Deputy Commander, U.S. SIXTH Fleet;
Director of Operations, Intelligence (NJ),
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa;
Commander, Submarine Group EIGHT;
Commander Submarines, Allied Naval Forces South
Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Last month, in Naples, Italy, where I’m located for my job as Submarine Group EIGHT and Commander Submarines, Allied Naval Forces South, we held a change of command ceremony for Admiral Sam Locklear, the outgoing Commander of Joint Forces Command Naples, and the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. Several speakers lauded Admiral Locklear for his leadership and vision throughout his tour, but some of the highest praise came from Admiral Jim Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Commander of U.S. European Command, who called to mind Admiral Locklear’s leadership in a time of crisis:
“Libya… was the ultimate unexpected event – we pivoted from a coalition of the willing… to an Alliance operation… and led 13 NATO and Arab nations, and European partners. And the effect that I would draw to mind is that this operation saved tens of thousands of lives.”
Back in October of 2011, as Major Combat Operations in Libya were ending, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was joined by Admiral Stavridis, when he visited Naples. Even at the eleventh hour of the campaign, some of the worst fighting continued in Misrata.
Admiral Stavridis remarked and I paraphrase: Someday, someone will write the story of Misrata in the context of a modern day Stalingrad.
He was referring, of course, to the largest battle on the Eastern Front during World War Two, which is remembered for brutality and high numbers of civilian casualties. So history will tell this story and others related to the Libya campaign.
Now this campaign in Libya kicked off one year ago this month. On Monday, I received an unclassified message from General Carter Ham, U.S. Army, Commander USAFRICOM. He wrote to each of his warfare commanders and asked that we reflect back on the date of 19 March 2011 with great pride. He said:
“Thankfully, we’ll never really know what would have happened if you didn’t plan, coordinate, and conduct an amazingly swift and effective campaign to stop the Ghaddafi regime’s forces from attacking the people of Benghazi. But there’s on doubt whatsoever in my mind that there are countless Libyan men. women, and children who are alive today because of you.
There are lots of things that I am proud of that have occurred over the 37 years of my service. None make me prouder than to have been associated with you and the great women and men of ODYSSEY DAWN.”
Countless Libyan lives saved and a nation given its natural right to self determination…
Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to tell you the critical role that submarines and submariners played in this successful operation.
Our-well earned moniker of being the Silent Service has less to do with our stealth, and more to about our reticence to brag about our people and our magnificent submarines.
So .. .inviting a Submariner to tell sea stories in a public forum is normally pretty boring… but as I mentioned, today is an exception… given the nature and transparency of the Libya operation, there is enough unclassified information available to highlight the outstanding work of the Submarines and Submariners in the Mediterranean theater.
In the United States Navy, we have enjoyed 112 years of successful submarining.
Our legacy can be traced back to 1899 when USS HOLLAND, the first commissioned submarine in the U.S. Navy, set sail from New Suffolk, New York. Six other Holland Torpedo Boat Company submarines were based in New Suffolk between 1899 and 1905 prompting the hamlet to claim to be the First Submarine Base in the United States.
USS HOLLAND was just a beginning and a far cry from the incredible nuclear powered submarines that we sail today.
It was their stealth, precision firepower, incredible payload, exquisite sensor packages, and long dwell time that enabled a successful jump-start in the Libya campaign.
So let the story begin…
It was just over a year ago – March 17 to be precise – that the International Community’s patience with Moammar Ghaddafi had run out.
The United Nations had given the Libyan regime two weeks to comply with Security Council Resolution # 1970, which essentially called for compliance with existing international humanitarian law.
As we know, Ghaddafi was less than compliant and the United Nations Security Council imposed a ban on all flights in Libya’s airspace- a No-Fly Zone- and tightened sanctions on the Ghaddafi regime and its supporters .. . Innocent civilians were being murdered.
By passing Resolution 1973, the Council authorized member nations to take all necessary measures to protect those civilians under threat of attack in the country.
And so, the UN’s policy had grown teeth in just two weeks… but how did we get there?
This story is bigger than Libya… It is the story of the Arab Spring. The tipping point was three months earlier in Tunisia, and involved a 26-year-old destitute fruit and vegetable merchant named Mohamed Bouazizi.
In hindsight, the A1 Jazeera English news organization reports that Bouazizi had been regularly abused by the police in his hometown his whole life. They had confiscated his produce and fined him for not having a permit- leaving him no way to support himself.
On December 17, the abuse had finally become too much. Left with what he thought was nothing to lose, he doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire to bring attention to the corruption.
He did something much greater, by putting in motion a series of events that history will remember as The Arab Spring.
This singular event mobilized the masses in Tunisia and then energized popular movements throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. One by one, regimes changed… Tunisia… Egypt…and then… surprisingly to a revolution in an autocratic Libya.
As Libya rapidly descended into chaos, Ghaddafi’s forces turned to extreme violence, killing large numbers of civilians in an attempt to quash a revolution. Arab and European leaders were horrified by the prospect of massive bloodshed and the failure of diplomatic overtures to constrain the Ghaddafi regime.
In response, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution #1973 and President Barack Obama offered “U.S. unique capabilities” to support the United Nations Security Council mandated efforts to both protect the Libyan people and to impose an arms blockade on Libyan forces.
General Carter Ham, the Commander of U.S. Africa Command, was assigned the civilian protect mission, and he, in turn, designated Admiral Sam Locklear to be the Joint Task Force Commander for Operation ODYSSEY DAWN.
It is safe to say that the rapidity with which The Arab Spring manifested itself in North Africa caught many in the West by surprise.
Many pundits have capitalized on our sense of surprise at the onset of the Arab Spring, but my story today does not articulate shortfalls in intelligence, but rather recognizes our strengths and credits the agility of our forces afloat.
We know that the World is filled with uncertainty- and we strive to be ready for every contingency. Even after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the European theater of operations has maintained a steady operational drumbeat.
With competing requirements in the Arabian Gulf and Pacific Theaters of operation, many naval assets in the European theater are on a transit or rotational-based presence.
When Admiral Locklear reviewed the assets available to him for the Libya mission, besides his command ship, USS MOUNT WHITNEY, additional naval forces in theater were dispersed with other tasking. Out went a call for fire…
That’s where the Submarine Force comes in… As these events were unfolding, Captain Tom Calabrese and his GOLD crew had just taken charge of the guided-missile submarine USS FLORIDA. At this point, FLORIDA, homported in Kings Bay, Georgia, had already been deployed for over a year.
The SSGNs came to fruition when four extremely capable ballistic missile platforms were retired from strategic service as a result of arms control treaties with the former Soviet Union.
Rather than scrap them, we were able to adapt the OHIO-class submarines and 22 of 24 missile tubes into vertical launching systems with multiple all-up-round canisters. FLORIDA, like three other SSGNs, has the capability to launch up to 154 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles and still has two tubes modified to support special operation forces. Talk about a force multiplier!
For context, an SSGN with a full load-out has about the same strike capacity as an entire carrier battle group-and that is pretty awesome!
But, it doesn’t stop there. To complement her firepower, FLORIDA has a robust onboard command and control suite, which allows for unique multi-mission options. All of these features would come into play as the situation rapidly deteriorated.
Now, I want to be clear that every submarine is really a multi mission platform. Any fast-attack or guided-missile submarine brings the unique capabilities of covert surveillance and intelligence collection, covert special operations, covert precision strike, covert mining and countermining, and covert antisubmarine operations to the fight.
Often times we prepare for all of these missions but may not know which one or ones we’ll be called to execute on a given deployment.
FLORIDA ‘s strike capability is impressive, but it is certainly not a new concept. In fact, as I was preparing for this presentation, I came across an article Rear Admiral Dietrich Kuhlmann wrote when he was on the staff of Commander, Submarine Forces back in 2000 titled Submarine Strike Comes of Age.
It was really quite visionary considering it was written in the relative peace prior to the attacks on 9/11. Covering submarine strike warfare spanning from Operation DESERT STORM in 1991 to Operations DESERT FOX and NOBLE ANVIL in 1999, he thought we had reached the height of strike capability.
For example, Operation DESERT STORM was the first employment of the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile. The Tomahawk is a subsonic, all-weather, land attack cruise missile with a range of about 600 nautical miles- a real workhorse.
In DESERT STORM, two fast-attack submarines, USS LOUISVILLE and USS PITTSBURGH, launched a total of 12 missiles, this came out to four percent of the total strike missions. Remember that number please!
Command and control, communications, and water space management made employment of submarines in this new role very challenging. However, thanks to guys like Jim Patton, we made great strides through the ’90’s.
By 1998, we reached a new level of performance. USS MIAMI demonstrated that submarines were capable of not just striking from anywhere, but also seemingly from everywhere.
She became the first ship of any class to launch missiles in two theaters in one deployment. MIAMI launched most of her inventory in the Arabian Gulf during DESERT FOX, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq.
After a brief in-theater reload, MIAMI headed for the Adriatic to support the 1999 NATO bombing campaign of the Kosovo War known as Operation NOBLE ANVIL. Now during NOBLE ANVIL, 25 percent of all the Tomahawks were launched from both U.S. and Allied submarines.
From 4 percent to 25 percent in less than a decade is an impressive trend- but you’ll see, we continued to improve- making submarines one of the nation’s most responsive and reliable land attack assets. And, I do have something to add to Admiral Kuhlmann’s timeline.
He began his trend analysis in 1991, but if you look a bit further back in the U.S. Navy’s history, you’ll find that submarine Sailors actually began launching guided missiles during World War Two.
In fact, the first submariner to launch missiles from a submarine in combat was the noted tactical pioneer and American hero Rear Admiral Eugene Fluckey.
Then-Commander Fluckey was frustrated with the limitations and design flaws of torpedoes that plagued the Submarine Force in those early days of the Second World War. So… necessity being the mother of tactical invention.. . Fluckey mounted a rocket launcher on his submarine, USS BARB.
After sneaking in to the harbor of Shari, Japan, on June 22, 1945, Fluckey launched 12 of what he called ballistic missiles into a Japanese mining and lumber town, setting it ablaze, earning a place in submarine history, and creating a new role for the submarine.
Strike warfare has long held a place in the multi-mission capabilities of the submarine, but it wasn’t the first thing on the minds of the FLORIDA crew.
Again, while the Arab Spring was unfolding, FLORIDA was busy preparing for her voyage home and a welcomed maintenance period after 13 months at sea.
The crew was scheduled to conduct several high-visibility Theater Security Cooperation events in the Mediterranean, to include a V.I.P. cruise out of Naples, Italy, and a final port visit in Gibraltar, Spain, before returning to the United States.
But, fate had something else in store for FLORIDA.
While in The SIXTH Fleet area of responsibility, FLORIDA ‘s presence was a windfall to our strike planners, and this is exactly what she was made for! To the planners, furiously responding to the developments on the ground in Libya, the SSGN provided the most capable platform with which to establish the conditions necessary to enforce the No-Fly Zone.
With a strike mission as prime tasking, her Theater Security Cooperation missions were deferred and FLORIDA was directed to the newly-established Joint Operating Area or “JOA” for the foreseeable future. And she would not be alone…
Far to the north, USS SCRANTON, a Los-Angeles class fast attack submarine was conducting a port visit here in the UK in Portsmouth.
With five months left in a six-month deployment, the submarine and her crew were at peak efficiency. I personally called Commander Paul Whitescarver and told him there’d been a change of plans. I directed SCRANTON to make a left turn when leaving Portsmouth and to make best speed for the Straits of Gibraltar and join the FLORIDA in the Joint Operating Area.
USS PROVIDENCE was transiting home following a deployment to U.S. FIFTH Fleet, and she too had a change of plans.
We rerouted her to the Joint Operating Area as well, giving us a third strike platform.
We continued to prepare for the worst case scenario, while hoping for the best. The conditions in Libya continued to worsen, but there was always hope for a political solution.
Meanwhile, submarines, with their inherent stealth, were the platform of choice to operate off-shore. From their vantage point, they were able to collect the information necessary to assess the rapidly changing conditions on the ground, evaluate the maritime environment and assist the planners as they developed courses of action for the Joint Task Force Commander.
Invisible to those on shore, our submarines operated freely… they were on scene, but unseen. They required no force protection; the regime’s anti-ship missile systems posed no threat to our stealth platforms.
Additionally, with the enhanced communications capabilities, our submarines had nearly unlimited access to all of the fleet’s resources and the Commanding Officers had consistent access to the Commander’s Decision Cycle- a rather new and unique capability for a vessel typically considered encumbered in the silent service.
As violence against civilians continued and regime armored elements converged upon the besieged city of Benghazi, the international community decided to act to prevent an impending genocide.
Admiral Locklear directed operations to enforce the Security Council resolutions, the first of which was to establish a No-Fly Zone.
Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates laid out the ramifications of doing so, in no uncertain terms during his testimony to Congress in early March: “Let’s just call a spade a spade,” he said. “A No-Fly Zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses.”
Innocent civilians were dying… time was of the essence.
Major combat operations commenced on the evening of March 19, with USS PROVIDENCE, USS SCRANTON, HMS TRIUMPH, and the surface ships USS BARRY and USS STOUT, joining USS FLORIDA in the combined strike against Ghaddafi’s air defense network. Over 120 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles were launched that first night.
By daybreak, the coalition succeeded in defeating Ghaddafi’s Integrated Air Defense Systems, setting the conditions for uncontested dominance of the skies over Libya – the No-Fly Zone was established.
By the termination of combat operations, FLORIDA had launched over 90 Tomahawks in the impressive first-ever employment of the SSGN in its strike role. Overall, submarines launched over 50 percent of the Tomahawks fired in support of the precision strike mission. So in only two decades, we move from 4 to 25 to 50 percent of strike ops ashore.
And remember, strike was not the primary mission assigned to any of these submarines when they deployed, but their agility their expert preparation and their flawless execution- were crucial to achieving the Joint Task Force Commander’s mission.
Tasking complete, FLORIDA and her crew returned home to Kings Bay, Georgia, safely concluding the submarine’s 14.5- month overseas deployment.
It was truly a testament to the work of the whole FLORIDA team- both crews, as well as the maintenance and oversight teams, that the she was able to flawlessly execute the mission after more than a year away from home port. It is also a testament to the unique capability the SSGN brings to the combatant commander, a capability clearly required in a world where you can’t always predict the location and nature of the next conflict.
Operation ODYSSEY DAWN showcased the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike capabilities of our submarines, particularly the SSGN. But the submarine contribution didn’t end there.
As we transitioned to NATO’s Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, we were joined in the Joint Operating Area by submarines of many of the nations who make up the NA TO command, Allied Submarines South- all supporting both the No Fly Zone and embargo missions.
Their teamwork enabled an average of 3.4 of these submarines on station throughout UNIFIED PROTECTOR, and over 25 submarine-months of surveillance provided.
This is impressive not just from the perspective of the submarines, but also the coordination and efforts by the watch standers at the U.S. SIXTH Fleet and Maritime Command Naples’ Maritime Operation Centers who handled the challenging task of water space management.
Strike was certainly the most visible contribution by our submarines, but there were some other remarkable capabilities demonstrated by submarines in the Joint Operating Area- while I can’t go into the operational details of the missions, I can tell you that it was a submarine, in an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance role, that provided the initial reports that Gaddafi’s military was attempting to lay mines in the maritime approaches to Misrata.
Without that submarine’s cueing, the first indication of the mining effort might have been the loss of one of the international relief vessels attempting to access the beleaguered city.
Submarines also provided the cueing that enabled our aviation partners to conduct the first-ever engagement of a hostile surface vessel with a P-3 launched Maverick missile.
Operation ODYSSEY DAWN left us with lessons learned at many levels and the inevitable question is: “Where do we go from here?”
Instability and uncertainty are likely the new normal, leaving us with not-so-clear mission to be ready for everything. We do know that we must be on station and ready when the crisis breaks.
We must continue to provide the full range of options from covert operations in peacetime to decisive firepower in wartime, all from under the sea.
Recently, Vice Admiral John Richardson, Commander of the U.S. Submarine Force unveiled the Design for Undersea Warfare- the strategy of how we intend to maintain our posture in the undersea domain- a charted course to follow into the future. Admiral Richardson draws three lines-of-effort: maintain ready forces… effectively employ our forces… and most relevant to this part of the presentation, develop future force capabilities.
In the coming years, I expect to see unmanned systems play a growing role in the undersea environment. The U.S. Navy has already incorporated the Fire Scout and Scan Eagle unmanned aerial systems. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs can provide the submarine with an external reconnaissance system that greatly improves its strike, Special Forces, and surveillance and intelligence missions.
Unmanned Undersea Vehicles or UUVs will harness new and emerging technology to build upon our existing undersea strengths of stealth, agility, endurance and global reach.
This technology already exists-our task is to incorporate Command and Control for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and organic Unmanned Undersea Vehicles into our submarines.
In February, NATO hosted Exercise Proud Manta, their largest Anti-Submarine Warfare live exercise, in the Mediterranean, and I saw first-hand the NATO Undersea Research Center’s (NURC) gliders and Autonomous Unmanned Undersea Vehicles – and the advancements being made to incorporate this new and impressive technology into today’s maritime operations. You’ll have to hear more about this from NURC Director, Dr. John Potter.
As far as baseline platforms are concerned, ten years ago, the Submarine Force had the foresight to develop and employ the highly capable SSGN. And now we can clearly see its value.
Unfortunately, the lifespan of the SSGN platform is limited and we’re left to decide how to fill the void as the four guided missile submarines retire in the next fifteen years. One potential solution being considered right now is a modification of VIRGINIA-class submarines.
By installing the proposed VIRGINIA Payload Module, these later submarines could have flexible compartments configurable for strike systems- and while no single submarine would have the weapons density afforded by the SSGN, the number of platforms proposed could make up for that capability and gap .
I’ve spoken at length about our Sailors and their submarines, but I have not spent as much time as I would have liked on the importance of the European Region.
And as for what the future holds, this theater is as important as ever.
Admiral Jonathan Greenert, our new Chief of Naval Operations… and a fellow submariner… recently visited our headquarters in Naples and reaffirmed the Navy’s commitment in the European region. He highlighted that soon Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers that will be forward deployed to Rota, Spain, beginning in 2014, and said the growing numbers of ships operating forward in the Mediterranean is an indication of Europe’s continued significance.
Admiral Greenert assured our Sailors that the U.S. is committed to NATO and its operations and the European region is as important as it always has been to our future maritime strategy.
CONCLUSION: I am tremendously proud of the Submarine Force, with its enduring attributes of technical and military expertise… skill at employing stealth… self-sufficiency… initiative… a penchant for tactical innovation … and aggressive Warfighting tenacity.
Since Fluckey launched rockets from the deck of USS BARB and to the present day, the Submarine Force has shown the ability to preserve our collective national security interests, but more importantly, provide our leadership with options.
During Operation ODYSSEY DAWN, and continuing through Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, submarines demonstrated their multi-mission capability, they launched precision strikes, and that is impressive, but it doesn’t show the big picture… our submarines were part of an Alliance that saved lives… thousands of lives.
Much about the future is uncertain… However, I would wager that it will hold exciting new advancements, and just as certain it will hold new threats to peace.
Whether it is the deep and cold waters of the North Atlantic, the warm waters of the Mediterranean or the shallow, congested Arabian Gulf; whether it is peacetime or wartime; rest assured that an Allied submarine is there… ready to respond.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to taking some questions.