A Submariner’s Guide
As the Submarine Force plans for the future, it’s imperative that we develop a vision that is synchronous with the future roles and missions of the U.S. military. This vision development process can only be successful if we first make a legitimate commitment to evolve and mature into a community of true joint warfighters. With a joint vision, we can then build and design future submarines that incorporate joint compatible systems and capabilities. For the Submarine Force this means we must continue the evolution or even, the revolution, that began with the end of the Cold War. We’ve proven our adaptability in the Submarine Force as evidenced by the changes introduced into the New Attack Submarine program and the ease with which submariners assumed new roles and missions in support of the Navy’s “Forward … From The Sea” strategy. Nonetheless, the revolution in military affairs that will occur in the next decade will be even more sweeping and challenging than that which we’ve recently experienced! The Submarine Force must be looking well ahead in order to retain its primacy in the U.S. military.
The Next Decade
There are many questions that we, the submariners of the 21″ century, should be considering. For example, how can the Submarine Force stay in step with future defense planning and the incredible pace of technological advances? Will our weapons and communication systems be compatible and integral with the Joint Task Forces of the next century? Will our next generation of submarines meet the needs and requirements of the unified combatant commanders?
Joint Vision 2010
Recently, the Joint Staff provided a much needed vision for the next century entitled Joint vision 2010. It is a conceptual template whose purpose is to provide “a common direction for the services in developing unique capabilities within a joint framework of doctrine and programs … ” As General Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff writes, it must become a benchmark for service and unified command visions”.
There’s no arguing that the Submarine Force brings considerable and unique capabilities to the arena of joint operations. Sea control and denial through sea superiority, forward presence, strike against land and sea targets, special operations, surveillance/indication and warning are but a sampling of the roles that exemplify the versatility of an attack submarine. However, the success of JV 2010 demands that these capabilities fit seamlessly into joint force operations. It’s clear that we are not there yet! The Submarine Force must adopt JV 20 I 0 as its benchmark, in order to be a key player in future joint operations.
JV 2010 Operational Concepts
As JV 2010 points out, the success of future joint warfighting will rely on technological innovation and information superiority. Out of these core strengths four operational concepts must be developed: dominant maneuver, precision engagement, full dimensional protection and focused logistics. The service wide application of these concepts will then give the U.S. military Nthe capability to dominate an opponent across the range of military operations 11, in other words, full spectrum dominance. To ensure submariners are fully ready to support the future roles and missions of our Armed Forces, we must closely analyze these new operational concepts.
Dominant maneuver, as envisioned in JV 2010, will require the employment of widely dispersed joint land, sea, air, and space forces to achieve operational objectives. These forces must be proficient at conducting sustained and synchronized joint operations. The enabling capabilities for these types of operations will be rapid and compatible communication systems that provide information superiority.
Today, submarine force communication systems severely lag behind the high data rate systems in service both commercially and throughout the rest of the military. As shown on the next page, existing submarine communications capabilities already fall short of mission needs as defined by the Space and Naval Warfare Command and the gap will rapidly increase after the turn of the century. One system currently under development is the Submarine High Data Rate (Sub HOR) Satellite Communications Program. As designed, this system will meet assessed mission needs until the year 2002, at which time a follow-on system must be developed.3 This is but one example where significant paradigm shifts may be required, in submarine antenna design perhaps, if we are to keep pace in the next century.
Dominant maneuver is also defined as the ability to attack cross dimensionally, such as sea against ground and air, in order to create asymmetric advantages in battle. For the Submarine Force this means we must break old molds and develop weapons and delivery systems that will give us the capability to engage real-time both land and air targets.
Envision a submarine deployed to a forward area not yet under U.S. control, providing Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD) supported by real-time satellite targeting data. At the same time a screen of SSNs could be providing a vital layer of in-depth anti-air and cruise missile protection for an amphibious readiness group as it approaches the coast without CVBG escort. The same submarine conducting TBMD defense is simultaneously tasked to control several UAVs as they conduct battlespace preparation and surveillance for the JTF embarked on the Amphibious Group. The next day, this forward area SSN then plays a major role in the opening phase of the strike operation as part of an all-stealth attack when the submarine executes a SAM site strike. Additionally, the SSN carries out its assignment of providing defensive air support for an F-22 squadron that will be egressing the target area by an overseas route by taking out two pursuing aircraft. Once the land operations commence, the SSNs are moved closer to the coast, still undetected, but in position to provide direct, real-time fire support to both Army and Marine units as they advance on their objectives. The potential scenarios are endless and are limited only by our vision of the future. Clearly, the inherent stealthiness of the submarine makes it an ideal platform to conduct these visionary cross-dimensional missions. Attacking unseen from below the ocean surface exemplifies the asymmetrical advantages described in JV 2010.
Equally important in achieving the goal of full spectrum dominance is precision engagement. The rapid attainment of operational objectives while minimizing the risk to U.S. forces will require a system of systems that is responsive, accurate, and flexible. It must enable our forces to pinpoint a target, rapidly conduct an attack, assess damage and re-engage if required. For the Submarine Force, this again emphasizes the importance of compatible, high-data rate communication systems but it also defines some vital characteristics for our future weapons systems. Simply stated, submarine weapons in the 21st century must be multi-purpose, rapidly re-targetable, highly accurate, long range and we must carry a lot of them!
Multi-purpose weapons are critical to increasing a submarine’s effective payload. These multi-purpose missiles (MPMs) should be capable of land attack, anti-ship, and anti-air missions. Their missions should be easily modified by simplifying downloading the mission type from the fire control system such that the re-programming is done automatically and quickly with the push of a button. These MPMs must be both vertical and tube launch capable.
The ability to rapidly retarget will provide the flexibility and agility to support a fast-paced operation. The times required to currently retarget our cruise missiles won’t support the dominant maneuver envisioned in the future. The ability to quickly retarget will significantly reduce the time of the joint commander’s decision cycle thus giving him the ability to operationally outmaneuver the enemy in the time domain.
The military and political benefits of high accuracy weapons are apparent from recent military operations. It not only assures national and military leaders of achieving the desired effects but also lessens the risk to our own forces while minimizing collateral damage.
Longer range capability will give submarines a much larger role in joint operations. While the submarine force advertises we can cover about 75 percent of the earth’s landmasses, could it not be more?
Probably most important in this discussion is the absolute requirement to increase our submarine payloads. This would require larger weapon stowage areas, more external launchers, smaller missiles, and perhaps a change in primary mission focus.
I believe we should examine the real load requirement for ASW torpedoes. Why not shift to a defensive torpedo load while adding improved evasion devices and an anti-torpedo system? Employing submarines as USW platforms to search for or attack quiet submarines is not necessarily effective or efficient. I believe our SSNs could be better employed as stealth cruisers with a true multi-mission capability. That is what a JTF commander wants and needs. The direct result would be a larger MPM loadout. Then we would be talking Death From Below, to revive an old submarining phrase.
Full Dimensional Protection
While the next century will surely bring technological advances that will enhance a submarine’s effectiveness, it also is likely to produce new capabilities that could increase our vulnerability. While our focus has primarily been on minimizing a submarine’s acoustic signature, we must now protect our submarines from the very technologies that we are exploiting. In JV 2010 this increased effort for the next century is defined as full dimensional protection.
Not only is this operational concept essential for ensuring a submarine’s survival but it will also provide our military forces the battlespace control necessary to ensure that freedom of action is maintained during combat maneuver and engagement.
From a defensive standpoint we must continue efforts to reduce submarine detect-ability from non-acoustic sensors and perhaps most importantly from spaced based systems. The worldwide coverage provided by satellite constellations possibly incorporating new sensor technology could soon start to clear up the current opaqueness of the world’s oceans.
At the same time, there are offensive actions that can be employed to protect our forces. We must be able to tactically engage and employ joint information warfare as a capability to protect submarines during peacetime and combat operations. This might include the identification of operational adversaries that must be located, tracked, and destroyed by other joint forces in order to maintain our stealth or survivability. No longer will submarine warfare be us against everybody. Information superiority will provide submariners increased warning of attack, enhanced operational deception, and joint, integrated defense against detection and attack by enemy forces.
In order to optimize the three preceding concepts, the enabling concept of focused logistics must also be developed. JV 2010’s goal is simple, the logistics of the future ” … will be fully adaptive … providing support in hours or days versus weeks.” This in turn will enable joint forces to be “more mobile, versatile and projectable from anywhere in the world.”
The is an important operational concept that submarine warfighters too often take for granted. Consider the following scenario where the opening phase of strike operations against a heavy armored advance is still in progress and the six submarines in the joint task force expend their MPM load after only one week. The JTF commander not only wants six fully loaded submarines to replace those returning for weapons resupply but he also wants the turnaround completed in under two weeks. Where will the weapons reload be conducted? Can we and how will we get the weapons there? What will our airlift requirements be? How will we handle multiple ships requiring simultaneous voyage repairs at forward sites? Can we support long term, continuous forward area operations with our current overseas infrastructure and number of tenders? Should we have pre-positioned equipment and capabilities near the world’s hot spots?
As you can see forward area logistics during combat operations quickly become a joint problem. These types of contingencies require well throughout and specifically tailored combat support systems. To be successful in the future we will have to integrate our combat support with other service and defense agencies to take advantage of advanced commercial practices, global networks, and revolutionary information technologies.
Full Spectrum Dominance
The synergy created by the integration of these four operational concepts transcends current conventional warfighting. Taken together these concepts will enable the U.S. military “to dominate the full range of military operations from humanitarian assistance, through peace operations, up to and into highest intensity conflict”.
It is also recognized that no matter how sophisticated technology becomes, the judgment and skill of tactical warfighters will ultimately determine the success of future joint operations.
Submarine Force Vision 2010
The time for implementing Joint Vision 2010 is now! It begins with joint education, training, and doctrine. We can begin now by developing and testing JV 2010’s new operational concepts in simulations, demonstrations, and exercises. While affordability may limit the acquisition of some future technologies, it should not limit our vision. Finally, as we pursue this vision, we must be mindful of our ultimate mission, “to prevent threats to U.S. interests from emerging, deter those that do, and defeat those threats by military force if deterrence fails.