Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for this opportunity to share my views of the U.S. Navy submarine program with you.
As an introduction, let me reiterate a fact that is well known to this committee: U.S. naval forces--Navy and Marine Corps--will have an increasing role in the post-Cold War era because of our withdrawal of ground and air forces from overseas bases while the number of international crises are increasing.
In this context, U.S. naval forces--which are undergoing major reductions in numbers--must have qualitative advantage over all potential adversaries. This is particularly true in the submarine arena, for our submarines generally go in "harms way" early in a crisis, and in conflicts are often operating alone in the enemy's "back yard."
I continue to be very concerned about the direction that we are taking in attack submarines. This concern is obviously shared by many of you and your colleagues here in the House, as well as by members of the Senate, officials of the Defense Department, by persons in the naval research and analysis field, and by many of the officers in the submarine force with whom I have spoken.
For the vast amount of money that we have invested and continue to invest in submarines, the United States should be the unquestioned world leader in submarine technology. But we are not. Last month, in a public relations booklet, the Director of Naval Intelligence wrote that the Russian submarine force, despite its reduced numbers and manning problems, "...still remains the technological pacing challenge by which the U.S submarine force measures itself...." [Emphasis in original]
Is there another area of naval warfare in which Russia--or any other nation--is the "technological pacing challenge"? Certainly not in naval aircraft, or aircraft carriers, or surface combatants, or mine countermeasures, or amphibious warfare. Indeed, is there a Russian "technological pacing challenge" in tanks today? Or in manned bombers? Or in missile development?
Post-Cold War Submarine Force
Today the U.S. Navy's attack submarine force is undergoing a severe reduction, from 95 SSNs at the end of the Cold War to the 45 to 55 submarines approved by the Bottom-Up Review of 1993. This is a 50 percent reduction. It is possible that this year's Quad-rennial Review (QDR) could lead to a further reduction in attack submarines.
Coupled with this dramatic change in force size, the primary attack submarine mission has shifted from open-ocean and Arctic Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), to a more complex mission regime in what are called littoral or coastal areas. While the Navy is still sorting out specific missions for submarines in the littoral environment it has already become apparent that our torpedoes and sonars are not as effective as in the open ocean. Further, we must still maintain the open-ocean submarine capabilities.
Thus, the challenges to the (smaller) U.S. submarine force are considerable.
At this time our record of technology development is uneven. U.S. nuclear submarine emphasis has long been on the "back of the boat"--the engineering plant. The "front end," the hull design, non-engineering systems, sensors, and weapons have been similar for more than three decades with relatively marginal improvements. We see this in the similarity of the front ends of the PERMIT class (13 units), STURGEON class (37 units), and the LOS ANGELES class (62 units)--virtually no "front end" innovation.
Indeed, the first 39 submarines of the LOS ANGELES class have no minelaying or under-ice capability, and all of the LOS ANGELES class have a reduced depth capability, part of the cost for them to regain a few knots of speed that were lost by having the same power plant in three previous classes.
The SEAWOLF-class attack submarine was developed in an effort to improve the "front end" as well as to put to sea a larger reactor plant. At great cost we increased the submarine's speed, depth, firepower, and stealth over the LOS ANGELES class. But the SEAWOLF was too expensive. As early as January 1985, a study undertaken for the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy called attention to the fact that a single SEAWOLF would cost more than twice as much as a LOS ANGELES SSN
Indeed, largely because of its cost, the SEAWOLF became the most controversial submarine program in American history. When the Cold War ended the Bush Administration cancelled the entire 29-ship SEAWOLF program except for the lead submarine. Pressure from the nuclear submarine community, led by Admiral Bruce DeMars, and shipyard influence caused the Congress to fund two more SEAWOLF-class submarines.
With the cutback in the SAEWOLF program, the cost of the three-ship class has risen astronomically. The third SEAWOLF is expected to cost in excess of $ 3 billion. Also, the lead sub-marine, the SSN-21, will be placed in commission some 2½ years behind the original Navy schedule, and at much greater cost than envisioned.
The SEAWOLF is unaffordable in the post-Cold War era.
The Navy's response is the New Attack Submarine (NSSN).
Soviet/Russian Submarine Development
While the U.S. Navy sought to retain superiority in acoustic quieting it sacrificed many submarine attributes: speed, depth, weapons payload, survivability, the advantages of double-hull construction, and certain other features.
The Soviet Union sought to retain these features in their sub-marines. In doing so the Soviets continually surprised us; the following list reflects undersea warfare areas in which Soviet developments were unexpected by most Western naval experts:
- Mike SSN (3,000+ ft)
- Alfa SSN (2,000-2,500 ft)
- Papa SSGN (44.7 knots)
- Alfa SSN (42-43 knots)
- Sierra SSN (35+ knots)
o Quieting (passive and active)
- Akula (1985)
- Improved Akula (c. 1991)
- Akula II (c. 1995)
o Hull coatings
- drag reduction
o High-density nuclear plants
o Hydrodynamic design
o Automation (with greatly reduced manning)
o Strategic missile ranges
o Wake-homing torpedoes
o Large-diameter torpedoes (650-mm)
o Large-payload torpedoes
- approx. 650 pounds for U.S. Mk 48
- 1,000+ pounds for Soviet torpedoes
o Rocket torpedoes (180+ knots)
o Non-acoustic ASW
- in situ wake detection
As the Soviet submarine force advanced in these areas, U.S. submarine leaders held to the view that the U.S. submarine force was superior because of our lead in acoustics or quieting. There were, however, ominous signs that the Soviets were making progress in submarine quieting. The Soviet Akula class, which went to sea in the mid-1980s, was far quieter than expected. The Akula's appearance led to a House-sponsored study that concluded that because of Soviet submarine acoustic quieting, "We believe that the [U.S.] Navy must, in effect, 'start over' in its approach to ASW."
Addressing specific Soviet submarine developments--called into focus by the unexpected low noise levels of the Akula--the report continued:
... it is true that the Soviets' submarine R&D [research and development] program is extremely ambitious, [it] seems to over-look no promising technologies, and--in that it dates back many years--is no flash in the pan. As a result of their years of intensive research it appears that the Soviets may well be ahead of us in certain technologies, such as titanium structures and control of the hydrodynamic flow around a submarine.
But far more important is the improvement that the Soviets have made in submarine quieting. The problem is not that Soviet submarines are now quieter than ours; they are not. But after decades of building comparatively noisy submarines, the Soviets have now begun to build submarines that are quiet enough to present for us a major technological challenge with profound national security implications.
The Improved Akula SSN, which went to sea in 1990, soon revealed that the Soviets had surpassed the U.S. Navy in some areas of acoustic quieting--the Improved Akula was quieter than our newest attack submarines, the Improved LOS ANGELES class. Admiral J.M. Boorda, the Chief of Naval Operations, told the House:
This is the first time since we put NAUTILUS to sea that [the Russians] have had submarines at sea quieter than ours. As you know, quieting is everything in submarine warfare.
While we are told that the SEAWOLF is the quietest submarine in the world, one wonders if we have "all" the data needed to evaluate the acoustic signature of the Akula II, and the potential noise level of the Russian SEVERODVINSK, now on the building ways. If the past is any guide to the future, it is likely that the SEVERODVINSK will be significantly quieter than the Akula series--and quieter than the SEAWOLF, which was designed several years before the SEVERODVINSK. Discussions that I have had with senior officials of Russia's Rubin and Malachite design bureaus reinforce the view that future Russian submarines will be quieter and have significantly improved performance.
True, the size of the Russian submarine force has been cut in half; relatively few submarines are going to sea; and the construction of new submarines is proceeding at a sluggish rate. But the Russian submarine force remains, in the words of the U.S. Director of Naval Intelligence, the "technological pacing challenge."
While Russia certainly poses no military threat to the United States for the foreseeable future, the interests of the Russian Federation are not in concordance with those of many of its regional neighbors, and Russia continues to sell its submarine technology to "countries of concern," among them Iran and China.
New Attack Submarine
The next-generation U.S. submarine is the New Attack Submarine (NSSN). Based on an agreement reached by Speaker Newt Gingrich and Subcommittee chairman Duncan Hunter with the late Admiral J.M. Boorda, the Navy has provided extensive briefings on the NSSN program to the Submarine Advisory Group comprised of Dr. John S. Foster, Jr., Dr. Lowell Wood, Mr. Anthony Battista, and myself. The latest session--on 6 March--consisted of 5½ hours of briefings for Mr. Battista and me.
The NSSN is a very good design. The NSSN program is being well managed by a highly dedicated and talented team. I believe my colleagues join me in commending Captain David Burgess, the NSSN program manager, his superiors, and his staff for their efforts.
But the NSSN is not the submarine that should enter series production at this time. The principal criteria for the NSSN have been (1) affordability--make it "cheaper" and (2) retaining the acoustic quieting or "stealth" level of the SEAWOLF design.
The NSSN is inferior to the SEAWOLF and to recent Russian submarines in speed, depth, weapons capabilities, and other features. As my colleague Dr. Wood has stated: "...to be designing a family of combat submarines known from the outset to be militarily inferior in several salient respects is a large and enduring 'blot on the copy-book' of the contemporary Navy."
The Russian Navy is no threat to U.S. and NATO use of the seas for at least a decade and probably not for a much longer period. At the same time, sufficient numbers of LOS ANGELES SSNs plus the three SEAWOLF-class submarines can meet force level goals for the next two decades.
Thus, the United States has an unprecedented opportunity to use the NSSN program to develop the most advanced undersea craft afloat. There are many innovative ideas available; these can be exploited not by going to series production but by building competitive prototype (one-of-a-kind) submarines.
This concept of operational prototypes--that will have a combat capability--permit the at-sea evaluation of such technologies as hydrodynamic shaping, control surfaces, non-acoustic quieting, propulsors, and other features than cannot be fully modeled.
Early U.S. nuclear submarine development included numerous one-of-a-kind units, which helped give the U.S. Navy its technological lead; as more Soviet one-of-a-kind submarines and more classes were produced, we saw dramatic advances in submarine technology. Appendixes A and B to this statement list the submarine designs produced by the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War. The shift in numbers of designs roughly collates with the Soviet/Russian acquisition of technology leadership.
The Navy contends that the NSSN provides for "insertion opportunities" of advanced technologies. Hydrodynamic shaping, advanced control surfaces, and many other potential technologies cannot be "inserted" once a submarine is built.
Further, at the recent briefings to the Submarine Advisory Group, the Navy listed 68 technologies for possible NSSN insertion. However, of those 30--or 44 percent--are listed for the fifth or later NSSNs. Further, 14 of the technologies--20 percent--are payload technologies, basically new weapons, like the Tomahawk Upgrades and Navy Tactical Missile System (NTACMS), or unmanned vehicles. These can be backfitted in LOS ANGELES submarines. Many of the other technologies also can be backfitted into earlier submarines as well as the NSSN; these "insertions" could still be made to NSSNs if they are developed as competitive prototypes.
The United States must take advantage of the post-Cold War environment to "push the envelope" in submarine technology and not to begin series production of inferior submarines.
Another factor to be considered is submarine size; smaller submarines have more agility in the restrictive waters of littoral areas. Perhaps the NSSN program should provide for two sizes of undersea craft.
Teaming for NSSN Construction
Prior to last year the Navy planned to produce the lead submarines of the NSSN program (as well as all three SEAWOLF submarines) at the General Dynamics/Electric Boat yard. Led by Admiral DeMars, the nuclear submarine community stopped Newport News participation in those programs.
Only the intervention of Congress forced the Navy to include Newport News Shipbuilding in the NSSN program. The exclusion was incongruous as Newport News had built submarines before Electric Boat was in existence, began its first nuclear submarine 40 years ago, and has built 53 nuclear submarines.
Newport News should be a part of the NSSN program. The yard is experienced, innovative, and highly competitive. However, it should not be a teaming partner in the NSSN program.
Innovation Teaming defeats innovation--all four of the NSSNs will be virtually identical; we lose the opportunity to "push the envelope" in submarine design and construction. Each of the four NSSNs will be basically the same--like peas in a pod.
Responsibility Teaming demands complex relationships. This is particularly true in shipbuilding, where every ship or submarine is an individual platform, with major differences and, in some cases, different subsystems. A relatively minor change in one section of the submarine built by one yard can easily have a major impact on a section of the submarine built by the other yard. This aspect of teaming is very complex; it can be solved but at this time I have not seen a full understanding by the Navy of the potential responsibility problems.
Costs The Navy believes that there will be major cost savings in the proposed teaming arrangement. This is a difficult issue to comprehend. In our society costs are reduced through competition; teaming, where each yard repeatedly builds the same (respective) components of a submarine, cannot be competitive.
The Navy has failed to explain how savings will be realized through NSSN teaming.
Thus, the whole NSSN teaming scheme demands very careful examination.
A Bottom Line
For the massive investment in the U.S. submarine program we should have the world's best submarines in terms of incorporating advanced concepts and technologies. With today's "threat holiday" and the availability of large numbers of relatively modern LOS ANGELES-class submarines, we can afford to "do it right."
The NSSN program--as the Navy envisions it--does not.
Nuclear Submarine Designs
United States Soviet Union-Russia
1955-1960 SSN NAUTILUS* SSN November
SSN SEAWOLF* SSN Mod. November (#645)*
SSN SKATE SSBN Hotel
SSN SKIPJACK SSGN Echo I
SSBN GEO. WASHINGTON
1961-1970 SSN THRESHER SSN Alfa
SSN TULLIBEE* SSN Victor I
SSN STURGEON SSGN Echo II
SSN NARWHAL* SSGN Charlie I
SSBN ETHAN ALLEN SSBN Yankee
SSBN BENJ. FRANKLIN
1971-1980 SSN LIPSCOMB* SSN Victor II
SSN LOS ANGELES SSN Victor III
SSGN Charlie II
SSBN Delta I
SSBN Delta II
SSBN Delta III
1981-1990 SSBN OHIO SSN Sierra I
SSN Improved LOS ANGELES SSN Sierra II
SSGN Oscar I
SSGN Oscar II
SSBN Delta IV
APPENDIX A [continued]
1991-2000 SSN SEAWOLF SSN Improved Akula
SSN Akula II
2001-2010 NSSN New Attack Submarine SSBN YURI DOLGORYKEY
SSN Advanced Design
* = One-of-a-kind submarine
SSN = torpedo attack submarine
SSAN = research/special purpose
SSBN = ballistic missile submarine
SSGN = guided (cruise) missile submarine
SSRN = radar picket submarine
Major submarine conversions are not included
(e.g., Yankee SSGN variants, Yankee SSN,
Non-Nuclear Submarine Designs
United States Soviet Union-Russia
1950-1960 SS TANG SS Whiskey
SS DARTER* SS Zulu
SS BARBEL SS Quebec
SSK K-1 SS Romeo
SSG GRAYBACK SS Foxtrot
SSR SAILFISH SSB Zulu
AGSS ALBACORE* SSB Golf
SST T-1 SSA Whale*
1961-1970 AGSS DOLPHIN* SSG Juliett
1971-1980 (none) SS Tango
1981-1990 (none) SS Kilo
1991-2000 (none) SS Lada/Amur
* = One-of-a-kind submarine
SS = torpedo attack submarine
SSA = research/special purpose
SSB = ballistic missile submarine
SSG = guided (cruise) missile submarine
SSR = radar picket submarine
SST = training/target submarine
Major submarine conversions are not included
(e.g., three Whiskey SSG and one Whiskey SSB
Norman Polmar is an analyst, historian, and author specializ-ing in naval and strategic issues. He has served as a consultant to three Secretaries of the Navy, three members of the U.S. Senate, one member of the House of Representatives, and the Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory as well as to the Deputy Counsellor of President Reagan. He also served from 1982 to 1986 as a member of the Secretary of the Navy's Research Advisory Committee (NRAC).
Since 1980, as an independent consult, he has conducted or participated in studies for several U.S. and foreign aerospace and shipbuilding firms, as well as to various offices of the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense.
Prior to 1980 he was an analyst and executive with corpora-tions involved in defense studies.
Mr. Polmar has written or coauthored more than 30 books. These include coauthoring with Thomas B. Allen the best-selling biography Rickover: Controversy and Genius (1982). His submarine-related books include Atomic Submarines (1963), Death of the Thresher (1964), American Submarines (1981), Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1986), and Submarines of the Russian and Soviet Navies, 1718-1990 (1991). In addition, he is author of the Naval Institute reference books The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet and Guide to the Soviet Navy, both published at three-year inter-vals. These are considered to be the definite reference books in their fields.
From 1967 to 1977, Mr. Polmar was the editor of the U.S. and several other sections of the annual Jane's Fighting Ships. The first American to ever hold an editorship with that publication, he was totally responsible for almost one-third of the volume in that period.
He is currently writing a history of submarine design during the Cold War era in collaboration with Academician I.G. Spassky, head of the Rubin submarine design bureau, and Viktor Semyonov of that bureau, former deputy to S.N. Kovalev, designer of the Yankee, Delta, and Typhoon submarines.
Mr. Polmar's articles and comments have been published in numerous newspapers as well as popular and professional magazines in the United States and abroad. He writes a regular column for the Naval Institute Proceedings, the Navy's professional journal.
Mr. Polmar has previously testified before House and Senate committees, and is frequently featured in numerous television and radio news and feature shows discussing defense issues.
He has lectured on strategic and naval subjects to various defense, naval, and private organizations in the United States, Russia, China, Canada, Japan, Israel, Germany, Denmark, and Great Britain. He has been a periodic speaker at the U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis), U.S. Defense Intelligence College (Washington, D.C.), U.S. Naval Postgraduate School (Monterey), and Royal Naval College (Dartmouth).
He has made several visits to Russia and China as a guest of their respective government agencies, and has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.
Mr. Polmar is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.
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