TACOMA – A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that claimed the Navy didn’t properly inform the public about the dangers of a second explosives wharf being built at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. “The Navy met the requirements of NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) and its implementing regulations,” U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton concluded. Read More…
The Seattle-based Polar Star, the Coast Guard’s only active heavy polar icebreaker, is on its way to the Antarctic to assist a Russian ship and a Chinese icebreaker reportedly stuck in thick ice.
The Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, which helped with the rescue of 52 passengers from the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy earlier in the week, is now feared to be blocked by ice as well, according to news reports.
The Polar Star, which recently completed a three-year, $90 million overhaul, is responding to a request from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the rescue-operations coordinator, the Coast Guard said today. The ship, 399 feet in length and able to continuously break 6 feet of ice at 3 knots, is specifically designed for open-water icebreaking, with a reinforced hull and special ice-breaking bow.
“Our highest priority is safety of life at sea, which is why we are assisting in breaking a navigational path for both of these vessels,” said Vice Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, Coast Guard Pacific area commander, in a statement. “We are always ready and duty bound to render assistance in one of the most remote and harsh environments on the face of the globe.”
The Polar Star left Seattle in early December on a mission to break a channel through the sea ice of McMurdo Sound to resupply and refuel the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station on Ross Island. The trip is the Polar Star’s first since 2006 for one of its primary missions, called “Operation Deep Freeze.”
Late Thursday, a helicopter from the Xue Long (Snow Dragon) flew 52 scientists and tourists aboard the Russian ship to a nearby Australian icebreaker, the Aurora Australis. A Chinese reporter aboard the Xue Long said late Saturday that an iceberg had appeared overnight and blocked the ship’s return route, but that the ship would again try to find a way out as early as Monday, according to The Associated Press.
The reporter, Zhang Jiansong, said the 101 crew members on board were safe and had plenty of supplies.
WASHINGTON — For the first time in nearly three years, the US Defense Department has some near-term budget certainty, but 2014 and beyond is still murky.
Thanks to a compromise budget passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in late December, the Pentagon has about $30 billion more spread across 2014 and 2015 than it would have had under sequestration. But those sequestration cuts are set to re-emerge in 2016. “Without a ramp to a reasonable future force structure that you could take us down in a graceful way, we were going to have a big problem in the first few years,” Frank Kendall, DoD undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said of the budget during a December interview. “Essentially, we’re having less of a problem but still a big problem in those years. And we don’t know where we’re going, which compounds the problem.”
The funding situation is just one of dozens of issues to watch in 2014, from battles in Congress to industry mergers to service program purchases — or cancellations.
DoD spending is capped at about $498 billion in 2014, $29 billion less than DoD requested but $21 billion above the original sequester cap. In 2015, DoD spending is capped at $521 billion, more than $9 billion above the previous $512 billion cap.
The Pentagon plans to submit the 2015 budget plan that it prepared for the sequester budget, and buy back items with the restored funding.
“We know what the bottom looks like; the money that’s coming back, we’re buying it back,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Dec. 19 briefing at the Pentagon. “We’ll buy it up to the level we can buy it, and there will still be a delta. The work is done.”
Each service will still likely face a $7 billion to $8 billion cut in 2014, Jim McAleese, a defense contracting and budget expert who runs McAleese and Associates, said in a note to clients.
McAleese noted that the 2015 spending cut is still $42 billion below planned levels, lowering DoD’s purchasing power. “We are still going to be in an environment … with an enormous amount of uncertainty about … what [DoD] is going to look like long term,” Kendall said. “Without that, it’s very hard for us to get on the path to a future generation, future posture for the department that we understand and we’re sure we can get to and execute.”
If DoD is forced to retain force structure, research and development and procurement will get hit the hardest. “The money has to come from somewhere. It tends to come from partly readiness and partly investment accounts, modernization and R&D and procurement,” Kendall said.
DoD’s 2015 budget is expected to include major force structure changes to include end strength and equipment. Regardless of what the final proposal includes, expect a fight in Congress. Read More…
The Navy must maintain the current surface force while it procures the future one.
As Director, Surface Warfare Division on the Staff of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV N96), I am privileged to lead an outstanding group of professionals – active duty, civilian, and contractor – charged with building the budget for all elements of the surface force.
We plan and program for current and future readiness, including maintenance, modernization, manpower, sensors, weapons, and training, so the surface ships operating around the world today have everything they need to complete their assigned missions. We also plan to ensure that the force is ready to fight and win against an ever changing and challenging threat, and we strive to ensure naval superiority by incorporating the very best of today’s research and development breakthroughs.
More than 20 years ago, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a team very much like today’s charted a course for the surface force and they did so in an uncertain budget environment. But unlike today, the threat environment they faced was one in which the world became safer almost overnight, and the resources available to them, while less than Cold War levels, were drawn from a growing, vibrant, and confident economy. The current surface force is the beneficiary of the work that team did in managing the drawdown. Although we are a smaller force than at the close of the Cold War, the United States’ surface fleet remains qualitatively the best in the world.
Our focus is to build a program that puts us on a course to our future surface force while resourcing the existing force to ensure our continued global dominance. The decisions that we make today should not hinder future Surface Warfare Division Directors in their ability to react to ever-changing fiscal and security environments. I will address the issues we need to consider, the decisions we need to make, and the changes that must occur to ensure that the surface force remains forward, ready, and powerful. We must determine how best to manage the defense drawdown in a manner that sustains our core capabilities, increases the efficiency with which we build and operate the Fleet, and provides for the future proper sizing of the Fleet’s surface force. Read More…
We are planning on a welcoming reception at the Sam Adams Club, NBK Bremerton at 5:30 PM Jan 28, 2014. Please come out and meet the crew!
The U S Coast Guard Cutter Hickory will pay NBK Bremerton a port visit from January 26- 31. They are stopping here for fire fighting training conducted at the Kitsap Readiness Response Center.
Sam Adams requires base access. If you need help getting on Base please respond to this email and provide your name and the last four digits of your Social Security Number, or call Bob Lamb at 360-769-9108. The cutoff for the access list is Jan 24, 2014.
The Kitsap Readiness Response Center provides firefighting, damage control and hazardous material handling training to the military, the Washington State Ferry System, private industry and the public at the Kitsap Readiness Complex. The Kitsap Readiness Response Center utilizes a state-of-the-art facility which includes classroom spaces, a live-fire and flooding training building, seven outdoor firefighting props, and an outdoor damage control prop. The combination live-fire and flooding training building can burn and flood simultaneously and is the only known training facility of its kind.
In the mid-1990s, local fire departments started looking for a permanent location in which to train staff in fire fighting. A few years later, the US Navy approached Olympic College to train personnel in fire fighting and needed similar props for hands-on training sessions. As a result, the Joint Management Group was formed. This group lobbied for state and federal funds for construction of half of the new Bremerton Readiness Center. The Kitsap Readiness Response Center side of the facility is managed by Joint Management Group. The other half of the center is operated and paid for by the Washington Military Department.
The USCGC Hickory is a 225-foot sea going buoy tender, home-ported in Homer Alaska, with a crew of 40 enlisted and seven officers. The crew is divided into three departments who work together to form team Hickory. (Deck, Operations/ Support and Engineering. The Hickory is a multi-mission cutter which includes: aids to navigation, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, marine environmental protection and homeland security. The cutters primary mission is aids to navigation and most of our aids are around the Kenai Peninsula, hence the nickname “The Kenai Keeper”. The Hickory also is able to meet any demands from District 17 Command to serve any place in Alaskan waters.
Beijing’s smart economic policies hardly guarantee wisdom in foreign affairs. Just think of Germany before World War I.
Dec. 29, 2013 On Dec. 5, a Chinese naval vessel deliberately attempted to block a U.S. Navy cruiser in international waters. And in a startling revelation, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has confirmed to the press that at one point only 100 yards separated the two vessels. That raises an important question: Why did the Chinese commanders think it a good idea to provoke a near-collision with a U.S. warship?
A growing record of encounters suggests that Chinese naval officers have career incentives to act provocatively, even at the risk of deadly incidents. So do their counterparts in the army. Forces under the Lanzhou Military Region, in China’s west, thought it smart to seize Indian-controlled terrain in Ladakh this April. They retreated only when the Indians threatened to cancel an upcoming state visit. Similarly, the China Coast Guard has been intrusively patrolling the waters around the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, even entering Japanese territorial waters in recent days.
It was different during the Cold War. In spite of countless encounters between American and Soviet aircraft and warships, as well as the famous set-to between the U.S. and Soviet armies at “Checkpoint Charlie” in the heart of Berlin, there were very few dangerous incidents. Soviet officers knew that “adventurism” was a career-ending offense.
Yet in the Chinese case, Communist Party leaders apparently encourage it. The state media vigorously endorse each act of military adventurism.
Why should this be? After all, the risks of escalation are enormous. Read More…
SILVERDALE — Four years ago, James and John Mackovjak were among an unprecedented number of Central Kitsap High School students admitted to the Naval Academy. The Kitsap Sun caught up with the identical twins Thursday during their final trip home before graduation.
Both learned this month they received their desired service assignments as Navy pilots, as did former Central Kitsap classmate James Kuzmick. Kuzmick’s family is now in San Diego, where his father, Rear Adm. Joseph Kuzmick, heads Strike Force Training Pacific. While here, he commanded the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.
Christina Pung, another group member, is going into submarines. Her family has also moved out of the area. Teri Rutter is in the class of 2015 after spending her first year at Naval Academy Preparatory School. Three Olympic High School students received service academy appointments in 2010, raising the school district total to eight.
Midshipmen are a tight-knit bunch anyway, but connections are exaggerated in the locals’ case. “I see all of them probably every other day,” John Mackovjak said of the high school gang. “We see each other and have classes together. It’s a good bonding experience knowing we’re going through it together.”
The bond gets even tighter between the Mackovjaks. As if being twins wasn’t enough, they coincidentally wound up only eight doors apart in massive Bancroft Hall, the largest single dormitory in the world that houses all 4,000 midshipmen. And both are in the honors program for the same major, system and weapons engineering.
The Annapolis, Md., school teems with opportunities, the Mackovjaks say, and they’ve taken full advantage. John, who ranks among the top 30 in the senior class, or firstie year, commands the 150-person 6th Company. James, who’s No. 1 academically with 4.0 grade-point average, leads the 2nd battalion that comprises companies 6 through 10. “Everything that goes on that’s not inside the classroom we take care of,” John said. “A big part of the academy is putting leadership on the seniors.” “Midshipmen pretty much run the entire brigade,” James said. “You form really tight bonds with all of your company mates because they’re going through the same thing your are. From Day 1, Induction Day, they stress the importance of teamwork and relying on one another and taking those skills out into the fleet when you graduate.”
Among the things they go through that most college kids don’t are the regimentation, uniforms, early rising and three hours of daily sports time. The Mackovjaks, whose parents both were Navy officers, compete on the triathlon team that will participate in the Collegiate National Championship for the fourth straight year in April.
The 21-year-old twins hope to delay flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola (Fla.) to attend graduate school for a year or two. They’ve been accepted at Cambridge University in England and have applied at prestigious U.S. schools such as MIT, Stanford and Cal-Berkeley. Ultimately, they’d like to fly Super Hornet fighter jets. After they get their wings, they’ll owe the Navy seven years.
John called the number of Naval Academy opportunities “mind-blowing.” His included studies in Turkey, work at MIT and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and teaching Boy Scouts how to survive in the New Mexico wilderness. “It was probably the best decision in my life, accepting the appointment to the Naval Academy,” James said. “The last 3 1/2 years have been the most awesome experience, studying abroad a bit, doing internships, going on a submarine underway for two weeks. There were a crazy amount of experiences. It was hopefully really good groundwork to leading the life of a naval officer come May 2014.”
From the Bosun’s Locker: We appreciate all our Navy League members and their support!
But don’t forget there are areas of expenses in carrying out volunteer efforts that can be used to reduce your income each year if you routinely itemize deductions. Here are just a few that might apply to your situation:
- At the top of the list are automobile expenses to go to functions and other volunteer activities. Although the IRS allows 14 cents a mile it may to your advantage, given the cost of gas, to keep track of actual expenses on the journeys.
- Travel costs to functions and duties: hotels, tolls, ferry fees etc.
- Outright donations to the organization and for special efforts throughout the year. Fisher house and other veteran donations to the VFW, DAV, America Legion, Wounded Warriors etc. These add up over a year’s time and are deductible. You might forget these if you are donating via credit cards, review your statements at the end of the year.
- Specialized uniforms and or regalia for special occasion not associated with normal wear.
- Copying expenses and other incidentals on Navy League business or applicable to functions.
- The extra amount that is really a donation for social-luncheon events charges. You can’t deduct the meals value but anything over an above.
When in doubt take a look a IRS Publication 526 Charitable Contributions and/or ask your tax professional at the start of each year during tax season or as reminder effort at year’s end. – Carry On!
In the five domains where our military forces operate – on land, in the air, on the sea, beneath the sea, and in space – undersea operations are the least visible. For this reason, they offer the ultimate in stealth and surprise while influencing events in all five domains with minimal risk. Unfortunately, because submarine operations are virtually invisible and highly secretive, they are least understood and most frequently under-valued by the public at large. This article discusses the unique value of the U.S. Submarine Force today and why it warrants more defense investment for the future.
What U.S. Nuclear Submarines Do
U.S. nuclear submarines conduct numerous critical missions – many in ways that submarines are uniquely able to perform. Although details of these missions are classified, they include:
Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR). Submarines provide the nation a crucial intelligence-gathering capability that cannot be replicated by other means. Operated with care and cunning and deploying multiple sensors, submarines can monitor happenings in the air, surface, or subsurface littoral battlespace, providing a complete picture of events across all intelligence disciplines. They are also an intelligence “force-multiplier,” providing tip-offs of high interest events to other collection assets. Submarines are able to monitor underwater incidents and phenomena not detectable by any other sensor. Since they are able to conduct extended operations in areas inaccessible to other platforms or systems, submarines can intercept signals of critical importance for monitoring international developments. The unique look-angle provided by a submarine operating in the littoral region enables it to intercept high interest signal formats that are invisible to reconnaissance satellites or other collection platforms. Furthermore, the ability to dwell covertly for extended periods defeats efforts to evade or deceive collection by satellites and other sensors. The intelligence gleaned from submarine operations ranges from highly technical details of military platforms, command and control infrastructure, weapons systems and sensors to unique intelligence on potential adversaries’ strategic and operational intentions. Our submarines can provide real time alertment to National Command Authorities on indications of imminent hostilities. And unlike other intelligence collection systems such as satellites or reconnaissance aircraft, submarines are full-fledged warfighting platforms carrying significant offensive firepower.
Power Projection – Conventional Land Attack. A U.S. attack submarine can carry a 16-Tomahawk land-attack missile salvo ready for submerged launch, with up to 12 additional Tomahawks that can be reloaded and fired without surfacing. Typically, submarines provide about 20 percent of the Tomahawk firepower in a carrier battle group. Because of their stealth, these attack submarines can be positioned to operate alone in environments where the risks would prevent surface ships and aircraft from operating without extensive protective cover. Submarines have become increasingly important to the Navy’s precision strike capabilities. In DESERT STORM, submarines launched less than five percent of the Tomahawks successfully fired. During Operation ALLIED FORCE in Kosovo, Allied submarines fired nearly 25 percent of Tomahawks launched against Serbian targets.
Whatever an opponent’s ability to deny access to, or preempt, U.S. military presence, it can use these weapons in only limited ways against submarines. Coastal cruise missiles, tactical ballistic missiles, and weapons of mass destruction pose little or no threat to a well-operated nuclear submarine. A credible attack capability against our submarines could be developed only by substantial investment in an attack submarine force comparable to our own. Accordingly, so long as we maintain our investment advantage, submarines will remain one of the most credible, survivable, and potent land attack missile platforms in our arsenal.
Sea Control. The United States is a maritime nation whose trade and military power-projection capabilities depend upon assured use of the high seas. Ocean transport satisfies the vast majority – over 90 percent in most cases – of our strategic lift requirements. Submarines are the quintessential sea control platforms, with proven anti-submarine and anti-surface capabilities. Several historical examples illustrate the power of submarines in naval warfare.
Two world wars demonstrate that even submarines of limited performance are a major threat to sea transport. American World War II submariners, comprising less than two percent of naval personnel, sank over five and a half million tons of Japanese shipping – more shipping than was sunk by all other means combined. Their campaign was a critical factor in the industrial collapse of the Japanese war effort. At the same time, a small number of German U-boats placed a death grip on the Atlantic sea lanes that was only broken by the commitment of overwhelming sea, air and intelligence assets.
More recently – during the 1982 Falklands War – a single unlocated Argentine submarine caused the expenditure of 203 British anti-submarine weapons, with no hits. One British SSN employed in that same war sank the Argentine cruiser Belgrano, resulting in the Argentine fleet’s hasty retreat to homeport for the duration. Had even limited-performance submarines been used against the United States in the Korean, Vietnam, or DESERT STORM conflicts, or in our efforts to escort Persian Gulf tankers, the resulting military costs and delays in delivering forces could have been significant.
Modern U.S. submarines – vastly superior to their historical ancestors – possess unsurpassed abilities to hunt and kill submarines and surface ships on the high seas and in the littorals. They provide our only assured capability to wrest control of the sea from a determined enemy employing submarines in an area-denial role. As a result, today’s U.S. Navy, which includes nuclear submarines in its combined-arms anti-submarine capability, is able to sail freely on the world’s oceans. In turn, the sealift needed to support power projection can be counted on whenever and wherever needed.
Submarines excel at preparing and controlling the littoral battlespace for joint expeditionary forces, even in the face of substantially improved capabilities to locate, target, and engage non-stealthy platforms near land. By determining an adversary’s order of battle and force dispositions before the outbreak of hostilities, they allow U.S. commanders to engage and destroy key threats decisively at minimal risk. Before an aircraft carrier battlegroup or amphibious ready group with nearly 10,000 Sailors and Marines onboard ventures to approach a high-threat area, a submarine can have already detected, reported, and destroyed major threats.
Mine Warfare. In both covert offensive mining and mine reconnaissance, submarines provide capabilities that no other platform can deliver. The submarine offensive mining capability allows national leaders to place mines precisely for maximum effect without enemy alertment and with minimal risk. Mine reconnaissance capabilities from submarine-launched Unmanned Undersea Vehicles allow the submarine to covertly detect and report mine danger areas without risk to other naval forces. As a result, potential adversaries have fewer clues indicating potential locations of American expeditionary operations, and U.S. military planners are better able to exploit the element of surprise.
Special Operations. Submarines are an excellent means of clandestine insertion for special operations forces operating in the littorals. The submarine’s inherent stealth and endurance, as well as sophisticated communications equipment, sensors, and navigation suites, enable covert, precise insertion of Navy SEALs and other special operations forces close to their objective and provide a reliable means for their extraction.
Survivable Strategic Deterrence. Because of the invulnerability of nuclear submarines operated in vast ocean areas, they provide the nation’s strategic deterrent more effectively and at less cost than other systems. Our TRIDENT submarines (SSBNs) now carry 54 percent of our nation’s nuclear deterrent using less than 1.5 percent of naval personnel and 35 percent of our strategic budget. These Navy capital ships will form the backbone of the nation’s strategic nuclear force well into the 21st century.
What is it about the Submarine Force that fits it so well for these missions? First, highly capable, multi-mission submarines are cost-effective to operate over their service life, even considering initial acquisition costs. The rigors of submerged operation demand extraordinary quality control, while the technical demands of safe and reliable naval nuclear propulsion require materials, technology, and fabrication of the highest quality. These up-front investments pay dividends over the long term in operating savings, particularly since modern nuclear submarines have fuel for the life of the ship built into the nuclear reactor core. On a crew-size-per-tonnage basis, attack submarines are among the most efficient ships in the Navy inventory. They make up about 24 percent of our major combatants but use only seven percent of the people and 12 percent of the budget. Further, they require no replenishment-at-sea logistics train and no protective escorts. They provide pure offensive firepower at next to no cost in logistics ships or support infrastructure ashore in foreign countries.
Able to operate covertly when required or overtly when desired, SSNs deliver multi-spectrum capability to our unified commanders. These demonstrated capabilities have resulted in demands for submarines by CVBG commanders, theater CINCs, and the National Command Authority that exceed the number of submarines existing today or projected for tomorrow. We’ll address that next.
The United States Needs More and Better Submarines
In the fall of 1998, the highly respected Defense Science Board published an independent study on the “Submarine of the Future.” That report characterizes submarines as the “crown jewel” of America’s defense establishment and recommends that long-term SSN construction rates be reevaluated, since “we need more, not fewer SSNs.” In particular, the DSB believes that the force structure of 50 attack submarines recommended by the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is inadequate to deal with long term trends in naval warfare that favor submarine stealth and firepower. It also fails to prepare for the rise of a peer competitor.
The QDR based its force level recommendation of 50 submarines on fiscal constraints. Submarine requirement studies, conducted by the Navy’s three fleet commanders-in-chief, have substantiated requirements for a minimum force level of more than 70 attack submarines. The planned force level of 50 SSNs barely supports current major theater warplans and the small-scale contingencies that are envisioned over the next decade. The surprising fact is that in many mission areas, such as ISR, there is greater demand for submarines today than at the height of the Cold War. Indeed, with the Submarine Force reduced by nearly 50 percent since 1989, the number of ISR missions has doubled, due to the national need for unique intelligence in many new trouble spots around the globe. Today, even with force structure still above QDR levels, the Submarine Force is over-tasked and under-resourced, leaving theater and fleet requirements unmet. Further force reductions will increasingly impair the Navy’s ability to perform critical missions and degrade the Nation’s capacity to collect intelligence, prepare the battlefield, maintain peace, and minimize battle casualties.
Thus, a 50-SSN-force level is an absolute minimum. SSN-688 and 688I-class ships, built at rates of three to four per year in the 1970s and 1980s, are the backbone of today’s attack submarine force. They will begin to reach the end of their service lives in large numbers early in the next century and will be inactivated at a rate of two to four each year. To maintain the minimum QDR force level of 50 SSNs, the Navy must build two submarines per year over the next two decades, to replace the retiring SSN 688s and 688Is. If current rates of construction do not increase soon, the SSN force structure will drop significantly below 50 SSNs, and our Nation will be left without adequate numbers of submarines to meet either wartime or peacetime requirements.
As required by the 1997 QDR language, the Joint Staff is conducting a study to determine the SSN force structure required in 2015 and 2025 for peacetime presence, national indications and warning, ISR, and warfighting. While the results are not yet available, initial indications are that they will validate substantially greater national military requirements than can be provided by 50 SSNs.
VIRGINIA-Class New Construction and Evolving Submarine Technology – Dual Pillars for the Future
Our need for increasingly capable submarines will grow as technologically sophisticated weapons, information, and detection systems proliferate. Future adversaries will have increasing access to relatively inexpensive, high-technology systems, such as space-based surveillance and targeting systems, quiet diesel submarines, low-cost mines, information warfare, tactical ballistic missiles, coastal cruise missiles, and weapons of mass destruction. Such asymmetric capabilities will challenge U.S. power projection and place a greater premium on a submarine’s stealthy firepower. While maintaining – or increasing – our force levels, we must simultaneously improve sensor, weapon, and information systems to assure our ability to defeat such challenges and to prepare our submarines to participate in the Navy’s emerging network-centric warfare regime. The two pillars necessary to support this strategy are maintaining adequate new construction of Virginia (SSN-774)-class submarines, and continuing a robust, ongoing technology program.
The Virginia Class – Cornerstone of the Future Force
Our new Virginia-class boats will provide all the capability we need today at an affordable price. Designed from the keel up with total ownership in mind, the Virginia-class development, procurement, and operating costs will be more than 30 percent less than Seawolf’s (SSN-21). Substantial cost avoidance is being achieved through the application of innovative design/build teams, computer-aided design, system simplification, parts standardization, and component elimination. Virginia also leverages past investments in Seawolf component development and 688-class modernization programs. The first major acquisition to utilize Integrated Product and Process Development (IPPD) teams from inception, the Virginia program has twice won the David Packard Award for Acquisition Excellence.
The Virginia design provides the best balance between capability and cost and meets all military requirements for advanced SSNs specified by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Virginias will surpass Seawolf in stealth, mine warfare, special warfare, and battlegroup operations, while maintaining a robust open-ocean, “blue-water” capability. To maintain the required margin of acoustic superiority, the design has the flexibility to adopt future advanced technologies rapidly and affordably. Reconfigurable spaces, modular design and construction, and open systems architecture enable faster and cheaper upgrades in future ships, while allowing configuration for specific mission tasking.
In truth, there are no realistic alternatives to building Virginia-class nuclear submarines in quantity.
Non-nuclear submarines are the wrong ships for the United States. America’s Navy operates every day in the far corners of the world’s oceans, often thousands of miles from homeport, and we cannot count on basing our ships in foreign countries close to deployment areas. Even the most advanced air-independent propulsion submarines simply do not have the necessary speed and endurance to get from U.S. homeports to the deployment areas in a timely fashion, nor could they operate in support of highly mobile carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups. It is instructive that when our French and British allies were forced to choose between maintaining their nuclear or diesel submarine fleets, they both chose to retain their capable, flexible, and robust nuclear submarine capability, despite a long tradition of diesel submarine success and an existing diesel submarine construction and maintenance infrastructure.
Similarly, building or retaining older classes of submarines does not meet U.S. needs or save money. All of our legacy attack submarines, including the Improved USS Los Angeles (688I) class, have limited margin for future improvements, and we cannot backfit the technologies needed to meet the challenges posed by other submarine building nations.
Restarting 688-class production would be an expensive proposition, and studies have shown that the cost of building a new 688I today would almost equal that of a Virginia-class SSN but would provide far less operational capability. Moreover, we would sacrifice a number of features that bring the new class more reliability at lower cost – most notably modular construction and open systems architecture.
Building a succession of one-of-a-kind experimental submarines has also been suggested as an alternative to Virginia-class series construction. However, such a scheme fails to benefit from either economies of scale or the construction learning curve, while burdening the operating forces with higher maintenance costs and less military capability. On the other hand, the congressionally approved strategy of robust technology insertion in Virginia-class submarines provides a solid way ahead.
Innovation Through Continuous Technology Insertion
To ensure that our new-construction submarines keep step with the state-of-the-art, the Submarine Force will continue to maintain a vigorous program for nurturing relevant new technologies. Our short-term innovation strategy is based upon a robust technology insertion program in Virginia-class submarines and requires steady investment to succeed. The built-in flexibility of Virginia, including use of modular design techniques, open systems architecture, and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, permits rapid, affordable insertion of new developments. Early, low rate production of Virginia-class SSNs provides the opportunity to insert and test advances progressively as submarines are built. Then, when production ramps up, the Navy will have a design that offers the latest capabilities and still retains the flexibility for further upgrades and changes as needed.
Our long-term innovation strategy focuses on developing enhanced submarine capabilities to better support a broad array of missions and improved sea-submarine interfaces to expand the use of off-board vehicles. Such an interface would remove the current tyranny of the 21-inch torpedo tube. Submarines, in concert with the rest of the Navy, will need to incorporate electric-drive technologies, both to improve acoustic stealth and to provide greater electrical capacity to power evolving sensors and weapons. Finally, the Navy intends to continue advances in submarine design and construction methods, such as modularity and open systems architecture. Such methods not only allow for rapid, less expensive modernization of submarines, but have also substantially improved affordability.
The Way Ahead
More than ever, America requires a robust Submarine Force to gather critical intelligence, maintain strategic deterrence, and to prepare the battlespace for joint forces in a world of evolving and unpredictable challenges. Virginia-class SSNs today embody the best features our Nation can build into an affordable submarine. On that basis, the Navy and the Nation must now make the investment in Submarine Force structure and on-going technology insertion that will keep our SSNs a “crown jewel” of our Nation’s military arsenal. Clearly, the stealth, survivability, firepower, and cost-effectiveness of nuclear submarines are a bargain for American taxpayers and provide a capability we can ill afford to lose.
by CDR Mark L. Gorenflo, USN, and CDR Michel T. Poirier, USN
Undersea Warfare Winter 1999 Vol. 2, No. 2
POSITION REPORT: 2013 describes our progress toward the vision of the future Navy charted in CNO’s SAILING DIRECTIONS. These CNO Sailing Directions remain the foundation for our vision, planning, and goals. Just as we rely on a position report to aid navigation at sea, POSITION REPORT: 2013 allows us to “take a fix” on where we are today. It identifies the “course and speed” changes necessary to stay on track while countering the “set and drift” caused by emerging challenges or institutional issues that tend to take us off our intended track. Read More CNO 2013 Position Report