REGAINING CONTACT: THE RE-EMERGENCE OF ASW IN THE US NAVY
It’s a pleasure for me to be here today to share with you a few thoughts on our Navy and what I sec as the re-emergence of anti-submarine warfare (AS W) as a high priority capability. Your presence today is vital and necessary because ASW is one of those navy core competencies that affects all navy warfare communities-air, surface, submarine, special warfare as well as intelligence, logistics, facilities, medical, legal, just to mention a few. Whether you are a SWO driving an ASW surface ship, or a JAG Corps lawyer handling sonar/mammal litigation. You are a part of the ASW team.
Today I’m going to begin with a story that hopefully will put my remarks in perspective. Some of you may have heard this story as it has been around for awhile. It concerns Oliver Wendell Holmes, the famous chief justice of the supreme court. Mr. Holmes once found himself on a train, but couldn’t locate his ticket. While the conductor watched, smiling, the eighty-eight year old justice searched through all his pockets without success. Of course, the conductor recognized the distinguished justice. So he said, “Mr. Holmes, don’t worry. You don’t need your ticket. You ‘II probably find it when you get off the train and I’m sure the Pennsylvania railroad will trust you to mail it back later.” The justice looked up at the conductor and with some irritation said, “My dear man, that’s not the problem at all. The problem is not where my ticket is. The problem is, where am I going?”
Well, that’s an appropriate question for me to address today-where arc we-the United States Navy-going in dealing with the growing worldwide submarine threat? What arc the challenges we have to deal with to ensure our navy will be able to project power in the maritime domain anywhere in the world?
Let me start my remarks by setting some context for you. As you should know, there is a tremendous proliferation of modern diesel electric submarines throughout the world which has the potential to seriously threaten freedom of the seas. There are over forty countries that operate modern diesel electric submarines, many with the increased undersea endurance enabled by air independent propulsion systems. These submarines, some of which carry long range supersonic anti-surface cruise missiles, have the potential to threaten our Navy as well as global commercial shipping. The world’s economy depends on the oceans since over ninety percent of the world’s traded goods arc transported over the seas. We often focus on countries such as Iran, China, Russia and North Korea, as we should; however there are many other countries that we need to keep a watchful eye on. For example, Venezuela is purchasing very quiet diesel submarines from Russia that in the very near future could be patrolling the Gulf of Mexico. We are clearly very concerned about Chinese submarines. They have exceeded our intelligence projections as indicated by the surprise appearance of the YUAN diesel submarine. This submarine is highly capable, has air independent propulsion, and is projected to also have a small nuclear reactor giving it unsurpassed endurance and range. The Russian built Kilo 4B submarine, which they bought, carries the SSN-27 Sizzler anti-ship cruise missile. When this missile reaches its supersonic terminal phase, it will be very difficult to defend against. That is, when it acquires the surface contact, it kicks the termination speed to Mach 3, making it almost impossible to avoid no matter what you do. Additionally, with the proliferation of wake horning torpedoes, our surface ships are at great risk. These torpedoes are very forgiving. They don’t require a really accurate solution to be effective. All the submarine needs to do is to get within range, anywhere from 4 -15,000 yards, get into a firing aspect, and shoot it into the wake. You don’t need many periscope observations to get a shooting solution! I am very concerned about China and where they are going with their submarine program.
These modern diesel electric submarines present a very different challenge than what we faced during the Cold War. They arc extremely quiet and operate in challenging acoustic environments of the littorals and the U.S. Navy needs to be ready to face this threat. The loss of a ship, particularly an aircraft carrier would be devastating. It would be like a 9/11 event in this country and the world all over again-a great tragedy. Unfortunately, in much of our analyses and war games, this is exactly what is occurring under the conditions of certain scenarios.
The Secretary of the Navy has been concerned about this and about eighteen months ago asked me to come on as his special assistant and take a hard look at the Navy’s undersea warfare strategy and capability. I had just completed eight years heading up some very special programs for the Navy, both as a Flag Officer and civilian SES. This was following 36 years on active duty as a nuclear submariner with my last major operational tour as COMSUBPAC. In fact, I thought I was going to transition to the private sector last year when I received the call from SECNA V with an offer of an opportunity that I simply could not refuse. The Secretary of the Navy tasked me to do two things-advise him on all USW matters and to lead a team tasked with developing a strategy to evaluate what it takes to ensure our future undersea warfare dominance. To anyone that knows anything about undersea warfare they would recognize that this is a daunting task, particularly since the Secretary wanted it done prior to his leaving with the administration turnover.
Although undersea warfare covers many missions, today I will be focusing on anti-submarine warfare. With my extensive background in submarine ASW and considering the growing interest in ASW, I was hopeful that I could make some positive contributions. The first thing I did was to form a team of experts to develop a framework to examine the complicated and broad ASW mission area, identify key issues that should be brought to the attention of SECNA V and CNO, and develop some options and recommendations on how to solve those problems. One of the most important aspects of this effort was that I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a DC-centric study. For those of you with DC experience, you know that you can conduct almost any study just by going from desk to desk and talking to all the action officers in the Pentagon. Well, that would give us the DC perspective but not much else. I was committed to not have this be an inside the beltway assessment, so over the last year I engaged a broad spectrum of the ASW community. I met with the Atlantic and Pacific fleet commanders; the submarine, surface, air, and special warfare enterprises; the Navy’s Mine Warfare and ASW Command (NMAWC); group, wing, squadron and unit commanders across the three warfare enterprises; training commands; and sailors and officers at the unit level from both fleets. I visited Norfolk, San Diego, Groton, Kings Bay, Jacksonville, May port, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Japan, just to mention a few, and added some serious miles to my frequent flier account! I have met with top Navy leadership including Admirals Greenert, Eating, Willard, and Rear Admiral Frank Drennan at NMA WC, among many others. I visited laboratories and industry to see their ideas and new developments. Finally, I engaged the OPNA V leadership and the ASW stakeholders inside the beltway and reviewed requirements, assessments, and programs. I heard firsthand what the issues were and developed my view of the state of AS W. As a result I came to the conclusion that since the end of the Cold War we had indeed lost contact in ASW. I also came to the conclusion that because of the current and projected threats, ASW must re-emerge as a high priority among Navy leadership and that we must begin to regain contact in ASW.
During our study efforts, I reflected on the historical perspective of ASW to see what had happened in the past. I noticed that although the submarine threat has always been challenging, the US Navy has nonetheless overcome these ASW challenges throughout our history. As you look at this ASW history in the Navy you will sec that our capability has been sinusoidal in nature from WW I until the present. This trend appears to be caused by the Navy’s reactionary vice proactive approach to the ASW challenge. During WWII, the TENTH Fleet was created when the U.S. was faced with a desperate ASW situation in the Atlantic. With the power and resources provided, and the lessons learned from actual encounters and battles, TENTH Fleet corrected deficiencies in doctrine and organization and turned around the Battle of the Atlantic.
Following WWII, our ASW capability started on the down slope of the sine wave. As a result, Task Force Alfa was stood up by Admiral Arleigh Burke in the early fifties. He “wanted to know why the Navy’s ASW effort, despite all the high technology, was so weak and ineffective.” In response to Admiral Burke’s charge, Rear Admiral Thach, the first commander of Task Force Alfa, composed hunter-killer groups that had forces assigned on a semi-permanent basis with a single mission, ASW. Fifty percent of the time was spent at sea conducting ASW exercises for teamwork, tactical development and equipment improvement. The actions taken by Task Force Alpha started the US Navy undersea dominance back up the sine wave. However, with no real submarine threat over the next decade, unfortunately, the US Navy became Jax and started the slide back down the sine wave. Meanwhile, the Soviets continued to advance their submarine programs. We failed again to pace the threat.
To combat the growing Soviet submarine threat during the Cold War, OP-95 was established under Vice Admiral Charles Martell in 1964. OP-95 had power with direct resource responsibility in ASW, most notably for the new development, the sound surveil-lance system (SOSUS). OP-95 was able to achieve unity and drive the effort in ASW and by the mid to late I 970’s, the US Navy was again at the zenith of the sine wave by clearly achieving undersea dominance against soviet first and second generation nuclear submarines. Our undersea dominance continued with the creation of OP-71 who chaired a cross-functional team known as Team Alfa. They met regularly and addressed various issues across the ASW enterprise. They produced an ASW master plan and ASW top level requirements endorsed by OP-07. Team Alfa gave OP-71 significant influence within the beltway in terms of ASW planning.
However, following the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War, ASW was again viewed as a lower priority, and subsequently OP-71 was disestablished. The post-cold war era saw the US Navy’s undersea dominance plummet back down the sine wave. Questions were asked such as do we need submarines in our Navy and why was ASW important now? OPNA V N84 later was created to address various emerging ASW issues. Unfortunately, the influence of the assigned Navy captain with flag leadership varied and was generally constrained by staff and resources. Basically, this captain, who had to deal with admirals, had no real power or resources. These constraints continued through subsequent organizational transitions and ASW continued to languish and be viewed as a bill payer for other higher priorities. We were again in the trough of the sine wave.
Finally, in 2004, CNO Admiral Vern Clark directed the standup of Task Force ASW and the Fleet ASW command-which subsequently has evolved into the Navy Mine and Anti-submarine Warfare Command-and once again stressed the need for anti-submarine warfare and to start the progression back up the sine wave. The point that I am making from this history lesson is that the Navy’s organizational structure that drives its priorities and decision making can be directly linked to the upward and down-ward trends over the decades of Navy ASW capability. When the organizational structure is such that ASW does not have a strong voice in priorities and investment decisions, that is-no power and resources, Navy’s ASW capability suffers and ends up on the downward slope of the sine wave … and the converse is also true.
I am hopeful that we will start moving up that curve with the recent changes directed by CNO giving NMA WC a much greater role as the center of excellence for ASW similar to NSA WC’s (Naval Strike and Air Warfare Command) role in navy strike warfare. In its relatively short existence, NMA WC has begun to make some impact. They have developed strike group ASW and theater ASW metrics, supported and analyzed a series of major fleet exercises and developed the global ASW CONOP’s as a construct for fighting the ASW battle, just to name a few of their initiatives. The last three CNOs have stated that ASW is one of their top priorities and l have seen an increase in focus on ASW during fleet exercises. This re-emergence of ASW as a priority must continue and, more importantly, gain momentum and move much farther up the slope on the sine curve I have been talking about.
However, as I looked extensively at ASW for the last eighteen months, it’s not all good news. Unfortunately, it was mostly bad. We still have some tremendous challenges ahead of us. These challenges include increasing priorities, improving training, defining the gaps and requirements, and resourcing to mitigate the capability gaps. These challenges exist for the near, mid, and far term. The situation at present is difficult though. During the Cold War era, the enemy submarine threat was very real and at the forefront of every ship and squadron commanding officer’s mind. You potentially faced it every time you got underway. In today’s operational environment, the submarine threat is not there yet. It is coming! It is a future evolving threat that we must be able to overcome when it eventually is there. But, as the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Bob Willard, told me, we need to be practicing ASW even though we don’t have submarines on our sonar screens. That is the lead in to one of the Navy’s biggest challenges as we look ahead, and that is ASW training. I have many concerns of the current state of training.
I spent a lot of my first year closely examining training and as I researched this area, I was surprised at how much it had atrophied over the years. For example, the number of exercise lightweight torpedoes fired for operator training and verification of torpedo reliability has dramatically dropped over the years, from hundreds to tens. The amount of submarine contact time across all communities has also greatly been reduced and the amount of time on deployment practicing ASW has also markedly decreased. Nearly every measure that I looked at showed areas requiring significant emphasis and improvement.
To add to this challenge, today’s Navy is clearly a multi-mission Navy. All Navy commands are experiencing at various levels the impact of multi-mission requirements resulting in insufficient time and resources being applied to ASW training, both pre-deployment and while on deployment. ASW training has clearly taken a backseat since the end of the Cold War and it continues to be a low priority in today’s war on terror, particularly in the surface community. The press of the day to day operational requirements such as visit, board, search and seizure operations, anti-piracy operations, humanitarian operations, and the like have pushed ASW way down on the list of training and proficiency priorities. During deployments, there is a lack of a perceived submarine threat by the fleet, which leads strike group and unit commanders to allocate insufficient time for ASW training.
Navy is pursuing synthetic training solutions to mitigate the impact of reduced at sea ASW training opportunities. These systems show promise to help close this gap but we still have a long way to go to deliver the systems to the fleet and prove their effectiveness, particularly in the surface and air communities. It will be important that a correct balance between synthetic and live training be established. In my view, no amount of synthetic training can substitute for the need to practice ASW at sea against real targets. The trainers will never effectively model the environmental and operational challenges experienced through at sea training. As most of us who have served at sea know well-the ocean can channge dramatically very quickly which is very difficult to replicate in a trainer. However, given the reality of a shortage of submarine targets, both now and in the future, more needs to be done to provide the most current and effective synthetic training that we can.
Finally, the unintended consequence of the years of reduced ASW training is that our lenders and instructors have less and less experience with ASW. In other words, inexperience is breeding inexperience, which is a significant problem. We learned during the Cold War that ASW is an art and takes years of training and practice to develop a cadre of experience. We are rapidly losing that core of expertise to teach the next generation of operators and it will take years to rebuild. Remember, it has now been over eighteen years since the Cold War ended, which is when the US Navy achieved superior ASW proficiency and experience. Those Master Chiefs and LDO’s that had exceptional ASW skills are gone. A particularly compelling example occurred during one of my fleet visits. A recently promoted leading sonar chief in Norfolk told me that he was very concerned. He knew he was responsible for training his sonar gang and teaching and providing them with the skills to do their jobs. He knew he was now expected to be the expert in finding and tracking enemy submarines when, in reality, he had never tracked a threat submarine himself.
The last area that needs attention is identifying the requirements and providing adequate resources to resolve capability gaps. This has been a significant challenge. There is no consensus within Navy whether the program of record is sufficient to reduce ASW risk to acceptable levels, or whether we have sufficient capability to understand our potential adversaries, or what the real urgency is. Due to the existing budget constraints, there is great hesitancy to identify new requirements for fear of putting other programs at risk. Although this is a reality of the fiscal environment, I am concerned that we aren’t fully appreciating the increasing ASW risk.
An example of an area in which we don’t fully understand the requirements and, therefore the gaps, is ASW C3 (command, control, communications). How important is that? Let me illustrate with another short story. There is a story about an incident aboard a train en route from Paris to Barcelona. In a compartment are four people: a beautiful young girl traveling with her elderly grand-mother, and a stately general, who is accompanied by his young, handsome second lieutenant. The foursome is sitting in silence as the train enters a tunnel in the Pyrenees, the mountain range on the border between France and Spain.
It is pitch-dark in the tunnel. Suddenly the sound of a loud kiss is heard. It is followed by a second sound, that of a loud, hard smack. Upon exiting from the tunnel, the four people remain silent, with no one acknowledging the incident.
The young girl thinks to herself, “Boy that was a swell kiss that good looking lieutenant gave me. It’s a shame that my grandmother slapped him, because he must have thought that I slapped him. That’s too bad, because when we get to the next tunnel, he won’t kiss me again.”
The grandmother thinks to herself, “That fresh young man kissed my granddaughter. But fortunately, I brought her up to be a lady, so she slapped him real good. That’s good, because now he’ll stay away from her when we get to the next tunnel.”
The general thinks to himself, “I can’t believe what just happened! I personally handpicked him to be my aide, and I thought he was a gentleman. But in the dark, he took advantage of that young girl and kissed her. But she must have thought it was I who kissed her, since she slapped me instead of him.”
The young lieutenant thinks to himself, “Boy, that was wonderful! How often do you get to kiss a beautiful girl and slug your boss at the same time?”
This story is a simplistic illustration that while people can have the same information available to them, they may arrive at entirely different conclusions … I think you can see the analogy to ASW. Effective C3 is needed to reduce the detect-to-engage time line and it is the glue that ties together all of our hardware and people into a synergistic system. Over the last several years, we have seen exceptionally long detect-to-engage timelines sometimes averaging over an hour in real exercises resulting in unacceptable risk to our high value units. Defining the requirements and devoting the needed resources to resolve this problem is critical to reducing risk to our carriers and other major ships.
Another area that has received a lot of attention and fanfare is distributed netted systems, commonly referred to as DNS. Several years ago, the S&T and R&D communities, in response to Admiral Clark’s ASW vision, embarked on research to identify DNS options to achieve that vision. Many of these projects were science projects but some seem to be promising. The challenge is that the requirements have not been clearly articulated enough to provide the demand signal to complete the development efforts and transition the most promising technologies to acquisition. In my view, DNS is a viable option to mitigate the effects of continued force structure reductions and enable the transition of our ASW CONOPS to a more offensively focused warfighting strategy.
Now with some of the good news; yes – good news! In the past year I have seen progress addressing some of these challenges.
- Significant fiscal resources were reallocated to fund the cruiser and destroyer version of the surface ship torpedo defense system, with future increments for our high value units in the works. This system has the potential to greatly reduce risk to our ships.
- Great strides are being taken to resolve deficiencies with our torpedo programs. During my research, I was as-rounded to learn that we had not fired a lightweight torpedo earshot since 1994. The great news is that we fired a successful service weapons test in August with plans to restore this as an annual requirement.
- There was also a restoration of funding for the MK 46 maintenance program in order to address our lightweight torpedo inventory issue. This program had been cancelled in 2004.
- More exercise torpedoes arc now in the budget-the POM-10 submitter for firing each year by the surface and aviation communities will greatly increase and the submarine community will continue to maintain their standard of approximately eight exercise torpedoes per crew per year.
- Navy is re-examining the LCS ASW mission package to fully define the requirements and identify the right capability solutions to meet fleet needs.
- The surface warfare enterprise has re-instituted the ASW officer training course. The fact that this had been cancelled by the surface community several years ago told me volumes about their priority on ASW.
These are just a few examples of the positive progress that is being made within the ASW community. I hope that my team’s actions the past year helped in achieving some of this progress.
Before I wrap up my remarks I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one significant issue that threatens our ability to exercise and train for ASW; that is the marine mammal litigation issue. It may surprise you but this is the one issue that the Secretary of the Navy spends a significant amount of time on. Why does he do that? Because it is critically important to our Navy to be able to exercise and train like we tight and active sonar is a key clement of our ASW CONOPS to be able to counter the modern quiet diesel.
However, this is a very difficult issue. The Navy is clearly a leader in developing and promoting environmental technology to preserve the maritime environment. We have a track record that we are proud of, and we have a policy of transparency that invites public scrutiny and accountability. Over half the money spent on marine mammal research in the world is from the United States Navy. We agree with the activists that protecting the environment is very important. But serving the public interest encompasses more than serving just one interest, to the exclusion of all others. Our interests in national defense are also important and must be appropriately balanced vs. environmental stewardship. I am very concerned with how this will play out in the courts and hope that a reasonable solution will prevail that will allow sufficient at sea training using active sonar. As you probably know, this issue is now before the United States Supreme Court.
So, why am I telling you all this about ASW? Because I believe you can help!
Since their birth over a century ago, it has been clear that submarines are a potent threat against surface ships. That history has not been lost on our potential adversaries. Submarines and associated advanced sensors and weapons continue to proliferate greatly threatening our navy’s ability to project power to defend our nation’s vital interests. It should also be clear that anti-submarine warfare is a unique Navy core competency. No other service is going to do it! ASW is time consuming, challenging, and requires continuous leadership emphasis. As a submariner, we used to say ASW stands for awfully slow warfare, since it requires long periods of tracking, analyzing and much patience.
Fortunately, I do believe there is a re-emergence of ASW as one of our top Navy priorities. Navy leadership is focusing again on ASW to get it back on the upward slope on the sine curve. Increasing the priorities, providing resources, and taking steps to clearly define requirements arc among the actions that I sec the leadership is taking. To deal with the challenges facing us, we don’t need drastic measures or crash programs ….they never work anyway. What needs to happen is for Navy leadership to apply a steady pressure to keep the positive momentum going. We aren’t there yet, but I am optimistic that we are on the right track.
How can you contribute? We need officers, sailors, and civilians that understand this complex but critically important warfare area. We have few left with this expertise and their numbers are dwindling. You can contribute to the re-emergence through your research and studies here at Monterey and later in the fleet. The technical complexities of advanced ASW technologies offer a fertile ground for examination and research projects. You can also participate in curricula that arc relevant to ASW. In the end, this school can contribute to the future of ASW as a US Navy priority. As I look ahead to my future job here as the undersea warfare chair, I am very excited and look forward to working with you on a wide range of efforts.
In closing, I will leave you with one of those famous Augustine’s Laws. For those of you that don’t know Norm Augustine-he was the president and chief operating officer of Martin Marietta and wrote a book titled Augustine’s Laws which outlined the pitfalls facing today’s business managers. I believe that one of his laws is extremely relevant as we move forward in ASW:
“The more time you spend talking about what you have been doing, the less time you have to do what you have been talking about. Eventually, you spend more and more time talking about less and less … until finally, you spend all your time talking about nothing.”
So with that in mind, I think it’s about time for me to get back to work so that I have something to talk about later. Again, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. It was an honor and a pleasure.