Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


Thank you for that kind introduction. I am very grateful for the opportunity to present the Integrated Undersea Strategy in this forum. Our strategy represents the culmination of focused effort over the past year by senior Submarine Force leadership and will be used as the blueprint to guide key decisions affecting future undersea warfighting capability. It is no coincidence that we chose this meeting with our vital industry partners to first unveil this strategy outside Navy lifelines.

VADM Richardson outlined his overall Submarine Force campaign Design expounding upon Lines of Effort I and 2. The portion of the Undersea Strategy that I will talk about is well aligned with the overall campaign and nested within Line of Effort 3 as depicted on this slide.

My task today is to show how we are going to equip our forces with the right platforms with the right capabilities, and with the right payloads needed for operations and warfighting tomorrow.

The challenge we face is how best to address essential under-sea warfighting issues of a very complex world in the face of extremely tight fiscal realities. To do that we need a coherent plan-a long-term investment plan that addresses the full spectrum of undersea capability-platforms, payloads, payload volume, operations-and makes integrated decisions about them in a way that helps us thin out options, focus resources and time, and still end up with the needed capabilities at the end of the day.

That is what the Integrated Undersea Strategy provides. It is as much about where to make cuts as it is about where to add funding. It is about making these many decisions in a coordinated, coherent way so that gaps are not created and so that overlaps and hedging are reduced to the bare minimum. And … it will allow us to be the ones that have a plan that works in a time when we have resource constraints.

Many of the issues faced by the Submarine Force can be seen on this single slide (Figure 1 ). I’ll use it repeatedly in this discussion, so it is worth taking a minute to get oriented. Fiscal years are across the top. The FY12 FYDP is represented by the pink vertical band on the left. Procurement plan is at the top, SSN force structure levels are next down, followed by SSBNs with SSGNs at the bottom. The VIRGINIA five-year blocks are separated to make it clear what we are looking at. So, what are the big issues we need to focus on?

First, you’ll notice this large dip in SSN force structure. The force peaks at about 55 in 2012 and then goes on an uninterrupted 18-year slide of 30 percent, ending up at about 39 in 2030. This is our program of record. You will notice that we cross through our minimum redline of 48 SSNs in 2024.

This trough is a big problem. We can’t even come close to covering our global COCOM requirements today. How are we going to do it with 30 percent fewer submarines? So that is our first issue that must be addressed. But we can’t solve this one without understanding all of the issues we have at once. We have to come up with integrated solutions, not point solutions. We need answers that fix more than one problem.

While we are on SSNs, you’ll notice another complication that must be addressed is the timing of the transition to the next generation SSN. The current program of record inappropriately assumes we would do that at the end of Block 5 in 2025, right in the middle of OHIO Replacement procurement. Such a transition would not be orderly, and does not reflect a sound strategic plan. Developing a new SSN in that timeframe is something we should not do. VADM Stanley’s comments were particularly perceptive in this area.

If we look at SSBNs we see that we face another, different kind of challenge. It’s not as dramatic when compared to the SSN shortfall, but it presents its own daunting challenges. We have to build a new SSBN under tremendous cost pressure, and it must be so reliable and easy to maintain that a force of 12 will cover the same presence requirements as is covered by the current force of 14 OHIOs. There is no schedule margin in the delivery of this SSBN, and that means that the R&D line and the procurement burden must be closely guarded as our foremost priority. We cannot afford to assume risk while maintaining our most survivable nuclear deterrent.

Now down a layer to the SSGNs. Here is another challenging problem. We have four double-crewed SSGNs with a unique forward-based crew change-out CONOPS that allows us to get on average about 2.5 submarines of forward presence from these four ships. Each ship carries in excess of 100 Tomahawk missiles and is capable of carrying up to 154. These platforms have tremendous capacity to support Special Operations teams with covert insertion and extraction capability that is unique. And all four of these ships are going to decommission by 2028.

The point they decommission unfortunately coincides with the low point of the SSN trough I mentioned above. As a result, our Navy’s undersea strike capacity will decrease by a staggering 60 percent, impacting not only strike volume but other critical large diameter payload volume needed for UUVs, Distributed Systems, and SOF.

Consider the gap that results from SSGN. To replace the 2.5 submarine forward presence provided by our SSGNs would require an additional 13 SSNs. That is simply not going to work. To replace the 600 plus TLAM strike capacity of these four platforms would require adding a staggering 50 SSNs to our force structure. That’s obviously not viable. No number of SSNs can recreate the value of consolidated command and control of SOF teams consisting of scores of SEALs. So, we can see that this one is a hard problem.

And we should keep in mind that there are other payloads that we will need to carry in the future that cannot be accommodated by the payload volume in the existing program of record. Our plan and payload volume creatively as part of the solution to reduced force structure.

Before we leave force structure, there is one more idea we should step back and notice. Large force structure fluctuations can be destabilizing because they provide windows of opportunity for our adversaries. They also complicate planning for our shipbuilders here. So, part of our integrated strategy is to work to create greater force structure stability in a highly affordable manner.

Integrated Undersea Strategy -Principle

  • Lower cost Is good but cost efficiency Is better
  • Incremental evolutionary changes In existing systems are preferred over new systems
  • Simplifying or streamlining logistics and maintenance Is good (e.g., common systems)
  • Must be confident that we can execute what we are planning to do (e.g. lower cost VIRGINIA).

So, based on all of these different pressures, we have put together an undersea strategy to guide our investment decisions. In making our choices, we were governed by a few basic principles:

Number One: Lower cost is good but improved cost efficiency is even better. We will not be afraid to ask for increased investment in areas where we think it is really needed.

Number Two: Making incremental, evolutionary changes in existing systems as a means to enhance capabilities is much preferred over making new program starts.

Number Three: Anything that can be done to simplify and stabilize logistics and maintenance is good (for example, common systems with other platforms).

Number Four: The plan must be executable with a high degree of confidence

With these pressures in mind, here is what we are going to do:

First of all, we must get OHIO Replacement done right, so our top priority is to fully support fielding this national security imperative without disruption or delay. The OHIO Replacement is the highest priority and all other facets of the integrated Undersea Strategy must be subordinate to it. We cannot afford to disrupt this program because the stakes for the Nation are simply too high. The current schedule is a good one, and we want to make sure that the OHIO Replacement SSBNs enter service on time, with the right performance, and on budget. We have saved cost by limiting requirements and by building the ship around the highly successful 05 LE missile. Terry Benedict will talk more about that.

Next up is SSN force structure. As I stated in my introduction, SSN force levels are forecast to drop by a substantial 30 percent. This decline disproportionately undermines U.S. deterrence and warfighting.

But what action within reasonable fiscal constraints can be taken to alleviate the trough?

Step number two of our strategy adds two highly-leveraged, cost efficient SSNs to the shipbuilding plan.

These two SSNs are the most highly leveraged force-structure investments we can make. They are also highly cost efficient because each of them represent the final hull in a multiyear procurement-the most affordable ships in the Block. With just these two ships, the gap is reduced by almost half. These SSNs are perfectly timed to paint additional SSN force structure across the bottom of the trough with maximum efficiency. Is this step realistic? So far, we have gotten very good feedback from Navy leadership on this, but there is far to go.

Step number three: “Delay the Virginia Follow-on SSN” until after the completion of the OHIO Replacement SSBN build. Extending the period of time that the Submarine Force takes advantage of block-by-block evolutionary enhancements to the existing VIRGINIA will improve cost effectiveness and force structure affordability. This will also move the R&D investment to the right so it does not compete with OHIO Replacement and will provide an opportunity to incorporate OHIO Replacement lessons into the Follow-on VIRGINIA SSN. Finally, this shift will enable us to climb out of the SSN trough using an existing and highly successful design. The VIRGINIA and its variants will be the longest built family of designs, but the inclusion of incremental design changes with each block will ensure that the platforms remain militarily effective.

Step number four: Add a VIRGINIA Payload Module to 20 already planned VIRGINIA SSNs. This will enable them to carry a significantly increased volume of strike missiles or other payloads. Adding four large payload tubes centerline to VIR-GINIA-class SSNs would increase their strike volume from 12 to 40 missiles while protecting the full payload volume for sea-control missions.

This design option has been technically studied and is feasible. Consistent with our principles, it would use tubes like the large 87-inch bow tubes on Block III and later VIRGINIAs, making payloads that could be used in SSGN tubes and existing VIRGINIA bow tubes able to be used in these tubes. In addition, the hardware and support equipment would match other large tube applications to a significant degree. These tubes would have the advantage of manned access, similar to SSBN tubes today. A variety of payloads could conceivably be used including those that required manned access for service, replenishment or even entry into a vehicle.

Now back to undersea strike shortfall: can a block of stretch VIRGINIAs even begin to mitigate this shortfall? What if we were to stretch all I 0 ships of Block 5?

The gap in undersea strike volume would be reduced by almost half and notice that the timing of the new payload volume is right when you need it-but there is still a gap. What if we continued to stretch VIRGINIA SSNs within the new 5-ship Blocks 6 and 7?

Well, the undersea strike gap would be reduced by an additional quarter while enhancing options for other payloads beyond strike.

We are using a rough number of between $400 and $500M per stretch, and without question we need to drive this cost down. This may seem like a lot of money-until you consider that you can stretch ten VIRGINIAs for the cost of one new SSGN.

This approach does not fix the entire SSGN undersea strike volume gap just as the added SSNs do not fix the entire SSN gap.

Stretching VIRGINIA-class SSNs only provides a partial solution to the strike volume shortfall. These force-structure and payload volume steps are a 11ecessa1J1 part of the solution, but by themselves they are not sufficient.

This is why the Undersea Strategy needs to include a payload strategy that evolves existing payloads to service future military applications. Let me describe one recent example: Based upon a COCOM Urgent Operational Needs Statement to address an emerging target set, CNO cast the net out among resource sponsors to attain a quick solution. Most approaches brought to the table would take years to tens-of-years and had a substantial price tag. V ADM Richardson mentioned the proposal that was presented to the CNO as an all out effort that would be completed in 25 years. Sensing opportunity, we challenged the folks at NUWC to modify ADCAP software to address this need. They developed a software change, tested it in the lab, incorporated it into a spiral update to the weapon, and conducted in-water firings-all within the space of 6 months. And we achieved this without asking for any money, we just shifted other development priorities and raised this one to the top of the deck. This type of responsiveness gives us great credibility with the fleet and within the Pentagon. As we look to the future, we plan to extend this torpedo open architecture beyond software improvements only and I’ll discuss that in a minute. I didn’t make this happen. I put the marker down, but Dave Johnson at PEO SUBs and Don McCormack at NUWC made it happen.

We need to make investments to improve our off-board capa-bilities as a way to further compensate for force structure shortfalls. Each submarine will need to be able to hold a broader set of targets at risk and do so over a broader geographic area. Incremental, evolutionary changes in existing systems will be key to producing revolutionary affects, especially when you consider that in many future scenarios we will be the only friendly forces with early access.

The future development of all payloads must follow four guiding principles in order to be credible.

First, any development in payload must serve an important military need that cannot otherwise be supported. For example, the ability to knock down the door and hold enemy forces at risk while penetrating Anti-Access defenses is a mission that the Joint Force needs in order to succeed and which is best met through undersea forces. Future submarine payloads must be capable of fully leveraging our uncontested access to enable the flow of joint forces capable of larger capacity strike and broader exploitation of sea control. We envision conducting anti-surface warfare from long range, executing time-critical strike against defended targets, and employing UUVs capable of reaching shallow water anchorages and ports. The Submarine Force is by no means unique in its ability to deploy UUVs and long-range weapons. It is, however, unique in its ability to do these things from within an adversary’s defensive perimeter. We are the key that opens the door for the Joint Force.

Second, the evolution in payload must be technically and fiscally credible. The fielding of new payload technology must be an engineering problem, not a science problem. As much as possible, the proposed approach should leverage existing, proven systems. Technology that has already been developed by industry and the Navy can be spun-off to more effectively use our available payload volume.

The MK 48 ADCAP’s ability to be modified to meet new challenges provides an example of where incremental, evolutionary changes can increase our effective reach and engage more targets while leveraging a proven vehicle, launcher and interface. We are in the early stages of applying demonstrated UUV capabilities to the ADCAP, at a fraction of the cost of starting a new kinetic UUV weapons program from scratch.

The final principle that should guide our payload development strategy is operational practicality. The system must perform reliably in a military environment, be operated by Sailors and have minimal impact on other capabilities. An SSN that can deploy multiple payloads using existing system such as the TDU, torpedo tubes, dry-deck shelters, large diameter vertical tubes, and countermeasure launchers is not only practical, but provides operational ambiguity that is difficult to counter. Imagine having to defend against every possible SSN capability because you cannot determine through imagery or observation its payload mix or mission.

Our payload strategy must leverage existing payloads, optimize both horizontal as well as vertical payload volume and minimize reliance on complex handling systems. Only then will our forces most effectively complicate adversary planning.

Here you see a menu of sorts, which shows on the left the missions that V ADM Richardson currently delivers to the Joint Force. In the center column, you see the payloads that help deliver the capability for those missions. In the right hand column we identify payloads needed for the future. There is much work to be done to develop these future payloads and we look forward to working with you to fulfill it.

So now with the foundation of the Integrated Undersea Strategy set, I want you to consider for a moment what our force will be like in 2030. First, we will have two additional highly leveraged SSNs to mitigate the deepest part of our trough. About one-third of our force will be Stretch VIRGINIAs and they will be equipped with these highly evolved, extended-reach, multi-purpose payloads. We can no longer restrict our thinking to today’s torpedoes and Tomahawks launched from the baseline VIRGINIA. Future military capability must be viewed in the context of the Block 5 Stretch VIRGINIA with the enhanced payload module.

So we have begun the task of putting the challenge out to industry and the labs to help us realize this vision. We will build upon concept work this year and expand upon projects that show potential.

As I conclude, I want to re-emphasize that our Strategy is predicated upon cost reduction and leaner business practices. One purpose of the strategy is to help us thin out our programs. As the country works through one of the most fiscally stressing periods in over a generation, it is our duty to tighten our fiscal belts in proportion-anything less would unduly detract from our higher national security objectives-that of reducing our deficit. I need you to rise to this challenge with your innovations and adapted business practices.

What I ask you to take away from today’s discussion are four key elements shown here.

  • Keep OHIO Replacement on track.
  • Reach and maintain delivery of two VA-Class SSNs per year for as long as possible. Specifically, add two additional highly leveraged, cost-effective SSNs.
  • Begin planning to conduct detailed design of the VIRGINIA Payload Module to incorporate into Block 5.
  • And open the aperture on evolutionary payload enhancements.

It’s an exciting time to be in the Submarine Warfare business. I look forward to your comments and suggestions and would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Thank you.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League