Perhaps for starters we should consider whether Preparing the Battlespace should itself become a submarine mission? Perhaps such a mission would better focus the R&D efforts institutionally, over the long haul, and not just for a brief but intense period during this symposium. You could argue that the Force already has this mission, but where is the formal concept, where is the articulation, and where are the written requirement?
I recently heard the VCNO, Admiral Don Pilling, paraphrase the CNO’s ideas or vision about influencing future maritime events as follows. “The 21st century objective of the Navy is to interject the fleet directly and decisively ashore, anywhere, anytime.” This obviously means that each platform must be capable enough to conduct a wide range of missions, and be flexible enough to cover all those contingencies that imperfect staff planning cannot foresee. The other parameter that this statement implies is that there are enough platforms to meet these requirements of 11anywhere, anytime”. I don’t think many or us would agree with the premise concerning numbers of platforms, at least for submarines.
One of the more important phrases in the current lexicon of warfare across the spectrum of conflict is area denial. This is not quite the same as local area superiority, as in air superiority. It really means achieving a more dominant position than just described in superiority; it means denying the battlespace to the enemy … period. Such a predominant capability necessarily means being able to operate in such a space yourself, essentially and continually, unchallenged. Translate this capability to the littoral; and imagine how many surface ships are going to be able to do area denial if the enemy has a technologically capable force. Such a technologically capable force would not have to be superior, but would obviously need sufficient short range high speed cruise or ballistic missiles with a remote targeting capability, creating a very, very high threat environment. I submit that not many of our surface ships will be able to accomplish their missions for any significant duration in this environment.
Where in the wor1d’s littoral areas is this a problem? Long coasts with deep water are probably the least stressing environment, but that is not where the projected hot spots are located. The shallow and confined water of the Persian Gulf is a prime location. So is the confined coastline off North Korea where the Chinese and Russian borders and territorial waters provide unique but trouble-some sanctuaries for any projected threat. Clearly current inventory missiles located along these coasts can be a real serious threat even today.
Where does this put the submarine? I am persuaded that the submarine should be the central focus of this entire problem. Make the submarine the Forward Element Command Ship, and build the area denial capability around that concept, and around the Submarine. It should be obvious to the casual student of this problem that the submarine will be the most survivable platform that can remain at the scene with impunity during the period of battlespace preparation. This concept takes as a given that the submarine will be there, early in the build up or deployment, and be key. even during the height of the intensity of conflict. Accepting such a concept then lets the rest of the forces coordinate their requirements for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance and Strike through this 24-hour-a-day, on scene capability, which has the core competency to perform this unique mission.
One of the national ISR issues that is becoming much more widely recognized is the idea that space reconnaissance systems cannot meet all the ISR requirements that will be requested by the regional CINCs. This is obvious in Bosnia and Kosovo today. This means that local and regional ISR using UAVs, UUVs, leave-behind sensors and other tactical assets will become increasingly important as these evolving platforms and sensors develop more capability and versatility.
Very soon someone is going to say, What’s wrong with this picture? I would answer, today there is a lot wrong with this picture, because the submarine is not capable of performing this mission across the ISR spectrum or to do the intelligence fusion and analysis needed. However, the counter to that is precisely why we are here.
What does it take to make a submarine the Forward Element Command Ship? Obviously it takes communications, but perhaps there are already sufficient capabilities being developed to meet those requirements. Deployed sensors; surface, subsurface, ashore, and airborne could, and should, all be terminated at the submarine, as well as improved organic and deployable sensors. Collecting this broad spectrum of information, then collating, evaluating and distributing the essential elements is the fore runner of eventual success.
To paraphrase a popular idiom, •1t’s the payload stupid• is certainly a worthwhile focus of this symposium. The Defense Science Board report on the Future of the Submarine certainly was strong on this point, but that does not answer the question of what the payload should consist of? What is clear, however, is that, with fewer submarines the issue of superiority and flexibility of payload becomes more important. That is also a focus of this symposium, the correct payload, and the most capability per volume of space available, within and external to the submarine.
Since the submarine is not widely recognized within the U.S. as the capital ship, or even as a capital ship, the ideas for keeping it a superior platform come first and foremost from those who believe that this platform is a critical element, and perhaps the most critical element of maritime warfighting in the littoral. This makes it difficult for new ideas to compete in the age of extensive and intensive budget shortfalls. The secret is to generate strong support for worthy ideas outside the narrow resource allocation process within the Department of the Navy, such as DARPA. Hopefully, that will also be a fallout of this symposium. Exciting new systems and capabilities often bring their own supporters.
About a year ago, during a presentation by the then Speaker of the House, he was asked how he would prioritize the defense budget, starting with a clean sheet of paper. He responded that he would put as first priority those systems where the U.S. had the clear asymmetric advantage, such as the aircraft carrier and the submarine. His approach would be to make our capabilities so far superior that a potential opponent would not even dream of trying to challenge us, or attempt to master the technology and training necessary. While such an approach is great in theory, the current peace support operations in which the U.S. is involved preclude such clear logic prevailing. That, however, should not minimize the power of the logic. We should be able to provide a number of ideas in this symposium that will help achieve this aim with regard to the absolute and continuing superiority of the submarine.
During the Naval Submarine League Corporate Day remarks in February of this year, Admiral Skip Bowman advanced the thought that future submarine design concepts need to focus on developing electric drive, more modular construction, more payload, better connectivity and above all, be affordable. Not all of these issues will be explored in depth during this symposium, but most will be touched upon, and some in detail. These four areas are certainly a sufficient challenge to stretch all of our minds. Progress in these areas is also critical to the long term success of our Force.
We all know the oceans will not become transparent in the foreseeable future. That, however, is not the case with the surface of the oceans. Commercial satellite imagery is now available for sale on the open market with three meter resolution, and greater accuracy will soon be available. Searching the broad ocean areas is not that easy, certainly, but obtaining commercial imagery anywhere along the littorals should become fairly routine. Some of this imagery is available today on the Internet. With the ready availability of the Global Positioning Systems, or GPS, targeting battle groups with tactical ballistic missiles could become almost conventional for a technologically capable adversary. The lack of timely availability currently means that moving ships do not have any concerns, but the turn around time is decreasing and non U.S. providers of imagery are increasing and are improving rapidly.
When the full impact of this situation dawns on the world’s democracies, the super stealth of our submarines will become all too obvious. The fundamental capability of this super stealthiness will dramatically increase the demand for new ideas generated by symposia such as this. The Force needs to be ready when called upon.