Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Sestak on the Submarine's Value to the Navy

The Navy League's Sea Power magazine has an article titled "The Futurist - Navy requirements chief Sestak charts the road ahead" in which they chronicled many of Adm. Joseph A. Sestak Jr. views on the Navy's future requirements. The Admiral reinforces what many feel is the continued value that submarines provide, an excerpt:

The future target inventory of attack submarines will decline from 55 to about 41. Are submarines becoming less relevant?

SESTAK: The submarine is actually more relevant to our future. It is the only platform that can covertly get well inside an adversary’s defensive ring when a conflict begins. Submarines can help target key equipment, such as transportable launchers that can launch ballistic missiles. Potential adversaries can take them out of hiding, set them up in 30-60 minutes, fire and scoot back. It is key to have the submarines close in to fire against such targets.

Their capability to covertly put special forces ashore is critical. There is also an increasing threat at sea as some potential adversaries are placing more sophisticated air defense systems on ships. Having submarines take out that platform in the early days of the war is essential to creating access for the rest of our platforms.

We know that certain nations are interested in more submarines. Our submarines can be at the right place to sound the alarm and tell us that, for example, one submarine — or four submarines — are leaving the adversary’s port. But our ability to follow them all is limited to some degree, if we do so platform on platform.

Therefore, in the future, we will have the ability to quickly distribute sensors on the surface of the sea or under the sea. As these adversary platforms get underway to begin their trek of several hundred miles to our sea base, we will continue tracking them with fairly cost-efficient sensors. That’s the change — sensor against platform. We have done a lot of serious experimentation with some concrete results.

Are you keeping your options open so you’ll be able to change if that doesn’t work?

SESTAK: We will be at a high number [of submarines] for quite a few years as we continue to refine this approach.

Adm. Sestak is the DCNO of Warfare Requirements and Programs (N6/N7) a merger of planning programs in 2002 as a part of the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon E. Clark's Sea Power 21 vision.

I draw a number of conclusions from Adm. Sestak's statements, primarily the continued role of attack submarines as covert intel platforms that can immediately act on intel is of unmatched value. Not many other platforms have the combined in theater endurance, stealth and firepower. The Trident conversions to SSGNs also seems to fit nicely into above statement adding a larger platform for such requirements as covertly putting special forces ashore.

The Admiral goes on to acknowledge the increased interests of other nations in acquiring larger submarine fleets. But then he seems to want to hedge his bets on the number of submarines needed to counter those increases by going into advancements in cost-efficient sensors to track those adversaries. All well and good but if you don't have an asset to take out what the sensor is tracking what good is it?

All the Admiral's points still makes me wonder if the current planned cutbacks in procurement of Virginia class submarines and the proposed closing of the New London sub base are as well thought out or universally agreed upon in the Navy.


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