarine, is in the communications area. This is a revolution in itself. We understand that if information does not flow easily between our submarines and the JTF Commander, he will declare it too hard, and will get along without us. We do not intend to let that happen. We are dedicated to being absolutely integrated. If you were comparing our plan with the plan for carriers, cruisers or amphibs, it would look very similar.

As we replace legacy systems with Navy common automated systems, our data throughput will increase dramatically. We have several demonstrator systems out there today. By 1998, we will introduce real-time video capability as part of standard installed equipment. This will be possible because of the recent advances in antenna technology. By the turn of the century, most of our SSNs will have multiple SHF capability. We are also taking steps to ensure that our surveillance and early warning initiatives are in step with all Navy programs.

One other very exciting area of interest that we are investigating is underwater communications. Recently, we have transmitted and received data underwater at LINK-11 data rates. This technological advance promises to revolutionize our undersea communications architecture. The ability to exchange large quantities of data, including imagery, with submerged platforms is within our reach and has many implications including undersea combat ID. This will be essential as our ships fight in the crowded littoral battlespace.

Turning to the area of off-hull sensors. As we acquire bigger communications pipes on submarines, we can expand the portfolio of services provided. One example involves the unmanned aerial vehicle (UA V). Within a year, we intend to demonstrate the ability to video link with a UAV and to control that UAV while it’s in flight. This capability provides a reconnaissance sensor that will enhance many submarine missions such as Special Forces support, as well as missile targeting. It will expand the domain of visual surveillance and battlefield awareness for submarines.

We are developing unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), which will improve our reconnaissance capability to a degree not possible today. Our first emphasis is a continuing one, to ensure that submarines have the best hull-mounted mine detection sonar possible. The ultimate solution to detecting and classifying mines however, resides with the Near Term, and eventually, Long Tenn Mine Reconnaissance Systems. The submarine’s long dwell time, coupled with the capability of these UUVs, provides a real-time display miles ahead of the battle force. It is yet another way we intend to prepare the battlespace.

A third important system for optimizing our performance against future submarine threats is the Advanced Deployable System-a member of our IUSS family. This portable acoustic surveillance system can be planted just about anywhere and provide continuous coverage over a 30,000 square mile area for months. It is a valuable tool that is available today and will be a key player as our surveillance requirements increase due to the growing popularity of diesel submarines and the downsizing of our own force.

In the area of onboard sensors. There are two programs that show promise for our future. The first is a wide aperture array (WAA) sonar that is optimized for the shallow and noisy waters where quality diesel submarines will operate. Some of the newer versions of these submarines can remain submerged for long periods of time, which makes finding them by acoustic means much more challenging. The WAA is designed to restore a significant margin of acoustic superiority so that we can find them before they can disrupt naval operations or commercial shipping.

The second is the new TB-29 towed array which will help our current 688s deal with the threat. This improved towed array, in combination with a WAA, will be the lineup required for routing AKULAs and diesel submarines out of the deep water, or out of the mud, should they choose to operate there.

And in the weapons area. As we transitioned from the Cold War and expanded our focus to include regional conflict scenarios, one of our first concerns was for our submarine primary weapon-the ADCAP torpedo. Just two years ago, we were not satisfied with its capability against a slow and quiet diesel submarine in shallow, noisy waters. Today, we have dramatically increased that effectiveness. Much has been done. Much remains to be done. Part of our long term planning includes a torpedo master plan-one that will sustain our technology base and yield the best bang for the buck. The ADCAP is the world’s best torpedo, and only a continuous R&D effort will keep it so.

I also consider the Navy SEALS and the Special Forces personnel we work with as weapons. So in the world of clandestine operations, we have expended considerable effort at improving the ability to surreptitiously and efficiently land forces ashore. Within three years, we will have an operational dry mini-sub that fits on the back of an adapted SSN. This sub, called the Advanced Swimmer Delivery Vehicle will extend the reach of our snake-eaters well beyond what is achievable today.

Another mission area that is growing in significance is strike. Today it is not uncommon to find a significant percentage of the Tomahawk assets carried by battlegroups resident in the attached submarines. We now deploy exclusively with the more accurate Block III variant, and around the end of the century, the Toma-hawk Baseline Improvement Program or TBIP missile, will be introduced. TBIP will yield even greater accuracy, resulting in greater destruction with fewer salvos.

A recent initiative involving the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) further illustrates what is possible in the weapons business. We are about three quarters of the way through a feasibility study that will determine if the AT ACMS can be launched from a standard SSN vertical launch tube-the same launcher our Tomahawks use. As of today, the project has uncovered no show stoppers. This ballistic missile provides a real-time, accurate and reliable ground support capability to expeditionary forces. A submarine with Tomahawk and ATACMS could provide a stealthy launch platform for strategic deep strike as well as offering a new close-in, responsive ground support capability. Support of the ground battle from a submarine using UAVs and tactical missiles is a concept of operations whose time has come and will be a complementary addition to our other naval fire support assets.

The option of placing a subsurface to air or surface self-defense weapon on submarines is on our mind and continues to be explored. While mixing it up on shallow water, there may be a need to have a response to the threat presented by low flying aircraft and swift, shallow draft patrol boats. We believe there are some on-the-shelf missiles that can be adapted for this purpose.

And let me just add one more thought. Strategic deterrence remains a top level warfighting requirement for our Navy and our nation. That requirement is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. We are committed to upgrading our Trident missile and ship systems as necessary. This includes sharing all technology that is developed for SSNs and vice versa. As far as I am concerned, a submarine is a submarine.

Conclusion-Stayine the Course

In conclusion, I must remind you that some of the initiatives that I have outlined are funded programs-others are just a gleam in our eye-but all cost money. There are still many tough decisions to be made-what is most important?-what do we give up? This will be the challenge as we work through our Strategic Plan.

I didn’t even mention Seawolf or the NSSN, but clearly they are our ultimate answer in fielding improvements to deal with the future threat-because within their hulls is contained almost every improvement that is within the state-of-the-art. The only reason that I have not spent time on these ships is because Rear Admiral Frick is going to discuss them in detail. They are clearly the highest priority we have. Even though there has been some recent turmoil in obtaining authorization for these vessels, I remain optimistic. We must not be naive. The road ahead is rocky, but I believe when all the facts are understood, the programs will be authorized. The Navy has a good plan-we must stay the course.

But even with Seawolf and New Attack Submarine, we are obliged to improve our 688s.

After all, we really have no choice-a Revolution in Military Affairs is here, for us and potential opponents-the change is upon us.

I expect the U.S. Submarine Force to be a leader in this exciting and fast paced happening.

Thank you, and I appreciate your support.


THE SUBMARINE REVIEW is a quarterly publication of the Naval Submarine League. It is a forum for discussion of submarine matters. Not only are the ideas of its members to be reflected in the REVIEW, but those of others as well, who are interested in submarines and submarining.

Articles for this publication will be accepted on any subject closely related to submarine matters. Their length should be a maximum of about 2500 words. The content of articles is of first importance in their selection for the REVIEW. Editing of articles for clarity may be necessary, since important ideas should be readily understood by the readers of the REVIEW.

A stipend of up to $200.00 will be paid for each major article published. Annually, three articles are selected for special recognition and an honorarium of up to $400.00 will be awarded to the authors. Articles accepted for publication in the REVIEW become the property of the Naval Submarine League. The views expressed by the authors are their own and are not to be construed to be those of the Naval Submarine League. In those instances where the NSL has taken and published an official position or view, specific reference to that fact will accompany the article.

Comments on articles and brief discussion items are welcomed to make THE SUBMARINE REVIEW a dynamic reflection of the League’s interest in submarines. The success of this magazine is up to those persons who have such a dedicated interest in submarines that they want to keep alive the submarine past, help with present submarine problems and be influential in guiding the future of submarines in the U.S. Navy.

Articles should be submitted to the Editor, SUBMARINE REVIEW, P.O. Box 1146, Annandale, VA 22003.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League