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ONE VIEW OF FUTURE TECHNOLOGY

In the course of its evolution, the United States Submarine Force had undergone many facelifts. For years, the Silent Service enjoyed it’s autonomy by maintaining that its operational security required total commitment to concealment. And indeed, this enhanced the effectiveness of the platform. No one could say with any surety what our subs were doing. This often makes the idea of the submarine more effective than the weapon itself. However, when money got tight, the submarine community found a lot of people asking the question “What do you guys do anyway?

What do we do? Defense, offense, interdiction, espionage, research, and reconnaissance are all part of our current plans. However, if you asked a submariner in the 1970s what the mission of his boat was he would say, without hesitation, that it was deepwater antisubmarine warfare or strategic deterrence. If you ask a submariner today, you will probably get a soliloquy of varying complexity and accuracy which would include being inspection ready, and in.elude the terms quality of life and littoral.

Do not think for a minute that I do not understand the amazing potential of this unique and efficient half-man half-machine. However, like the fire extinguisher hanging in your kitchen, you may not need to use it right now, but you better ensure it’s ready to go when you do need it. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is only useful for putting out fires. You can hit burglars over the head with it or use it to prop the door open to allow you to bring groceries in from the car. Whether for defense or resupply, it is nice to know that there is a multi-faceted, proficient tool ready for immediate use when the use arises.

Where will we be in 2030? God willing, we will be making patrols in the defense of the greatest nation on earth. We will be alert, able and ready. And we will be challenged. Those are the constants. The variables are where the challenge exists. The greatest of these is the adaptation, development, and exploitation of technology. Few people will deny the importance of technological superiority in protecting the nation. However, few people are up-to-speed at the cutting edge of technological research. Trying to convince leaders that we need to pursue technology that they consider science fiction is difficult. But we are looking 30 years into the future. Thirty years ago, would you have found a personal computer in your home? Did the transmission in your car shift without a jolt (thank you fuzzy logic)? Did the traffic lights in your town compensate automatically for changes in traffic density (thanks neural networks)? Is it wrong to think that tremendous technological changes are yet to come? If we do not stay at the forefront of technology, we will be vanquished by it.

Let’s look at a meeting in the future. USS TAOS has returned from sea trials and the Captain and Department Heads are discussing the success of various systems recently implemented.

But they are not alone.

Transmission Begins…

“… had an exceptional week. The testing is over, gentlemen, and the Admiral is very interested in your findings. I’ll be briefing him tomorrow. I need each of you to brief me on your departments. You go first, Eng.”

“Morning’ Cap’n. As you gentlemen know, the new reactor cores use a fission/post-fission-fusion process to generate power. Our tests on the post-reaction-fusion unit have shown that existing cores can be refit with this device with only marginal reduction in efficiency. The refit is arduous since it involves work on the core outlet. But, considering it will double core life, it’s a small price to pay. I know the Admiral wanted feedback on the automatic valve actuator problems we have been having. Well, here goes. Give me my mechanics back! I know the automation back aft has led to some new innovations, but we just can’t keep these systems running. I hope the Navy finally realizes the amount of work that went into operating an engine room! The fact is that my guys never failed. They have been wrong before, and we have learned to adjust to that, but they have never stopped working. Tell the Admiral I’ll swap a rack for a rack-and-pinion any day. We weren’t able to test the Emergency Evasion Rockets due to heavy traffic in the test area, but I’m kinda glad we didn’t. USS RENO cracked a screw blade when it failed to rotate to the null-drag position when the rocket motors lit off. They got out of the area quickly, but the four month refit that followed wasn’t fun. Lastly, sir, the virtual reality training sessions we had at squadron were very beneficial to the crew. However, I don’t foresee it as being helpful for our Reactor Examination work-up. The ORSE doesn’t run the kind of drills we were simulating. Our best preparation is the same thing that we’ve done for the past 50 years and that’s cram.”

“You know I hate when you call it that, Eng.”
“Sorry Skipper. I tend to be a little more cynical. Anyway, that’s all I got Cap’n.”
Thanks, Eng. Nav.”

“Good morning, sir. Testing is complete on the remote GPS probes. They work great when you can get them docked again. We lost two of them. Sonar confirmed that they self-destructed when they exceeded 2000 feet. The old tethered versions were more reliable but I will admit that having GPS available at any depth was nice. The ┬Ěneural network we added to the bottom mapping computers was unbelievable.”

“I saw the report. You say you were getting fixes within two feet?!”

“Yes sir. At least, that’s what the techs estimate based on correlation with accelerometer data. Not only did we see the rise in accuracy, but also the network was able to differentiate between changing bottom features. It was eventually telling us what the bottom will look like in the near future. We need to get this technology to the oceanographers. They will go nuts over it.”

“That’s where we got it from, Nav. Do you have anything else?”

“No sir.”
“Tactical Systems.”

“Good morning, Captain. I wish I could report as much success with the neural network as the Nav. Our network was able to take the new towed array data and generate a three-dimensional tactical picture within two minutes of gaining a contact. That is where the good news ends. The neural network on the torpedoes has assigned own ship as a target in 4 of the 100 practice runs we did. It seems that if we run away or shoot another torpedo, the network has a 10 percent chance of assigning us as a potential target. Since we carry the multiple warhead torpedoes, we could be assigned after the initial target is hit. We’re turning all the data over to the project engineer tomorrow. She says it’s just a matter of presenting the network with the correct training set. I’m here to tell her that she has her work cut out for her. Our sister ship had a successful trial of FLYSWATTER. I am sending my department to be briefed next week. Apparently Admiral Geiger is anxious to get this weapon backfitted on the rest of the squadron. Of the five moving and ten stationary airborne contacts, they destroyed four of the moving and all of the fixed drones. It’s apparently a pretty impressive display. Finally, the Littoral-net at … ”

“Eng, what are you doing?”
“This fly is driving me crazy, sir, I’m sorry.”
“Anyway, sir, the net was down so we. .. ”
“Don’t move Ensign, I’m going to get him …… don’t move … ”
Transmission failed ..

“What happened, Uri?”
“We lost the signal from the transmitter, Officer.”
“Damn, another squashed bug. Those things aren’t cheap.”
“I think the information was more than worth it, Officer.”
“Absolutely, Uri. Send what you got back to the fleet. And I bet our Chinese friends would be interested in it too. Isn’t that right, Yi?”
“Yes we would, Officer.”

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