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[Editor’s Note: Rear Admiral Chuck Horne is a surface warfare officer who has specialized in littoral warfare as Commander of Swift Boats in the Vietnam conflict, Commander Mine Warfare and Commander Naval Forces Korea.]

Statement of Need

The United States needs an affordable submarine class that, in addition to being as quiet as the SEAWOLF (SSN 21) and as capable in open ocean performance, is conceptualized for, designed for, and optimized for littoral warfare, to implement the presence, crisis management, and battlespace dominance requirements of “Forward … From the Sea”.


Industry and the Department of Defense have worked long and effectively to make the New Attack Submarine 30 percent more affordable than continued Seawolf production after the SSN 23, the needed bridge to the new class. To do this, they made some carefully considered tradeoffs. For example, appreciating that every increase in speed requires a concomitant increase in shaft horsepower three times as great, they relaxed the maximum speed requirement and thereby decreased the size and cost of this new submarine class significantly. Other examples include smaller but more flexible weapons stowage and a reduction to four torpedo tubes”.

Equally Quiet

There were no tradeoffs in quieting, however. Thanks to additional technology, the New Attack Submarine will be equal to the Seawolf class in this respect. This is vital because of the quietness of the new generation Russian submarines (improved)

“New Attack Submarine: (NSSN) Independent Characteristics Review”, May 1994, prepared for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development & Acquisition) by the New SSN Independent Review Group (INRG).

Akula and Severodvinsk classes) and of the new diesel submarines being acquired by many regional navies.

First Class to be Designed for Littoral Warfare

In addition to optimum performance in the classic Hunt for Red October open-ocean arena, the New Attack Submarine will incorporate new capabilities specially designed for littoral warfare. With premier performance in the littorals as their major objective, the top technical people in the Department of Defense developed a wide range and depth of enhancements, including:

  • Built-in enhancements for antisubmarine warfare, special operations, and mine warfare;
  • Built-in enhancements and growth potential for magnetic stealth;
  • Major improvements in shallow water antisubmarine warfare, including lightweight wide aperture array sonar;
  • Enhancements for incorporating unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and the quantum leap in surveillance and mine avoidance/clearance they introduce;
  • Vertical launch systems for Tomahawks;
  • Modularity for flexibility and evolution.

Significant Contributions

With an affordable and quiet submarine capable of top performance in both open ocean and littoral waters, the United States will have a powerful new asset for deterrence, crisis response, and winning wars. As and when future regional conflicts occur, the New Attack Submarine will be a vital contributor in the joint mix of U.S. forces. Like the knight of the chessboard, it will be a powerful and unique platform that can do things no other platform can do! Its significant contributions run the gamut from critical covert surveillance and direct battle group support, to offensive mining, special operations, antisubmarine warfare, surgical Tomahawk strikes, and more.

Needed Now!

For these reasons-submitted by a non-submariner-as well as to preserve the fragile and unique industrial base and achieve the Joint Staff-mandated force structure of 10-12 submarines as quiet as the Seawolf by 2012, the United States needs the New Attack Submarine class. And the sooner the better!

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