Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


As I stand before you, I feel like the author of a new book at the first stop on his promotion tour. Just last month, in the Naval Submarine League’s April issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, I began a discussion on Transformation.

Today, while I continue this discussion, I want you to think about the popular television series Star Trek. Every episode opened with the challenging mission statement for the Starship ENTERPRISE to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Now, sit back, get comfortable, and buckle up, while I tell you about my mission to develop new directions in submarine technology so tomorrow’s submarines “can boldly go where no submarine has gone before.”

In my article Coming of Age: The SSGN Concept, I used the word “Transformational” to describe the impact of the SSGN program on the submarine’s evolution from yesterday, to today, and into tomorrow. In that article, I defined “Transformational” as the opportunity to “reinvent the wheel” without having to build a new one.

To show how we have done this successfully in the past, I gave the example of how the Navy converted USS TUNNY to carry the Regulus Missile. This conversion changed the ship’s mission from an open ocean attack submarine to one of strike warfare. Adapting TUNNY, and later BARBERO, to carry the Regulus missile was an evolutionary concept in both construction and tactics. It is certainly a good example of a bold step moving the submarine in a direction “where no submarine had gone before.”

Later, the Navy experienced another bold step for submarines by developing the Polaris missile system that allowed the submarine to assume a strategic deterrence mission. The Polaris intercontinental ballistic missile carried by the then new fleet ballistic missile submarines eventually became the mainstay of the nation’s strategic deterrence force. Today, different from any submarine that existed before. the SSBN with its Trident missile system is now the linchpin of our nation’s strategic deterrence.

Over the past decade. the Cold War missions of the nation’s submarine fleet have been substantially altered. In response. submarine technology is taking on a new focus. How the Navy will transform today‚ÄĘs capable submarine platforms to meet tomorrow’s new warfare challenges is an emerging vision we understand, as we remain flexible to change with changing times.

Change or not, we of the Undersea Technology Directorate know that tomorrow’s warfare will take us into waters to perform missions which no submarine has done before. Today, fertile imaginations are working hard to make the next bold step. Today, we have begun the transformation of our existing undersea warfare assets to meet new missions. Today, the role of the submarine in strike warfare is growing. Tomorrow, it will combine with new technologies in intelligence collection, surveillance, and reconnaissance to provide the full spectrum of capabilities from information and special warfare to tactical response all from a single platform that can go places where others cannot, always remaining covert-and never denied access.

As I said in my article, “Transformational” is the right word to describe the enormous advances we need in undersea warfare. In that article, I mentioned that the Secretary of Defense’s effort to transform America’s Armed Forces includes a reexamination of how we use the resources we currently have available; developing new ways of thinking, and new ways of fighting, using our existing assets in previously unimaginable ways. This is particularly valuable to our taxpayers when it comes to hard, high value assets-weapons, systems, and platforms such as our Ohio class SSBNs. From that perspective, the SSGN conversion concept fits Secretary Rumsfeld’s definition of Transformation to a “T”! This is because the SSGN conversion program takes an existing platform with existing weapons and recreates the entire package into something completely new and different. It remolds the SSBN to perform an entirely new SSGN mission-one never envisioned by its designers. And, we are doing it for a fraction of the cost of developing a comparable platform from scratch.

It does not take much imagination to realize that the one thing a Trident SSBN has is SPACE. The payoff to the Navy by transforming the SSBN into an SSGN platform is PAYLOAD. This payload and sensor space offers us the opportunity to provide a very capable, and highly adaptable platform for conventional strike warfare and for the conduct of special warfare operations. As such, the SSGN concept easily emerges as a way for the Navy to use our Ohio class submarines for many years to come, simply by converting them from the Trident system to other weapon and sensor systems to accommodate new missions and tactics.

Conversion of four ballistic missile submarines into SSGNs starts with USS OHIO and USS FLORIDA. These first two conversions will get underway with these submarines’ scheduled engineered refueling overhauls.

It is important to remember that the SSGN payload concept is being developed to take advantage of technologies and hardware that already exist-conforming to the essential concept of transformation as defined by the Secretary of Defense. For initial delivery, we are not seeking to create new weapons for the SSGN. The beauty of it is that we don’t have to. But be aware, we are not going to limit the SSGN just to the Tomahawk. If we do, we will under-exploit a major opportunity.

We are already working to demonstrate adaptability of other existing weapons systems to the SSGN. Weapon payload options are being designed as modular units that provide a flexible interface between the sea and the ship. A real near-term benefit to the Navy, the SSGN conversion program provides us with opportunities for the early demonstration of flexible modules. This SSBN to SSGN transformation gives us the chance to prove our concepts and field new technologies ahead of anticipated schedules. An accelerated schedule where the SSGN is our transformational platform for demonstrating new payloads for future incorporation into the Virginia class submarines.

For example, our upcoming January SSGN payload demonstration, … also known as the Bowman Challenge, will deploy an existing unmanned undersea vehicle from a D-5 missile tube. This
UUV will carry various existing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance packages. Down the road, we also plan for the launching of a UAV from a submerged submarine in an expendable capsule. These two efforts will be a major step toward the future.

When these demonstrations complete, the submarine will be able to extend its reach into waters, air, and land areas where the submarine has never reached before. We will have made our first giant step toward providing battlefield surveillance, special operations force support, and decoys covering the entire battlefield. This is just the beginning of our transforming submarine platforms to support new missions.

The submarine, with its ability to remain on-station for months at a time, offers joint expeditionary force commanders the possibility of something we’ve never been able to adequately do before. It provides a vastly increased capability in preparing the battlespace.

Let me give you some examples of expanded battlespace preparation. Advanced underwater mapping and mine reconnaissance using semi-autonomous, hydrographic, reconnaissance vehicles, expands submarine surveillance via deployable autonomous distributed sensors, and gives the submarine the ability to gather intelligence over land and sea via high endurance UAVs and UUVs.

The holy grail of battlespace preparation in the far term is the deployment of a fully netted, high-speed, communications grid with underwater fiber-optic networks. Ever since Admiral Lord Howe of the British Royal Navy invented a secret system of numbered signal flags to coordinate his battle fleet over 200 years ago; covert, secure, high-speed data and video communications between all the players of a joint expeditionary force is something that every battlespace commander has dreamed of having at their disposal. Transformational technology will allow the submarine to deploy and maintain an undersea communications net that encompasses the entire battlespace. These technologies will go a long way toward making that dream a reality.

Several other submarine mission transformation efforts are underway. One is an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration. This demonstration mates a Navy Penetrator warhead to an Army land attack missile. Another effort is the demonstration of a buoyant capsule that is used to launch existing weapons, such as the Army TACM missile, from a submerged SSGN. This transformed delivery system will give the SSGN the capability of time-critical strike at hard and deeply buried targets as well as other mobile targets. Again, the vehicle and the payloads already exist. We are just proving new methods of delivering this package to its intended targets.

As Admiral Bowman said recently: Get real!” And, we are. The common thread in the development of these concepts is apparent. We are taking advantage of proven technologies developed for other services or other applications and putting them to work in a way that’s never been done before. This is the definition of creative innovation and transformational concepts in their purest form. It is this transformation that defines the entire philosophy behind the SSGN.

Next, I want to transition your attention from my discussion on transformation as it applies to the SSGN-which I want you to think of as “near-term Transformation” -to a discussion of transformation that takes us into the distant future which I want to define for you as .. far-term Transformation”. To focus your thoughts, I want you to bring your minds back to the Starship ENTERPRISE.

I also want to bring into your consciousness another futuristic vision first presented over one hundred and thirty years ago. This antique, but futuristic vision, was conceived by Jules Verne in his book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In his book, published in 1870, Jules Verne envisioned a submarine with extraordinary capabilities manned by a crew equipped with previously unimaginable undersea weapons and technologies that gave the crew out-of-hull capabilities.

Now, think of Jules Verne’s NAUTILUS as the before and Gene Roddenberry’s Starship ENTERPRISE as the after and place the Undersea Technology Directorate and the SUBTECH process in between as the roadmap developing new transformational directions in submarine technology moving submarines from yesterday, to tomorrow. and into the future. Think of these two futuristic visions as you begin to understand a new, expanded definition of .. Transformation.” Transformation as an action that transitions us from the nineteenth century vision that became real twentieth century submarine capabilities to the twentieth century vision that can become our future twenty-first century submarine.

To achieve this transformation, President Bush has made his wishes pretty clear. He has endorsed the need for smart investment and innovation in creating the force structure we need for the 21st century. The President has asked Congress for a substantial increase in defense R&D between 2002 and 2006, describing this initiative in research and development as a search for new technologies to support the transformation of U.S. military capabilities. President Bush calls this budget a Blueprint for New Beginnings.

Today, SUBTECH’s Blueprint for New Beginnings contains nearly 200 technology development initiatives to build toward already identified future Navy capability requirements. Some of these pages in our blueprint folder are funded. Many of these are candidates for the near-term transformation of the SSGN and the 688 class of submarines. Some of these pages contain developing blueprint drawings that are only partially funded. These are planned for insertion on the new Virginia class and for retrofit on existing submarines. And others are just sketchy lines on our blueprint paper, soon to become full pages in SUBTECH’s Blueprint for New Beginnings. These long-term transformational technology candidates may be just dreams today. They may be just in the beginning phases of investigation. But, they may become the next set of transformational technologies that take us far down the road toward the futuristic Starship ENTERPRISE as we head down the technology path where no submarine has gone before.

Here are some of the sketches in our book of blueprints. Some of these are moving forward moving us beyond our existing SSGN transformational technologies. Others may never be funded and will remain in our quiver of fertile ideas. But, we will look at them all. Evaluating their potential for becoming real capability, when needed, and at a reasonable investment cost.

  • The next generation of submarine self-protection countermeasures will have communication links to a group of deployed assets. These links will enable the submarine to activate systems to engage or neutralize threatening torpedoes. These units will operate in full duplex mode and have an acoustic link for passing tactical information between units. This will allow the off-hull systems to change their mode of operation in response to changing tactical conditions. This new countermeasure will have built into it an advanced tactical processor and a threat torpedo classifier. Another self-protection system, the submarine defensive anti-air warfare and anti-surface warfare missile system will provide weapon system solutions providing the submarine with the capability of engaging rotary and fixed wing aircraft as well as small, high-speed surface vessels.
  • Next, our environmental intelligence efforts will provide in situ data to optimize sensor performance, prediction, and navigation. Networking will provide a common environmental picture and, tactical aids combining information from onboard and offboard sensors. Another example is multi-line towed array technologies. These technologies, along with advanced information processing, will provide the 2020 submarine with enhanced search, localization, and acoustic communication capabilities needed for littoral anti-surface warfare and theater anti-submarine warfare.
  • Other networking and command and control programs include the Stealth Torpedo Enhancement Program and our Mobile Communications Network Vehicles. The Stealth Torpedo Enhancement Program will provide guidance and control upgrades that permit advances in torpedo tactics. Our Mobile Communication Network Vehicles will allow network nodes to swim into an area clandestinely and set in place wide communication and sensor networks. Because these communication vehicles are mobile, they will be flexible in responding to changes in the tactical environment moving network capabilities to where they are needed, when they are needed.
  • Another effort is the Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System. The Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System will provide Navy torpedoes with an advanced signal processing capability and littoral-warfare-focused improved detection algorithms. The mission reconfigurable unmanned undersea vehicle will be capable of transporting many different payloads into contested areas. Many of those payloads will require advanced networking technologies so that they can perform as force multipliers.

The SUBTECH Blueprint for New Beginnings also expands the submarine’s horizon by extending its capabilities through the use of out-of-hull technologies. Yes, we all know there still need to be great advances in ship architecture, propulsion, and onboard sensor capabilities but the TRULY QUANTUM LEAPS that will significantly transform today’s submarine from Captain Nemo’s NAUTILUS to Captain Kirk’s ENTERPRISE will be the technology advancements we find that connect the submarine with the entire battlespace an environment that includes air and land warfare as well as undersea warfare.

In the late 1960s, the popular TV series Journey to the Bottom of the Sea introduced the futuristic research submarine SSRV SEA VIEW and the Flying Sub. In every episode, the Flying Sub was the lead character used by Admiral Nelson to solve that week’s battle against evil. The Flying Sub was always the lead character in this program because it extended the SEA VIEW’s eyes and ears to accomplish that week’s mission.

Like SEAVIEW’s fictional Admiral Nelson, I am here to tell you, I am also very interested in UAVs and UUVs. I would LOVE to have a Flying Sub!!! Someday, the Navy might, but in the meantime, I will settle for more conventional UAVs and UUVs to transform our submarines.

I believe off-hull capabilities are absolutely essential for submarines to network fully, to achieve comprehensive communications connectivity with at-sea and land battle forces and connectivity with the National Command Authority. Off-hull capabilities are absolutely essential for submarines to extend their reach and expand their current surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance, and targeting missions.

In our SUBTECH Blueprint for New Beginnings, the SUB-TECH vision for the Road Ahead sees off-hull capabilities as absolutely essential for meeting the mission requirements of the future submarines of 2020.

To complete today’s discussion on transformation, I want to leave you with some thoughts and challenges that I hope will inspire you to become participants in my mission to move submarine technology in new directions.

Many innovative technologies that existed prior to 9/11 had never been brought to our attention prior to that terrible event, possibly because. some of these technologies were not developed for the Defense community. I say today, “It is time to look elsewhere as well.”

The Submarine Force, like most other communities within the Department of Defense, has focused its search for technology within the Defense industry and within the government R&D and S&T communities. Since 9/11, we are becoming exposed to technologies developed for other communities that have some true promise for contributing to our submarine transformation.

All of you here today are interested in submarines and submarine technology. Some of you may have moved out of the Defense industry community or know of others who have moved on. Connecting me and my SUBTECH organization with these new, fertile fields … can be a great help in harvesting new technologies. I WANT to hear about them and I want my people to hear about them. The medical research community is one example.

When thinking of medical research, I am reminded of the Dennis Quaid movie Inner-Space. Those of you who have seen this movie remember Dennis maneuvering his micro-miniature submarine through the blood vessels and inner anatomy of a person’s body. When you saw this movie, you may have thought of this as an impossible feat-Great fiction! But did you know today, in Richmond, at least one hospital has a device that is swallowed by the patient that does just what Dennis Quaid did in that movie?

Of course, Dennis is not inside that capsule, but, this medical device does move through a patient’s stomach, lower intestine, and colon collecting data, taking pictures as it moves along-a fantastic voyage!

This revolutionary medical device has transformed an invasive procedure called a colonoscopy into a non-invasive procedure where a patient merely swallows a big pill. I wonder if the miniaturization technology, or the sensor technology, or the data recording and processing technology of that medical device can have a role in advancing our submarine technology transformation-al timeline.

Another thought to ponder. At the March National Defense Industrial Association conference, I spoke of the many research efforts taking place at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, the DoD laboratories, universities, and other public and private research institutes. I mentioned during that presentation that those S&T and R&D efforts should not be duplicated simply because we were unaware of the advances being made. I challenged the audience then, and I challenge you now, to help me better understand what is being done elsewhere that has the potential for continuing our development of submarine and undersea warfare capabilities.

A third challenge-one I also presented at the NOIA conference. It was a call for attendees to look within their own companies for dual use technologies; dual use technologies that can be candidates for multiple agency sponsorship. You may know of other divisions within your company that are working with the Homeland Security folks, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, or other government agencies to develop new scientific advancements. Those technologies and advancements may be useful to the Navy or help us develop related, but new submarine technologies. Wouldn’t it be great for us at SUBTECH to leverage with those technology development efforts? I challenge you now. Look inside your companies. Bring me new opportunities.

And one final thought for today. Transformation takes place because someone has the imagination to create a new vision and the ability to envision completely innovative approaches different from traditional thinking. Nuclear propulsion transformed the submarine. The Aegis weapons system transformed anti-air warfare. The Tomahawk missile revolutionized strike warfare from the air. Modular design changed ship architecture concepts accelerating both ship construction and new weapon system insertion. Commercial Off-The-Shelf acquisition helps us stay abreast of the latest technology breakthroughs. And, Direct Vendor Delivery and Third Party Logistics have reduced the need for expensive supply inventories and reduced the requirement for multiple layered maintenance programs.

I am asking you to let your imagination wander into the unknown. Step back and take a fresh look. The Navy is seeking innovative approaches and solutions so that our transformation of submarines will enable it, like the Starship ENTERPRISE, “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” I believe the more minds producing creative thoughts the more likely we will achieve innovative solutions.

In conclusion, let me remind you of some words spoken by Senator Robert F. Kennedy:

“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream of things that never were and say why not.”

I want to inspire my people and our Navy to chase this same dream, and I am asking you to do the same. Let’s move forward together as a team… discovering new directions… in undersea technology.

Thank you.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League