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The end of the Cold War was a defining moment, a watershed event for the U.S. Submarine Force. Within a few short years of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russians were forced to tie their frontline submarines to the pier and the seas were literally swept clean of true undersea competition. Without firing a single torpedo, the U.S. Submarine Force had achieved a long sought victory over an enemy that had defined a generation of submarine warriors.

Equally astonishing, however, was the ephemeral nature of the victory’s euphoria. As Navy white papers, beginning with ” … Forward From The Sea”, appeared more quickly than new construction submarines sliding down the ways, the Submarine Force found itself confronted with an enemy it had not foreseen-its own success!

With its enemy vanquished, the Navy’s budget imperative was to produce a peace dividend. Submariners were forced to rightsize, recapitalize, reshape and redefine their role in the new strategic environment. Even before they could articulate and justify their raison d’etre, the close-aboard depth charges from Navy leadership and force planners attrited their numbers and with full rudder put the Submarine Force on a course that has led to today’s unprecedented and dangerously low numbers of submarines.

Today’s Strategic Environment

As today’s submariners stand on the bridge and examine the world horizon, they see an era of high operational tempo and a force structure that is woefully inadequate to fulfill the mission requirements of the unified combatant commanders. This is not just hype or Submarine Force propaganda. An independent Joint Staff Attack Submarine Study concluded that there is a valid requirement
for 68 SSNs. Today those numbers stand at 56 and will very soon reach 50. The pain is real!

For the first time, the Submarine Force is saying “No”. No, we can’t fulfill the attack submarine requirements of theater war plans. No, we can’t deploy sufficient attack submarines to conduct today’s real world missions. “No”. A word that historically, has never been part of the submariner lexicon.

At the same time, the battle to tum those numbers around will not be easy nor will it be won soon. It is now crystal clear that the downsizing of the ’90s will take decades to correct.

Force Multipliers

The question that the submariners of this generation must now face is: How can we optimize the effectiveness of our limited number of submarines? How can we ensure that each submarine brings the maximum warfighting capability possible to the littoral battlespace?

The answer is: we must investigate, identify and incorporate force multipliers into our submarine tool bag. Force multipliers are capabilities which, when added to and employed by the submarine, significantly increase its combat potential and enhance the probability of successful mission accomplishment. For the Submarine Force these added capabilities must afford a broader range of battlespace influence, reduce the CO’s decision cycle time, and allow one submarine to perform and appear as multiple platforms both in time and space.

Already our submarines are referred to as force multipliers in Naval Warfare Publications when added to a Battle Group Commander’s tool bag. Similarly, many inherent characteristics of the nuclear submarine can be defined as force multipliers. For example, speed, endurance, and stealth are all intrinsic traits that most assuredly increase a submarine’s combat potential. Nonetheless, given these existing innate warfighting capabilities we must now explore other tools that will further increase each submarine’s effectiveness.

What Are the Right Tools?

Filling the tool bag requires difficult choices because of today’s significant funding constraints. To date, the Submarine Force has taken a more evolutionary approach to upgrading submarine capabilities; for example, the commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) upgrading of fire control systems and sonar processors. This type of gradualist approach worked well during the Cold War when the threat was known and technology was still progressing at a relatively moderate pace. However, this environment no longer exists. In order to confront head-on the dramatic challenges of the coming century we will have to embrace revolutionary technology and operational concepts. Only then can we truly transform and revolutionize submarine warfare.

Undersea Cooperative Engagement Capability

A revolution in submarine warfare might begin by applying the cooperative engagement capability (CEC) that has been developed for employment in the anti-air warfare mission area. Under this concept, all ships and aircraft in the battle group are interconnected, sharing contact and fire control data in real time. The synergy that is created allows one ship or aircraft to track an incoming cruise missile from an optimum position while simultaneously feeding its fire control solution to another ship or aircraft which is in a better position to engage and launch a defensive weapon. The CEC not only ties together the sensor capabilities of all ships and aircraft on the network but, in addition, it prevents blind spots in coverage for individual units and improves decision and execution timelines for all commanders.

Can this concept be applied to submarine warfare? Is real time interconnectivity possible in the undersea environment?

In the long term, the efficacy of an undersea cooperative engagement capability (UCEC) would require a significant effort in systems integration. A system of systems that links advanced undersea sensors, processors, and unmanned vehicles would form the backbone of the UCEC architecture. If implemented this capability would become the submarine commander’s ultimate force multiplier.

As I envision it, the capabilities of a UCEC network will be near limitless. Consider for example, a network that integrates multimission capable urmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and urmanned undersea vehicles (UUV) with aircraft, surface ship, and onboard submarine sensors. These adjunct unmanned vehicles could be launched directly from the submarine, other platforms or both, depending on the scenario. Access to the network would give the submarine CO the ability to receive and process data from multiple platforms and ultimately conduct torpedo attacks and anti-ship or anti-air missile strikes without holding direct contact on any onboard sensors. Still not impressed?

Here’s the news! What will make the UCEC truly revolutionary is that the CO will be able to conduct these same operations and missions while submerged. That’s right-while submerged!

Off-hull sensors, at-sea platforms and land-based units, from small tactical forces to major commands, on the UCEC network would be linked real-time via flexible undersea acoustic information exchange systems and robust space systems. This complex network would give the submarine CO direct access to space systems while operating submerged and thus provide the submarine a continuous, real-time battlespace picture.

With a complete tactical picture and continuous two-way communications while operating submerged the CO would be capable of directing the launch of weapons carried on other platforms. In the future, the UCEC will give submarines such supreme connectivity that their current multi-mission capability will be expanded into mission areas that include anti-air warfare and theater ballistic missile defense. Sound unbelievable? It’s not!

The Tools Are Already Here

Although the implementation of a UCEC network is still several years away, the near-term outlook is very positive. Within the next decade many of the network’s critical elements will be added to the submariner’s tool bag. In order to field a far-reaching UCEC network in the shortest time possible, we must begin today the
development of these tools along with their tactical and operational concepts. Participation in Fleet Battle Experiments and Submarine Force developmental exercises, even before the pieces and parts of the network are acquired, will be essential to our long-term success.

To our advantage, some of the pieces are available today and ready for action. UAVs, UUVs, the Advanced Deployable System and Acoustic Communications are continuing to develop rapidly behind the scenes. As I see it, the near term challenge for the Submarine Force is to get these systems off the drawing board and into the fleet for training and conceptual development. Let’s not depend on engineers and contractors to develop the systems’ concept of operations. If we get these tools out to the fleet operators, they will teach us how to employ them. They will let us know what these force multipliers can do!

Integrating and Employing Force Multipliers

The new tools under development and ready to be added to the tool bag are force multipliers in the truest sense. Many submariners are surprised to learn that the Submarine Force has already deployed UUVs at sea and conducted UAV operations in two separate submarine exercises. The Advanced Deployable System has been tested in a littoral ASW scenario and advanced acoustic communications recently made headlines when a submarine at a 400 foot submergence depth was able to transmit e-mail ashore.

Let’s look at how these systems can be employed to enhance our submarines’ capabilities and also be integrated into a UCEC.

In the U.S. military, unmanned systems have historically been employed on missions where the risk to operating personnel was considered too great. Similarly, for missions where covertness was an overriding consideration, properly designed unmanned vehicles could provide a higher probability of success. As a result, the design and development of unmanned vehicles has often been mission-unique and highly specialized. Today the continuing trend in warfare toward minimizing personnel risk has created a renewed interest in unmanned systems, however, there is an increased emphasis on practicality, affordability and simplicity.

UAV systems provide an excellent model for examining the utility of unmanned systems in battlespace dominance and warfare. Historical UAV missions have included intelligence collection, reconnaissance and surveillance, target acquisition and battle damage assessment. UAVs are proven assets in providing this real time data to commanders and increasing situational awareness as observed in recent real world operations.

Today the role of the UAV is expanding even further. Already exercises have demonstrated their exceptional potential as airborne data links, radar jammers, chemical and biological weapon detectors, target designators for precision air attack systems and weapons delivery platforms. Additionally, technology has continued to increase UA V endurance and improve payload capability while simultaneously reducing size and radar cross section. For the Submarine Force, this means that launching UAVs from signal ejectors, vertical launchers or torpedo tubes will be a reality in the very near future and that these new UAV roles will become part of the submarine’s multi-mission capability.

The correlation of these various UAV roles and missions to UUV operations is nearly direct. The path to achieving this wide range of capabilities for UUVs is an achievable vision. Already the Submarine Force has operated at sea the torpedo tube launched Near-Term Mine Reconnaissance System (NMRS) UUV that carried a highly capable sonar system for mine detection. Sonar detection data from this UUV was relayed real time back to operators on the submarine via a fiber optic link. After the mission the UUV could be retrieved back into the submarine via the torpedo tube and prepared for additional missions.

Its follow-on, the Long-Term Mine Reconnaissance System (LMRS) UUV, will also have mine detection as its primary role but will be autonomous in operation, no longer requiring a fiber-optic link back to the ship. When it is introduced into the fleet in 2003 its range and endurance will be significantly improved over NMRS. Equally important, its concept of operations is already being evaluated this year by Submarine Force operators in Fleet Battle Experiment Hotel.

In parallel to the LMRS acquisition, fleet operators are testing alternative UUV payloads. These payloads will expand UUV operations to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Other payloads that would allow the conduct of UA V-like missions are limited only by the imagination. For instance, picture UUVs serving as undersea communication nodes in support of a UCEC network. In a USW role UUVs might serve as sonar jammers and torpedo decoys. Against a slow moving diesel submarine a UUV might prove to be the ideal search and classification platform allowing the controlling submarine to remain well beyond the enemy’s weapons range. Additionally, UUVs could be designed to carry torpedoes with the capability of operating in a patrol or loiter mode, ready to attack when directed acoustically. Similarly, UUVs operated at periscope depth could fulfill a variety of roles in antishipping, anti-air defense and even theater ballistic missile defense. In support of weapons of mass destruction missions UUVs could be used for atmospheric and water sampling in search of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapon activity. Consider multiple UUVs operating from one submarine fulfilling USW, ISR and weapons delivery roles simultaneously. In the future each submarine will be loaded with multiple UUVs, all of which will be retrievable after completing their mission. One submarine that looks like many? You bet!

To bring these multiple UUV roles to reality the Submarine Force already has plans for the development of a Mission Reconfigurable UUV (MRUUV) that will merge the LMRS UUV platform with the alternative UUV payloads being tested in the fleet today. As a result, by the end of the decade, submariners will have a viable inventory of widely capable UUVs on one common vehicle.

Force Multipliers and Cooperative Engagement

While the multiplying effects of off-hull vehicles are evident, it is the synergy of their integration into a highly interconnected network that is revolutionary. [Emphasis added by Editor.] To build an undersea netted system will require submerged sensor fields that are capable of providing not only an acoustic surveillance capability but also the communications interface between submerged platforms and space assets.

The Advanced Deployable System (ADS) is one part of this architecture. The ADS is a theater-deliverable acoustic surveillance system that can provide continuous detection of submarines, ships or even minelaying operations over a wide geographic area. Detection information might be processed by nearby shore stations or transmitted directly to satellites via buoys connected to the underwater arrays. The portability and responsiveness of this system will permit deployment worldwide and to regions of high importance during crises. These characteristics are of increasing importance as JSR requirements continue to increase and our naval forces continue to downsize.

Similarly, distributed buoy fields can be laid at sea permitting two-way tactical information to be passed between satellites and theater assets via the radio-frequency spectrum to transceivers on the buoys. The data can then be relayed to acoustic transceivers that are deployed well below the ocean’s surface. This will permit submarines and UUV s operating submerged to achieve real-time connectivity without coming to periscope depth. Although these acoustic data rates are slow today they will improve very soon.

The Future of Submarine Warfare

With a limited number of submarines in the Force over the next three decades and no foreseen decrease in mission requirements, the integration of force multipliers and a cooperative engagement capability is absolutely critical for the next generation of submarine warriors.

The submarine CO of the 21st century must be able to take advantage of the military’s widely dispersed theater and national sensors both above and below the ocean’s surface. The submarine of the new millennium must have a broader range of battlespace influence and a horizon that is unlimited. If provided real-time two-way connectivity from the ocean depths, the submarine’s roles will be expanded into previously undreamed of mission areas. With unlimited detection ranges and incredible offensive lethality through cooperative weapons engagement, the submarine itself, will become the supreme force multiplier.

Naval Submarine League

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