Nearly 60 years ago, in March 1948 on his last day as the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz wrote an article for the Armed Forces Staff College’s monthly NEWSLETTER entitled, “Who Commands Sea- Commands Trade”.
In that article, he described the maritime strategy of the day and why control of the sea was critical to the United States. He wrote, “It is first, the assurance of our national security, and, second, the creation and perpetuation of balance and stability among nations which will insure to each, the right of self-determination.”
The naval strategy of World War II and the years that followed relied heavily on a large force. Department of the Navy records from that time period show that at the peak of World War II there were 6,768 active naval ships, 232 of which were submarines. In 1948 when Admiral Nimitz wrote this article, the Navy had experienced a significant downsizing to 737 ships, 74 of which were submarines. Still, a very large force by today’s standards.
Control of the seas is as important today as it was then. Since then however, the geopolitical world has transformed many times over and the Navy Strategy has changed to meet new demands.
Perhaps the most significant change was the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 90’s. In fact on this very day, the 7′- of February, 1991, the Soviet Communist Party gave up a 70-year monopoly on political power.
At the end of three days of extremely stormy meetings dealing with economic and political reforms in the Soviet Union, the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party announced that it was endorsing President Mikhail Gorbachev’s idea that the Communist Party should make no claim for any particular role in the new constitution that was being rewritten.
Of course, you will remember that we won the Cold War in no small part by winning an arms race. At the peak of the Cold War, the Navy had a total of 594 active naval ships, 139 of which were submarines.
But today, threats to the United States are not clearly identified super powers. Instead, major world powers, regional adversaries, terrorism, lawlessness and natural disasters- all have the potential to threaten U.S. national security and world prosperity. Therefore, a new strategy was necessary. Today’s Maritime Strategy requires a flexible and agile, maritime capability enabling us to meet the emerging challenges of an uncertain world.
While the U.S. still remains the world’s leading superpower, we share the rest of the world’s dependence on the global system and therefore, have a stake in the health and welfare of the greater global community.
Proliferation of weapons and information technology has increased the capacity of nation-states and transnational actors to challenge maritime access, evade accountability for attacks, and manipulate public perception. The appetite for nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction is growing among nations and non-state antagonists. China’s arms buildup bears careful monitoring. Smaller nations, such as Iran, are becoming bolder in their confrontations with U.S. forces.
Just as Admiral Nimitz understood in 1948, world prosperity and security depend on free use of the seas. The Navy will play a critical role in preventing, limiting, and deterring disruptions to our global system. But when necessary, our maritime forces must be ready and able to win wars decisively. This will have to be done with a much smaller force than was used to win conflicts in years past. Today, there are 279 Deployable Battle Force Ships, including 71 submarines. The Navy’s 30 year shipbuilding plan calls for a minimum level of 313 ships, 66 of them submarines, to meet the anticipated threat in 2020.
The challenge for the Submarine Force will be to remain dominant in traditional naval capabilities while simultaneously enhancing our ability to conduct the full range of missions articulated in the Maritime Strategy with a low density asset.
Just as in the past, the Submarine Force will need to be flexible, adaptable, versatile and when necessary lethal. The task is large for a relatively smaller force and will require improvements in our current war fighting systems and many new capabilities for our ships. To make a tough job tougher, these improvements and new capabilities will have to come with high reliability and at reduced cost.
The Maritime Strategy requires a thorough and in-depth situational awareness that the Submarine Force uniquely provides. Accurate and timely Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance is a bread and butter mission of submarines and is needed to thwart our adversaries from gaining the initiative on our forward deployed forces. We play a key role in developing and maintaining this critical Maritime Domain Awareness.
However, despite our traditional stealthy posture, we have to readily communicate with other U.S. and international forces as part of an enhanced maritime information sharing network. This is a challenge for the Submarine Force with the limited bandwidth of our current communications systems and our need for stealth. New capabilities are required.
We need Communications at Speed and Depth. We made some progress this year. USS MONTPELIER is deployed with the HARRY s. TRUMAN Battle Group with a new communications capability called High Frequency Internet Protocol. With it, she is able to chat and exchange e-mail over the floating wire antenna at depths below periscope depth.
While this is a step in the right direction, we need to accelerate our efforts to reach the goal of communications across the full range of submarine depths and speeds. Optical Laser Communications shows some promise and we have engaged DARPA and ONR to invest their resources to move this technology along. We hope to experiment with this capability in 2009.
We plan to demonstrate an enhanced ability to find, fix, and finish threats with reduced targeting timeline utilizing special payloads such as UAVs, UUVs and other remote sensors.
Another initiative is to demonstrate the application of a Digital Radio Frequency Memory (or DRFM) technology from a submarine to provide Information Operation (IO) capabilities. As part of this demonstration we will modify one of our Multi-function communications masts to provide dual Comms/10 capabilities, so we can communicate what we have found while simultaneously gathering critical intelligence with the same mast.
I am a big believer in the Automatic Identification System, commonly referred to as AIS. The ability to receive AIS data, while submerged below periscope depth, would greatly enhance a submarine crew’s understanding of the surface picture. This capability might have prevented the NEWPORT NEWS collision in the Strait of Hormuz.
Next year we plan to test a new buoy that might answer that call. It is as simple as adding an AIS receiver to an existing GPS buoy to provide the submarine with additional situational awareness capability. The buoy will provide added surface situational awareness without requiring the submarine to come to periscope depth.
The Submarine Force has received a strong demand signal to extend our sensor range with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Last year we demonstrated the first step toward this capability by launching the Buster UA V from the bridge of USS MONTPELIER. The ship submerged to periscope depth and controlled the aircraft as it fed video back. The demonstration was so successful that we deployed a ship with this first step capability last year.
She demonstrated that capability earlier this week when she used Buster to monitor a transiting merchant ship to ranges of 10 nautical miles over a four hour period.
During the next year we intend to complete the necessary work to be able to launch a UA V from the Trash Disposal Unit while submerged and provide communication links through the BYG-1 Fire Control System. This isn’t the be-all-end-all answer, but it is another step forward.
Certainly one day we would like a UA V that has more payload capacity and the longer on station time that fuel cells may provide, but for now launching at Periscope Depth with the ability to be controlled from the submarine and receive video data back may be good enough.
SSNs and SSGNs are the platforms that will be called upon to operate in an anti-access environment. We will operate alone, deploying Special Forces, conducting Information Operations, collecting intelligence and providing early warning. We will need the payloads and sensors necessary to do the missions and the systems to deploy them. And we will need to be able to provide protection for the Special Forces and ourselves when in shallow water where going deep and fast for evasion is not an option.
In our current fiscal environment, we can’t get everything we want today. But we can get some capability now and have a plan to get the rest later.
Unmanned Underwater Vehicles are a good example. There are countless missions that a UUV can be used for, but trying to get all of these technologies now may cost more than we can afford. But, a spiral development approach will get us the mature technologies now at a lower cost with a plan to develop the higher risk technologies in the future.
Technology and new approaches are advancing rapidly. Our acquisition programs will be under increasing pressure to deliver the right systems, on time, and at the best cost. However, Commercial Off the Shelf Technology is not the panacea for cost reduction. We have found that these technologies still require careful planning and good engineering to ensure they provide reliable capability at the right cost. But, leveraging existing technology to develop a new capability is an effective strategy.
We have some good examples to draw from with Tomahawk and SSGN. Currently we are taking this approach with the Submarine Littoral Defense System. It may be possible to launch an AIM 9X, a Sidewinder missile from the vertical launch tube of an SSN or the Multiple All-Up-Round Canister of an SSGN against slow, low flying aircraft or small surface craft. The research and development that can bring organic anti-air capability to the Submarine Force is underway and we started working the Concept of Operations piece this year with a workshop held at the Naval War College.
This past fall SSGN became a reality when the OHIO deployed to PACOM. During the deployment she will participate in an exercise held by U.S. Forces Korea. I am unable to go into detail due to the classification of this forum, but it will be the first real operational test of SSGN and how she will participate in a complex expeditionary strike.
OHIO will soon be followed by FLORIDA, who is conducting maintenance in preparation for her deployment this spring and MICHIGAN is on schedule to deploy later this year. All four SSGN are now in the fleet. GEORGIA delivered in December and will undergo modernization to prepare for her deployment next year.
Now that they have arrived, we are looking for new ways to take advantage of their flexibility and to leverage the storage capacity of her Large Diameter Tubes. One of those ways may be the Payload Interface Module. Developed by SSP and Electric Boat, it wilt have the ability to launch numerous SOF payloads including Combat Rubber Raiding Craft, UAVs, UUVs, and Seal Delivery Vehicles. It will also be ready for the large diameter tubes of later flight Virginia Class fast attacks.
We are only limited by our imaginations and dollars. The Undersea Enterprise is heavily engaged right now building the budget that will fund our capability strategy for 2010 through 2015. We plan to invest in new technologies that will transform how we conduct operations and win wars.
As these new capabilities are brought onboard, the Submarine Force will be asked to do more. Balancing our traditional missions with these new expanding capabilities will be a challenge.
We have been working hard to provide ready SSNs to the Combatant Commanders, but with shipyard overruns it has been difficult. In order to meet operational commitments, we compressed the Fleet Readiness Training Plan schedules, referred to as the FRTP. The FRTP is the period of time between deployments that we use to prepare the ships and crews to go out again. Average FRTP length across the force has decreased from greater than 17 months to just over 16 months.
Reducing the FRTP length enabled us to meet the COCOM demand in the short term, but it comes at a cost and is certainly unsustainable over the long term. It decreases the Commanding Officer’s time to train his crew and maintain his ship. It compresses the time needed for experimentation, modernization and CNO tasking and is having an impact on our people. We are leaning hard on them and they continue to come through for us, but we can’t take them for granted.
Our Fleet Response Plan increases our operational availability and flexibility. But, we must effectively use inport trainers, and the limited underway training time we have, to maintain our warfighting readiness, certify our crews, and ensure we are an agile, capable, and ready force.
When called upon, the ships must be 100% capable. All too often that has not been the case. The TB-29 is a very capable towed array and, when it works, clearly detects contacts that are invisible to other acoustic sensors. But, with a 19% reliability, my Commanding Officers have an understandably hard time trusting that it will be there when they need it most.
The new Maritime Strategy continues to view deterrence as a strategic imperative. Preventing wars is as important as winning wars. We are pursuing an approach to deterrence that includes a credible and scalable ability to retaliate against aggressors conventionally, unconventionally, and with nuclear forces. OHIO Class ships begin decommissioning in 2027 and the 30-year shipbuilding plan calls for 2019 construction start date for their replacement. The Navy is developing the acquisition strategy and the Research & Development plan now, for the next generation Sea Based Strategic Deterrent.
We are also seeing expansion in some of our core missions. There are many challenges to the Navy’s ability to exercise sea control, perhaps none as significant as the growing number of nations operating submarines, both advanced diesel-electric and nuclear propelled.
The Navy recognizes the need for a change in our Anti-Submarine Warfare strategy and Rear Admiral (Ret.) Jerry Ellis was assigned in June of last year to be the Special Assistant for Undersea Strategy Office of the Secretary of the Navy. He has been tasked to influence programs and processes to deliver undersea superiority and is looking for innovation and out of the box solutions to consider.
While the Submarine Force is a minority voice in any Big Navy discussion, with RADM Frank Drennan’ s assignment as Commander of Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command, and ADM Jon Greenert in place as Commander U.S. Fleet Forces Command, the Submarine Force is poised to play a more active role in the Navy’s ASW strategy. The Global ASW CONOP is a sound strategy, but is heavily focused on defense of the Strike Group. I believe that a more forward leaning strategy would be more effective. Navy leadership is looking to take a more balanced offensive/defensive approach and I will be engaging to better define our role and allow us to provide the ASW expertise we are known for.
In summary, we have a significant part to play in the Maritime Strategy today and, though it won’t be easy, we will play an even more vital role as the world shapes itself in the future. Since our inception, the Submarine Force has been a leader in the innovation, flexibility, responsiveness and cohesiveness needed to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Our long history of success in difficult situations can be attributed to hard work, good analysis and a single coherent story spoken by all submarine supporters, in and out of uniform.
In the final paragraph of his 1948 article, Admiral Nimitz said, “… in preparing for any contest, it is wisest lo exploit- not neglect the element of strength.” We will meet the demands of the future by continuing to leverage what has worked so well for us for many years- the strong relationships we share with you, the members of the corporate community.