Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate

Remarks by CDR Michael Jabaley Commanding Officer, USS LOUISVILLE (SSN 724) to the Naval Submarine League Symposium 11June 2003

Thank you Admiral Reynolds for that introduction. Your earlier comment on Lieutenants remembering Admirals’ names sparked a memory-when I was Chemistry and Radiological Controls Assistant on USS DRUM and undergoing my final qualification board for my dolphins, the first question was “Who is COMSUBPAC?” That day, I knew the answer -J. Guy Reynolds. So I’d like to thank you for furthering my Naval career!

Submarine force leadership, submarine force industry, member-ship of the Naval Submarine League, and ladies and gentlemen -Aloha and Good Morning! Today I will present an overview of USS LOUISVILLE’s s 2002-2003 deployment and discuss how it was both a classic example of the multi-mission capabilities of today’s submarine force, and also a harbinger of the transformation inherent in SSGN.

I was privileged to relieve as Commanding Officer of USS LOUISVILLE in May of 2002. At that point, the ship was already in the pre-deployment cycle, having finished the first Pre-Overseas Movement, or POM, upkeep, and all of the required major examinations of the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle. We still had several tactical development exercises, the second POM upkeep, and of course final certification remaining. The deployment was planned as an independent SEVENTHFL T deployment, that is, one not associated with a carrier strike group but focused on conducting training, exercises, and special operations missions in the Western Pacific. As such, my focus as Commanding Officer was on bringing the crew’s performance up to the required standard for operating in the shallow water, high contact density littoral environments that are the hallmark of that region. Using training opportunities in the local Hawaiian opareas, in the attack centers, and using the onboard capabilities of the CCS Mk 2 Block 1 C Combat Control System with the ARCI Phase III sonar suite, we were able to rapidly raise our proficiency in littoral Undersea Warfare and Battlespace Preparation, including Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, leaving us ready for exercises and missions alike. However, as the summer progressed, two issues reminded us that a submarine can never expect to deploy with only one mission in mind, and required a shift in focus.

First, our government began to make the case in the press and in the diplomatic arena for a renewed effort in enforcing the United Nation sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Although it seemed only a remote possibility at the time, we knew there was always a chance that military force -and for us in particular, the submarine Tomahawk strike mission -would be called upon. Although strike exercises are a regular part of our training, the interest level is always raised when one knows that the mission may actually be tasked. As we scheduled additional exercises and attack center sessions, the value of the training also increased with the additional interest.

Second, after our pre-deployment certification was completed and all that remained was final loadout, the issue of mine warfare arose. Due to changes in deployment schedules and capabilities, a several week gap in SEVENTH FLEET mining coverage resulted. Although this could normally be covered by the ready SSN in Hawaii, this gap unfortunately fell during the annual exercise of the defense of the Republic of Korea. As such, it was decided that we would need to be certified for mining prior to deployment. Once again, the presence of mining in our training plan had laid the groundwork, and with a short focused period we were able to complete the Mine Readiness Certification Inspection and deploy immediately after. So having thoroughly stressed each of the classic submarine missions of Undersea Warfare, Surface Warfare, Strike Warfare, Mine Warfare, and Battlespace Preparation, we deployed on I 0 September 2002. As a point of interest, as we left the pier in Pearl Harbor, it was just 12 hours shy of one year since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.

Despite the multi-mission focus of our deployment preparations, the first four months of the actual deployment went pretty much as planned. We participated in bilateral exercises with a Republic of Korea Submarine, attended the celebration of the tenth anniversary of their Submarine Flotilla, and participated in ANNUALEX, a fleet exercise with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. The exercises against the newest Korean and Japanese diesel submarines were tremendously worthwhile. Without discussing in too much detail, I will say that after conducting operations with many different diesel submarines, as Admiral Bowman said, they are not black holes. We also completed two highly valuable independent operations of significant interest to national security.

The second of those two missions ran from early December until the middle of January. As that mission progressed, we paid more and more attention to the scant news items loaded on the broadcast and tried to read the tea leaves showing where the world community was headed with Iraq. As it became clear that diplomacy would not result in Hussein’s adherence to the UN sanctions, the next question was of course, how would this affect us? We quickly found out as we transited off station in mid January. Instead of a much anticipated liberty port visit in Perth, Australia, we were diverted to Guam and directed to shift focus. We offloaded eleven torpedoes and onloaded eleven Tomahawk missiles. We would have taken more missiles, but there were none left in Guam. We opened and inspected every seawater heat exchanger in the engine room in anticipation of extended operations at periscope depth in warm water. We fixed everything that was broken and reloaded all supply parts, consumables, and food for ninety days at sea. Although we had not been officially extended or even ordered to FIFTH FLEET, the writing on the wall was crystal clear -as the diplomatic process proceeded, the pace of military preparations rapidly quickened. As we left Guam on the 28th of January, we had a subnote heading west but still no official orders. The details were filled in as we transited to the US CENTRAL COMMAND AOR.

It was during this phase of our deployment that LOUISVILLE, along with every other submarine that was called upon, demonstrated the hallmarks of the submarine force that will be so valuable when in place on the SSGN platform. Mobility, Stealth, Endurance, and Firepower are the classic assets and were instrumental in the submarine force’s contributions to OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM.

As the CENTRAL COMMAND requests for forces started coming in, deployed and deployable submarine assets were literally spread across the globe. Using our case as an example, in a short ten-day stop in Guam we were able to repair, replenish, and reconfigure the weapons loadout to make LOUISVILLE fully ready to support combat operations. The value of the forward deployed submarine tender, USS FRANK CABLE, COMSUBRON FIFTEEN, and the submarine infrastructure present on Guam was not lost on us. And then upon underway, a direct 8000-mile transit to CENTCOM was rapidly executed using the unparalleled advantages of nuclear power. We chopped to FIFTHFLEET on 11 February and four days later were on station in our launch basket. The mobility of the SSN made such a rapid response possible, and once again the Navy was the first to have all forces in place and ready to fight. The SSGN program will further enhance this mobility advantage by using the proven OIDO-class platform to give the force four assets fully ready to rapidly position wherever they are needed.

The stealth feature of the submarine is of course well known, particularly to this audience. And although the operating environment during OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM proved to be for the most part benign, the frightening reality is that our information suggests that there are still terrorist cells actively planning waterborne assaults on naval vessels. An undeniable advantage of the submarine is its much lower vulnerability to such an attack when on station. The force protection concerns during a port visit are still critical, of course, but were not an issue during our FIFTHFLEET operations, as we simply never had the need to conduct a pit stop in theater. But although the threat to our Naval forces from the Iraqi military was low, we cannot be assured of that in future conflicts. The ability of a submarine to remain undetected on station, anywhere the depth of water will permit, combines the real physical force with the force multiplier of the unknown. The preeminent acoustic advantage of the OIDO class platform will make for an even more impressive stealth package, with four SSGNs capable of being undetected on station anywhere throughout the world’s oceans, within striking distance of most of the world’s militarily significant targets.

After leaving Guam, LOUISVILLE operated continuously at sea for 83 days. While this is by no means a record, it is yet another testament to the at-sea endurance of the nuclear powered submarine. Remember now that upon leaving Guam, LOUISVILLE was in the fifth month of deployment and over six months out of our last upkeep. To embark on a three month underway at this point is certainly a challenging proposal. However, the design and maintenance program of the 688 class submarine is again a proven success, and our case was no exception. The at sea repair capability and redundancy in design made our endurance on station simple. In fact, our only concern was food; although we had enough to subsist comfortably for ninety days, we certainly welcomed the replenishments at sea that were scheduled for us as they made the menu much more varied. Our first replenishment was conducted in seas too rough to open the main deck hatches. We loaded only essential stores by hauling them up to the fairwater planes from the small boat. Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Tom Vatter, stood on the starboard fairwater plane hauling up a 25 gallon can of hydraulic oil, proving that fairwater planes are an undeniable advantage of the non-“improved” 688s. Subsequent replenishments were in more suitable weather.

With scheduled replenishments easily possible in a benign environment, a submarine could remain onstation literally for an indefinite period. In a high threat environment, a rotation of forces pulling back to a replenishment area would be required. In either case, the SSGN, with its larger stores capability, would have even longer periods between replenishments and therefore an increased endurance.

And finally, firepower. The Strike Mission was of course the heart of our participation in OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. Let me describe some of the more interesting aspects. As soon as we left Guam, we started participating in strike exercises. CSF and C6F ran a combined exercise, BABYLON EXPRESS, once a week. With forces in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Gulf, the exercises were complex and robust. During our transit to station, planning the exercises took on an added dimension as we were in a greater than 25-knot moving haven. As the exercises progressed, we learned more and more about fitting into the striking force.

Let me give you an example -one of the first issues to be raised was the backhauling of empty capsules after firing torpedo tube launched, or TTL, missiles. The standard for TTL salvos is to be able to fire the follow-on salvo of four missiles within two hours of completing the first salvo. There was much discussion on the pros and cons of jettisoning the empty capsules, which is allowed, instead of backhauling them into the torpedo room prior to loading the next salvo. The tradeoff is one of speed, in not having to backhaul, versus not being able to perform the inspection shown here to ensure all pieces of the capsule diaphragm are accounted for.

The discussion eventually arrived at the conclusion that the crews should be able to backhaul and reload four tubes and still meet the two hour standard. This is a challenge, but it can be met with thorough planning, extensive practice, and choreographed teamwork. Once we chopped into FIFTH FLEET, we backhauled the torpedoes out of the tubes, loaded four Tomahawk missiles, and then con-ducted regular training of the dual reload parties, using actual Tomahawk missiles. By the time we arrived on station, we were fu I ly ready to execute mu I ti pie salvos meeting the two hour standard.

At this point, let me explain what I found to be our biggest frustration during deployment. You have heard much discussion about the wonderful communications suites on the submarine of today. Unfortunately, LOUISVILLE is one of the few SSNs left in the fleet that is not EHF capable. We exist on the classic VERDIN broadcast and SSIXS communications during nonnal operations. While almost all of my peers have access to SIPRNETat sea, and in some cases high data rate access even to the Global Broadcast System, our non-record traffic communications is limited to the BGIXS system, which in addition to being our primary circuit for delivery of Tomahawk Mission Data Updates, or MDUs, also passes unclassified email. As you can see by the data rates, while everyone else is using cable modems, we dream of dialup access. Now this is still much better than having nothing at all, but the limitations of the system are such that it is usable only for basic communications with friends and families, and has little use for non-record traffic with the chain of command or peers. For instance, I did not catch wind of the missile capsule discussion until halfway through, and then only when my Commodore drafted a message summarizing the salient points and sent it to me via record traffic. The conversation had been conducted solely by SIPRNET email. I found that the best connectivity I had for frank discussions with my chain of command was using our Iridium satellite telephone.

Once we got onto station, we found that our best operational connectivity was through the UHF Command Net, with an HF net as a backup. After about a week on station, multiple problems with the satellite and net control stations caused significant UHF degradations. This resulted in the loss of BGIXS delivery of Tomahawk MOUs as well as the UHF Command Nets. Our only voice comms were on HF nets and we were using TADIXS for MDU delivery. It was agonizingly slow, but reliable. After a week and a half of this, satellite channel reallocation allowed restoration of UHF circuits. Recognize that these issues were transparent to most of the other forces as their primary communications were all EHF. It was only our British brethren in the Arabian Gulf, HMS TURBULENT and HMS SPLENDID, who were in the same boat. Due to the vagaries of HF communications, we found ourselves in the Red Sea acting as a comms relay between the Brits and the Carrier Strike Group Commander, all of whom were in the Arabian Gulf. HF comms were very reliable, however, and we had a tasked relay platform to allow us some entry into the chat rooms and SIPRNET connectivity.

For most of our time, that relay was USS PITTSBURGH. Jeff Currer and his team were a big help throughout; on one occasion while troubleshooting a problem with one of our Torpedo Tube Control Panels, we passed information to PITTSBURGH via HF, who then entered into the SIPRNET chat room with Type Com-mander staff and Naval Undersea Warfare Center technicians stateside, who then passed troubleshooting guidance for relay back to us. In six hours we had a multiple failure casualty solved that would have taken days of drafting and trading messages. Even for a platform that was relying on HF voice comms, the SIPRNET was a huge help. Our ability to integrate deeply into the striking force despite our communications limitations was a classic example of innovation and adaptation on the part of the force commander, the fleet commander, and all platforms involved.

One advantage we did have was the tremendous utility of the Advanced Tomahawk Weapons Control System, or ATWCS. The ease of maintaining the mission library with this system is phenomenal. There is no more disk space limitation of the Data Transport Devices, or DTDs, and ATWCS gives a full search and analysis utility that is invaluable. As we were analyzing planned launch positions, the achievability of the different missions from the various positions became an issue. With ATWCS, my Weapons Officer, LCDR Shawn Nisbett, was able to quickly pull all of the missions for our area, build a composite launch basket, and in less than 10 minutes give a percent mission achievability for each of the proposed planned launch positions. This is a task that would have been nearly impossible using legacy fire control systems.

And finally, the strike itself. After being on station for over a month, the diplomatic deadlines passed and military action became imminent. Due to the inability to gain overflight permission for missile flight paths through Turkey, the Mediterranean forces came through the Suez Canal and joined us in the Red Sea. At the height of the force concentration, there were 14 submarines in theater – I 0 in the Red Sea and 4 in the Arabian Gulf. Add to that the numerous surface ship Tomahawk shooters and you can see that missile flight path planning became very complex. As H-hour approached, we were once again in the dark. You may remember the stories of the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom, our strike against the Taliban in Afghanistan, with CDR Scott Bawden on USS PROVIDENCE monitoring an Army Chat Room, recognizing the imminent need for Tomahawk tasking, spinning up missiles on his own initiative and being ready when the call for fire came out -great stuff. Here’s how it happened on LOUISVILLE. There was another Tomahawk exercise in progress. It was Wednesday, the 19th of March. We were in comms on the UHF net, talking to the Launch Area Coordinator, or LAC, as we went through the planning phases. We had received the exercise Launch Sequence Plan, but not an Indigo, or Execution Order. As the time for the first salvo approached (in which we were not tasked), we started to notice a decrease in voice traffic. The first salvo time came and went with no execute order. Although most other forces were communicating on EHF as a routine, there was usually someone who shifted to UHF due to a casualty or for training. And there was always the Brits. So it was clearly unusual to have no traffic on the net. We called the LAC and asked for a status of transmitting exercise Indigos, and received a curt “Negative Indigo. FJNEX exercise.” Clearly something was up. We realized that actual strike planning was in progress, that it didn’t involve us, and we quietly took our seat on the sidelines. Although we did not know it at the time, the FIFTHFLEET staff was deep into the rapid planning that resulted in USS CHEYENNE launching the first strike of the war, in the bunker assault that attempted the decapitation of Saddam Hussein’s regime. At this point, I would like to borrow a line that CDR Chas Doty, Commanding Officer of USS CHEYENNE used during his deployment brief in Pearl earlier this week.

“47 hours and 59 minutes after President Bush issued his 48 hour deadline, CHEYENNE shot the first missile of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

You are allowed to launch a Tomahawk one minute early.

Over the next thirty-six hours, we watched as several salvos of a few missiles each were launched. USS KEY WEST and USS SAN JACINTO, both within twenty miles to the west of us, launched salvos on Thursday night, presenting us with a great visual show. Finally, Friday night the heavily anticipated shock and awe strike was tasked. We were tasked with a maximum capacity salvo and successfully shot all tasked missiles. We shot two more salvos, one on Saturday night and the final salvo on Sunday morning. The Sunday morning salvo was a great example of Rapid Plan and Shoot. The mission was already resident in A TWCS, and for us that made it simple. We had already accomplished standard mission planning for each of the first pre-planned waypoints in the I library, so when we were tasked by voice with firing a missile in less than an hour, it was easy. The long leg, missile alignment, finished about five minutes before the launch window opened.

It is interesting to compare LOUISVILLE’s experiences in OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM to those of the ship in OPERATION DESERT STORM, when USS LOUISVILLE became the first to fire a Tomahawk in conflict in 1991. In the communications area, at least -now watch closely -the more things change, the more they stay the same. The only change on LOUISVILLE is that we no longer need two WSC-3s for comms, but now use mini-DAMA. The rest of the force has made a large jump, though. One of the great tools to come out of the workup to the war is the White Board, which is simply a multi-user spreadsheet. Each firing unit updates its status on items such as missile alignment, launch position, time of first launch, etc. The status is immediately visible to all other firing units -that have EHF -and the Launch Area Coordinator. This tool removes the need for voice communications for all routine reports and frees the voice nets for casualty reports. Combined with strike chat rooms, the call-for-tire concept of Tomahawk strike is here. So with the advent of EHF, medium data rate, and high data rate communication systems, the limitation is no longer the equipment on board the submarine -it is now bandwidth. Oh, and one other legacy from DESERT STORM -just as Jeff Currer and I shared experiences in the Red Sea this spring, twelve years ago it was Frank Stewart on LOUISVILLE and then CDR Chip Griffiths on PITTSBURGH, striking the initial blows in DESERT STORM.

You will be happy to hear that we did finally make it to Perth, with a seven day stop on the way home. Now, I have been trying to get to Australia for my entire naval career. Of course, at this station in life, the experience was different from what it might have been twenty years ago. Perhaps it is because my wife sent our two oldest children -or as Admiral Padgett would call them, the upper third-down under for the week to act as my chaperones. But from playing golf with kangaroos on the course, to Australian Rules Football, to spending ANZAC day in the pub with the Australian Sub Vets, it was without a doubt the port visit highlight of a memorable deployment, for the entire crew.

One final point I would like to make. When all was said and done, LOUISVILLE returned home on the 13th of May, after a deployment of 246 days, over eight months. To put it another way, that’s all of baseball playoffs, the entire NFL and college football seasons, the entire college basketball season, and all but the playoffs of the NBA. Which, actually, is a good thing in the case of the NBA. While the extended time away presented its own challenges, I am proud to tell you that the crew and the ship performed magnificently throughout the entire deployment. The statistic of which I am the most proud is that during the entire 246 day deployment, not once did LOUISVILLE need to pull in for a problem -no HUMEV ACs, no MEDEV ACs, no material casualties requiring a return to port during the entire run. During the period of the extension of unknown length, it was an easy task to explain to the crew the importance and necessity of what we were doing, and they really understood the significance. And, of course, it was a once in a lifetime experience for all of us. Having just passed the one year point of my command tour, you might think I would be wondering what l could find to compare to this over the next two years; I take great satisfaction, however, in the fact that next month I wi 11 take the ship into SRA and strike LOUISVILLE from the ranks ofnon-EHF capable submarines, as we receive a communications upgrade and the installation of the BYG-1 Combat Control System, the latest and greatest in warfighting technology.

In closing, I hope that I have given you a glimpse into the missions and roles that today’s submarine force fulfills. With the advent of SSGN, we gain a platform that will be even more ready to demonstrate the Stealth, Mobility, Endurance, and Firepower that makes the submarine force so valuable to our Navy and to our Nation.

Thank you and Mahalo!

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League