Catching up on some reading, I was interested in what Commander Daniel Farson had to say in his On SSN Design in the July 1999 SUBMARINE REVIEW. His views were right on as regards future submarines needing to have both low speed (to include zero or even minus values) maneuverability and large payloads. With due respect to the expressed views of Dick Boyle in his Attack Submarine Design (April 1999 SUBMARINE REVIEW), submarines don’t have to be small to maneuver at low speed.
Long, long ago in a distant galaxy, a 637 class submarine had need to closely investigate (and photograph) some near-bottom objects. To make a long story short, the ship spent three weeks in 600 feet of water some 10 or so feet off the bottom searching about one square mile. The technique employed was to have the Secondary Propulsion Motor (SPM) running at 000″ relative (having been rigged out and locked shallower as required), while backing down on the main engines. Fortunately, stealth was not an issue in this case. At about 30 turns, the speed was zero, while at something a little greater or less, slight forward or astern motion occurred. However, there was always wash across the stem planes and rudder, so a very fine degree of control was achieved over both pitch and yaw.
The CTFM under-ice sonar served well as a detection device, but since the first 25 percent of any range scale is blanked out, one of the topside profilers had to be relocated to the bow dome to provide contact from the last 50 yards into the final desired six to eight feet. It was not particularly fun or easy, and the ship’s trim had to be watched carefully, but with a little practice, the ship was controllable. Fore and aft transverse thrusters ala NR-1 would have been very welcome.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked to serve as a government advisor for the ongoing DARPA Submarine Platform and Sensors Program and it is likely that in a decade or so the process will probably result in a VIRGINIA variant which has an order of magnitude greater payload, but is not that much bigger, has a repertoire of adjuvant vehicles, and which will be capable of quiet near-bottom operations at +I- zero knot speeds.
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