FOR DIE NEW ATTACK SUBMARINE?
Recently I read a document that dealt with major weapons systems costs, and I noted that the New Attack Submarine (NSSN) is estimated to cost $1.6 billion per copy. At that unit cost, the likelihood of maintaining the currently projected force level of 50 nuclear attack submarines seems slim. Having won the Cold War, the nation and Congress seem convinced that the world is now a relatively benign place. It is unlikely that the current mood to limit annual defense spending to the vicinity of $250 billion will change in the near future. If that is a correct assumption, then the current new submarine building rate of one or two submarines per year is unlikely to increase. Assuming a useful SSN life of 25 years even given new technology insertion at regular intervals, that building rate will only sustain a force level in the 25- 50 range. If we assume an average building rate of 1.5 SSN per year, the current force level will gradually be reduced to about 37 SSNs.
Submarine Force levels are significant not only from the point of view of overseas deployments in pursuit of foreign policy goals and for projected warfighting requirements if those goals are not met, but also because of the need to have enough submarines to provide an adequate level of ASW training for other forces. In the past there bas been a shortage of those services, and submarine service time has had to be rationed. CNO-sponsored operations have had first call on submarine operational time, followed by submarine type training and fleet exercises-all these three arranged to take into consideration the requirement for maintaining a stated level of deployed forces to deal with possible contingencies in various theaters. These operation commitments revolved around the overhaul schedule, which was driven primarily by industrial.
loading considerations. As a former force level submarine scheduler. working in the old days without benefit of a PC and scheduling software, I can recall struggling with changes required by overhaul extensions or by crises calling for unscheduled deployments. There was a cascading effect on submarine services to other forces, with the latter usually getting far fewer services than they needed to maintain an adequate level of ASW proficiency.
Despite the increasing use of simulators for training, the necessity for submarine time at sea for realistic training of ASW forces will continue to exist in the 21″ century. True, the USSR is no more and we certainly don’t have to continually plan and train for a second Battle of the Atlantic to resupply NATO forces in Europe. However, submarines seem to be multiplying like rabbits, even if they are the diesel variety. Air independent propulsion (AIP) packages are becoming available for insertion into new construction SS or for back-fitting. The Swedish submarine GOTLAND has an AIP package that will float the battery, and carry the hotel load while allowing the boat to motor around at speeds up to five knots for two weeks, without having to snorkel for recharging. The Germans have proved out their own version of AIP and their new 212 type submarine will be equipped with it. While none of the Third World submarine forces is very large, the availability of AIP packages and COTS combat systems, can combine to provide a real, if limited, submarine threat in those littoral areas in which we may choose to pursue our foreign policy goals. The presence of a small number of modem SSN (AIP), coupled with mines, and cruise missile launchers ashore, can provide our expeditionary warfare forces a certain amount of trouble. The presence or suspected presence of mines may discourage us from sending SSNs, arguably the best individual ASW platform, into shallow water to detect and destroy the SS threat. I believe it is safe to assume a continuing need for live submarine services for training of air and surface ASW forces.
The Navy has adopted operations tempo (OYI’EMPO) and personnel tempo (PERSTEMPO) goals, and tries hard to meet those goals-recognizing the deleterious effect on personnel retention of constant deployment. The current OPTEMPO goals are 56 days underway for deployed units and 28 days underway for non-deployed units per quarter. With one crew per ship, OPT EMPO and PERSTEMPO are identical. For a non–deployed SSN, some 28 days per quarter are thus available for all operational employments, whether type training, participation in fleet exercises, or services to other commanders. However, if we choose to provide two crews for each NSSN, we can provide 56 days of operations per quarter per bull without exceeding PERSTEMPO goals. We will have increased operational time by 100 percent without the additional costs associated with acquiring another NAS hull.
The Blue/Gold crewing concept, approved by Admiral Arleigh Burke for Polaris submarine operations which commenced in 1960, and continuing today with Trident SSBN operations, shattered the traditional navy one ship-one crew concept. It was adopted to maximize SSBN OPTEMPO, while providing a reasonable PERSTEMPO to the individual crew. The increased OPTEMPO effectively reduced the size of the force required. In 1961, Regulus missile-carrying SSGs and the single SSGN were authorized about 120 percent of allowance to provide partial crew rotation during their deterrent patrols, although they still had only one crew assigned. During the early 1960s, a fourth section was supplied to each SS in order to provide additional training spaces for prospective SSN and SSBN crew members at a time when the forces were growing by leaps and bounds. In the early 1970s, assignment of a fourth Watch to SSNs was instituted to help with their retention and training problems. These manpower-related measures reflected the Submarine Force’s and navy flexibility in the past when faced with significant problems.
If the Navy chooses to pursue two-crewing the NAS in order to ensure that an adequate amount of submarine services are available to meet fleet needs, it also should adopt the entire philosophy which was originated by SSP for Polaris operations. These include central crew homeports co-located with off crew training facilities. The key to a high level of OPTEMPO for the platform is a high level of training for the off crew, so that they can report aboard and conduct at sea operations smartly from the first day. Obviously, manpower costs for a two-crewed NAS would double. In addition, there would be costs for the training facilities and personnel involved in their operation.