A Report of the M.I.T. Security Studies Program's
Second Annual Levering Smith Conference
By Owen R. Cote, Jr.

This report is a summary of an MIT Security Studies Conference entitled Precision Strike From the Sea: New Missions for a New Navy, organized by Harvey Sapolsky and Owen Cote, Director and Associate Director of the MIT Security Studies Program (SSP). It is the second in an annual MIT/SSP conference series held in honor of the late Vice Admiral Levering Smith, USN, the first technical director of the Navy's Fleet Ballistic Missile Program and from 1965-1977, its director. Held on December 8 and 9, 1997 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the conference explored new developments in long range weapons for use in precision strikes from the sea.

The author would like to thank those who commented on prior drafts of this report; including Vice Admiral Richard Mies and his staff, Paris Genalis, Thomas Maloney, Al Malchiodi, James Fitzgerald, Alan Berman, James MacStravic, Captain Karl Hasslinger, Captain John Morgan, Commander James Foggo, Commander Dave Norris, and Colonel John Turner; as well as those who helped with its production; including Sara Berman, Rafael Bonoan, Kristen Cashin, and Tim Wolters. MIT/SSP would also like to thank the Electric Boat Corporation for its support in defraying the conference costs. The views expressed within the report are the author's alone and should not be attributed to any other conference participants. An electronic version of the report is available at

Executive Summary

New precision weapons, new platforms for launching them, and new concepts for using them are needed to help the U.S. Navy meet the demands created by new geopolitical and technological trends in Americaís external security environment. Geopolitics and technology are conspiring to pull the Navy ashore from the sea, without eliminating the traditional and irreducible need for a Navy that is capable of controlling the sea. The tension between ìFrom the Seaî and controlling the sea is real, but a wholehearted embrace by the Navy of one orientation to the exclusion of the other is neither desirable nor necessary. This report argues instead that new ways of performing precision strike from the sea, if vigorously exploited, will reduce the need for tradeoffs between sea control and power projection.

Long range precision weapons can dramatically reduce the mass that must be projected from the sea in order to produce a given effect ashore, while at the same time expanding the mass that can be projected by a given naval force. They reduce the requirements for mass by making target destruction possible with one or two precision weapons rather than 10 or 100 iron bombs, and by allowing long standoff ranges from the target, they increase the number of platforms that can serve as precision weapon launchers. This means that both surface ships and submarines can join aircraft carriers to form a triad of naval strike warfare assets, and it also means that each weapon launcher, whether it be a VLS tube or an aircraft, is capable of achieving much greater and more precise effects. Future improvements in long range precision weapons will occur at the steep rate characteristic of technologies still in their infancy, as compared to the more sedate rate at which more mature systems improve.

In principal, these new capabilities can be used in one of two ways. At one extreme would be an effort to maximize the Navyís overall contribution to the precision strike from the sea mission area. This is tempting, because it gives each of theNavyís major platform communities a role in a mission that is clearly of central national importance in the new security environment, and which therefore is easier to fund in a time of declining budgets. At the other extreme the Navy could aim only to meet the minimum demands for precision strike from the sea, and exploit new precision weapons to minimize the investment in this mission area rather than maximize capabilities. The advantage of this approach would be that it would allow the Navy to focus more on sea control, as well as other missions which only it can perform, leaving precision strike largely to the other services.

It is impossible today to predict with certainty where on this continuum the Navy will need to be tomorrow, but there are two variables which will largely determine the need. First is the question of access to overseas bases and second, the evolution of future threats to American sea control. Assuming continued access to a robust overseas base structure in both crisis and war, the other services will continue to be able to provide the bulk of the required precision strike assets in a future contingency. If on the other hand, that assured access ashore is denied or sharply limited, the Navy will be forced to fill the void from the sea. At the same time, future adversaries may continue to cede the United States control of the seas, as Iraq did during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, which in turn would allow the U.S. Navy to continue its current deemphasis on sea control. Alternatively, these adversaries might discover that the best way to blunt American power projection capabilities is at sea, and that the highest leverage sea denial capabilities are provided by modern, undersea warfare weapons, as both the Iranians and the Chinese seem to have decided with their recent purchases of Russian Kilo class submarines.

The most stressing case for the Navy is one where U.S. access to overseas bases is greatly reduced and where the proliferation of relatively low cost and easy to use access denial weapons such as modern, diesel-electric submarines, anti-ship and land attack missiles, and naval mines continues to grow. This is a world in which the Navy will have to provide a larger portion of national power projection capabilities, while also placing much more emphasis on sea control than it does now. Indeed, it is arguable that this is the security environment the United States is already beginning to face along the long arc of the Indian and Pacific ocean littorals. In it, the U.S. Navy's relevance is likely to exceed its currently projected capabilities by a wide margin. Given the likelihood of such a security environment, the Navy can deal with its ìcrisis of relevanceî in one of two ways; by seeking larger budgets, or by developing and exploiting new concepts of operation. This report focuses on new concepts of operation in precision strike from the sea.

A major conclusion is that the Navy should explore how best to improve the submarine force's capabilities in precision strike from the sea; deepen its commitment to developing improved precision weapons for use on all naval platforms, and particularly its submarines and surface combatants; ensure that all naval platforms enjoy connectivity sufficient to link into future intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) nets; and ensure that mission areas likely to face asymmetric threats have effective warfare area sponsorship. Regarding these objectives, it recommends specifically that the Navy convert excess Trident SSBNs into conventional guided missile submarines (SSGNs) with an advanced special operations capability and assign its Strategic Systems Programs Office (SSPO) the budgets and responsibility for R&D and program management commensurate with a long term, multiplatform Navy tactical ballistic missile development program.

The report starts with a discussion of technical and operational trends in strike warfare inherited from the Cold War. This provides context for current debates about how best to perform precision strike from the sea. Next, the report discusses the rationale for taking a new look at precision strike from the sea, and provides a series of questions that were used to organize the conference this report is based on. Finally, the main body of the report summarizes the results of the conference and closes with a brief set of conclusions and recommendations.

Strike Warfare During the Cold War

Methods of performing the strike warfare mission during the Cold War varied largely according to changes in the offense-defense relationship between combat aircraft and air defenses, because during much of that period, aircraft were the dominant strike platform. Changes in this relationship affected both the Air Force and naval aviation.

In the beginning, aircraft were designed to simply fly over enemy defenses, using a combination of speed and altitude. This trend reached it's extreme manifestation with aircraft like the B-70, which was designed to exceed Mach 2 at 60-70,000 feet. In the Navy, the progression from Savage (AJ-1), to Skywarrior (A-3), to Vigilante (A-5) in heavy attack squadrons illustrates the same trend. This approach was rendered obsolete in the early 1960s by the surface-to-air missile (SAM) which, by using a rocket motor, finally eliminated for good the high altitude sanctuary that aircraft designers had pursued since the dawn of the air age.

There were two main responses to the SAM. One led to the adoption of ballistic missiles, which restored to the offense the advantage in height and speed, albeit in a platform that was limited to delivering nuclear weapons because of its relative inaccuracy compared to aircraft. The second led to the adoption of low level penetration tactics by aircraft. These relied on the fact that terrain obstructions masked a low level penetrator from surface radars, and that background clutter masked it from airborne radars looking down at it. The classic example of an aircraft designed for this mission was the F-111, which sought survival in fast, terrain following flight. This is also the tactic that allowed B-52s and A-6s to remain effective as lone penetrators beyond the early 1960s. It was adopted for both nuclear and conventional air operations, and became threatened with obsolescence in those two mission areas for different reasons.

The air war in Vietnam, as well as the Israeli experience in the Yom Kippur war, demonstrated that low altitude attacks were not well suited to conventional operations. Aircraft flying low and fast could not find and bomb targets with great precision. Nuclear weapons could compensate for this imprecision, but in a conventional war, pilots were forced to climb to find the target and then dive to deliver weapons more precisely on it. Against unattrited terminal air defenses, which included both SAMs and dense antiaircraft artillery (AAA) barrages, these tactics led to significant losses and still did not provide the precision necessary to deliver unguided iron bombs accurately enough to destroy important targets like bridges or hardened bunkers.

This was less of a problem in nuclear operations, because nuclear weapons could destroy even the hardest targets within a lethal radius of hundreds of feet. On the other hand, nuclear operations against the Soviet Union required passing through an air defense system that included an enormous fleet of manned interceptors. Low flying bombers depended on terrain clutter to hide them from airborne radars, but by the early 1970s, the U.S. was using doppler signal processing to allow such radars to distinguish fixed from moving targets in the their field of view when looking downward. Look down/shoot down radars, once deployed by Soviet air defense forces, would eliminate the low altitude sanctuary.

The responses to these two separate challenges were quite different. For conventional operations, medium altitude tactics were adopted. These tactics depended on two innovations. The first was the creation of forcesdedicated to suppressing enemy SAMs, while the second was the creation of precision guidance techniques that greatly increased the accuracy with which weapons could be delivered from medium altitude. SAM suppression tactics varied by service and country, but in all variations used some combination of radar homing weapons, jamming, and deception to kill or confuse SAM radars, thus creating a medium altitude sanctuary against ground-based air defense systems. From medium altitude, strike aircraft could locate their targets and guide new precision weapons to them, either semi-actively using a laser beam to designate the target, an approach favored by the Air Force, or by command using a data link to steer the weapon based on the readout provided by a terminal seeker in its nose, the preferred naval aviation method.

This defense suppression tactic was not available to the long range bombers of the Air Force's Strategic Air Command, since its aircraft could not operate as part of a massive strike package containing fighters, Wild Weasels firing antiradiation missiles, and various jamming and other electronic warfare aircraft.1 One answer was the B-1, which essentially sought to preserve the low altitude tactic by combining speed with a very sophisticated electronic countermeasures (ECM) suite. Its cancellation in the late 1970s led to both standoff weapons and stealth aircraft. The standoff tactic kept the launching aircraft out of range of opposing air defenses, relying for penetration on long range cruise missiles. The small size and terrain-hugging flight of these missiles made them hard to detect and even harder to kill, and they could be launched in numbers sufficient to saturate opposing defenses. Stealth, on the other hand, sought to restore to the aircraft the ability to penetrate defenses by eluding them. Technologically, this means designing aircraft which either absorb radar energy or reflect it away from its transmitter, hence the unusual shapes of aircraft like the F-117 and the B-2. Operationally, stealth allows a lone aircraft to penetrate unattrited air defenses at medium altitude and subsonic speed as long as it avoids daylight operations when the enemy can use non-radar based air defenses.

Systems representing every stage in this evolution participated in Desert Storm. Stealth aircraft carrying laser guided bombs (LGBs) and conventional cruise missiles with terminal seekers launched from Navy ships were the only weapons aimed at targets inside the ring of terminal defenses surrounding metropolitan Baghdad. American war planners sent only F-117s and Tomahawks against these targets both because they were the most heavily defended, and because they were in areas where collateral damage was least acceptable. Other well defended targets in Iraq were attacked by large, medium altitude strike packages in which escorts outnumbered bomb droppers by as much as 3 to 1. When able to use precision weapons, mostly LGBs, the strike packages were very effective, but there were relatively few LGB-capable aircraft available. Strike packages using traditional iron bombs were much less effective. In neither case did aircraft in these packages suffer significant losses. The low altitude tactic remained the preferred penetration method of the Royal Air Force, which like other European members of NATO had never fully embraced the strike package method because of its great cost. As a result, itís Tornados experienced higher, though still historically low, loss rates. Very rapidly, these combined operations destroyed or suppressed the Iraqi air defense system to such a degree that a medium altitude sanctuary over Iraq for essentially any aircraft was created within days. This allowed B-52s and, on occasion, even AWACs and tanker aircraft to operate safely in hostile airspace with only limited fighter and defense suppression escorts.

This experience confirmed both the value of precision weapons and the increasing expense of delivering them against well defended targets using manned aircraft that must overfly the target. However, it only hinted at the promise of precision weapons, since percentage wise so few were actually used, and of those used, the overwhelming majority were laser guided gravity bombs delivered by aircraft. Thus, other than the Navyís Tomahawk cruise missile, which played a major role early in the conflict, other uses of rockets and cruise missiles, both surface and air-launched, were extremely limited. Also, the various means of delivering precision weapons were tested along only one axis, that being their ability to penetrate defenses. Other potential challenges to precision weapon delivery were absent due to the immediate and wide availability of local bases and the total absence of any opposing sea denial capabilities.

Why Take a New Look at Precision Strike From the Sea?

Why hold a conference devoted to looking at new ways of doing precision strike from the sea? Because the U.S. Navy is being simultaneously pulled by geopolitical demands and pushed by technological opportunities toward new ways of performing the strike mission.

The geopolitical pull stems from changes in the post Cold War security environment. These changes have reduced Americaís access to large, overseas base structures without eliminating the security interests that demand an ability to project power across the sea to protect those interests. This increases demand for naval forces that can both assure control of the sea and help ensure control of the adjoining land.

The technological push results from a growing ability to use advanced computational and signal processing techniques to fuse the output of various intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance sensors, and with this increasingly accurate all source product, to use wideband communication links to command and control long range, precision strike platforms. Progress in the technologies that enable these command, control, communication, computation, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) nets should allow smaller, dispersed forces armed with long range precision weapons to influence larger land areas at less risk of counterattack. This opportunity is particularly relevant to a smaller Navy which must increase its relative contribution to the joint strike warfare mission ashore without compromising its ability to assure sea control.

Carrier battle groups have traditionally provided the naval contribution to the strike warfare mission, but recent experience shows that both the surface and submarine communities have a growing role to play in this mission area commensurate with their ability to employ long range precision weapons like Tomahawk. Technological progress can and will increase the capabilities of traditional carrier battle groups and their organic air wings, but these are relatively mature means of conducting strike warfare compared to the relatively new marriage between surface ships and submarines on the one hand and long range precision weapons on the other. Therefore, if the Navy is to greatly enhance its precision strike capabilities, it needs both to continue development of its traditional, carrier-based approach to this problem, and to exploit innovative new strike warfare programs in its other platform communities. In order to help the Navy explore these issues, Precision Strike From The Sea: New Missions For A New Navy looked at the following questions:

In order to address these questions, the M.I.T. Security Studies Program convened a group of experts from industry, the services, OSD, defense laboratories, Congress, and academia for two days of presentations and discussion on the questions described above. The agenda and list of participants for the conference are provided at the end of this report. The goal was to take a fresh look at precision strike from the sea and provide senior Navy and OSD leaders an opportunity to see and participate in an intensive, off-the-record exchange on this important issue. The general conclusions follow.

Joint Strike Warfare in Tomorrow's Security Environment

The conference began with a presentation on the current process for determining joint warfighting requirements, with an emphasis on current efforts to integrate service capabilities for achieving precision effects on future battlefields. According to Joint Vision 2010, forces allocated to this mission must be integrated through a seamless C4ISR net, supported by a logistics system with more of a ìjust in timeî orientation, capable of rapid power projection and of achieving immediate freedom of action, and able to produce the precision effects needed across the full spectrum of likely military operations.

Taking these core tasks, a set of desired operational capabilities are specified, and programs implemented to provide them. Efforts here reflect the post Desert Storm lesson noted by one conference speaker that:

"joint precision engagement is more than just weapons. The challenge is to develop a well-fused C4ISR process that enables the efficient application of combat power throughout the battlespace in order to be decisive in minimum time, at the least cost in lives and resources."

This orientation has led to a variety of C4ISR and precision weapon programs that focus on creating a timely, widely available, all source picture of the battlefield; better combat identification techniques; more survivable weapon platforms; "through weather" target acquisition and weapon guidance systems; and better post strike, battle damage assessment (BDA) capabilities. The roadmap describing these desired operational capabilities is less specific regarding the other core tasks of precision logistics, strategic mobility, and force protection.

A complete concept of operations for joint precision strike will of course need to address these other core tasks. In doing so, it will need to consider specifically the effects of various levels of both allied base availability and opposing access denial efforts, both ashore and at sea. It is of course difficult to predict these with any certainty, but it is interesting to note the results of the National Defense Panel's (NDP) recent look at exactly these questions. It concluded that the U.S. military needed to be able to project power more quickly, using smaller forces with smaller logistics footprints but greater lethality, into critical areas in which forward bases ashore are not available or are too vulnerable, and access to them across and from the sea is contested.2 Access to forward bases might be denied due to political constraints, as often occurs in regions like the Persian Gulf, where our allies often prefer to be protected from a distance. Also, even in cases where forward access ashore is available, potential opponents may exploit some of the same technologies that have enabled the rapid growth in our own precision strike capabilities, particularly in the area of long range, precision rocket and cruise missile guidance. Weapons using these technologies will be hard to defend against, and will be most effective against fixed, above ground targets like air bases, ports, and traditional, "iron mountain" logistic depots.3

These trends have already driven all the services to put more of their forward presence afloat in prepositioning ships where it is less vulnerable to weapons optimized for attacks against fixed bases ashore, but the relative security of sea basing and of projecting power from the sea depends on the state of opposing sea denial capabilities. These capabilities will grow dramatically in coming years as potential opponents along the Mediterranean-Indo-Pacific littoral continue buying modern sea denial weapons at the rates we have begun to see with the end of the Cold War. The sea denial capabilities that can be brought to bear in littoral waters by even small powers include large numbers of relatively inexpensive mines, short range aircraft, missiles, small surface combatants, coastal defense weapons, and submarines, all of which are increasingly available. The dangers these capabilities could pose to the U.S. Navy's sea control posture, which in turn enables the power projection capabilities of both the Navy and the other services, are gaining attention.4

Sea denial capabilities and particularly undersea warfare weapons like mines and modern non-nuclear submarines are the classic example of what is now popularly known as an asymmetric threat, a force that is both highly lethal and difficult to defend against. Asymmetric threats demand disproportionately large defensive responses, a characteristic that has always been true of the ASW response necessary to deal with submarines. In fact, the offense-defense balance has never been more favorable than it is today for the modern, very quiet submarine in attacks against surface ships, especially when those attacks employ submerged launch, antiship missiles like Harpoon or Exocet. This fact was already causing the U.S. Navy great alarm in the last years of the Cold War, after the Soviets had finally deployed their first truly quiet nuclear submarines, and it will cause great alarm in the future if the Navy finds itself projecting power from the sea in a regional conflict fought over limited aims against a submarine-armed adversary.

These trends in the security environment argue strongly for a joint perspective on precision strike that looks carefully not just at weapons and C4ISR, but also at the back end of the precision strike mission area, where the focus is on strategic mobility, logistics, and force protection. The current planning process appears to be moving in this direction, but the Navy needs to ensure that it gets there, because the consequences will significantly affect requirements for precision strike from the sea.

Carriers and Precision Strike From the Sea Today

Historically, and still today, the aircraft carrier has been the center of the Navy's capability for precision strike from the sea. Yet this truth coexists with two other trends, one that fixes at roughly todayís level the strike capabilities the carrier force will be able to provide in the future, and the other creating tremendous opportunities for the surface and submarine communities to expand their roles in this mission area. Given the likely growth in the relative need for precision strike from the sea in the new security environment, the conference sought to explore both of these trends, albeit with an emphasis on the latter.

The size of the carrier force is unlikely to change much for the forseeable future because the current force of 12 is big enough to maintain a nearly continuous forward presence in the three regions where the United States has historically sought to maintain such a presence - the eastern Mediterranean, the western Pacific, and since the late 1970s, the Indian Ocean. There is little evidence that the political impetus to maintain this level of forward presence is waning, or that carrier battle groups will be replaced as the chief currency used to measure forward presence.

This political commitment to carrier-based forward presence is reflected in the politics of new carrier construction, which contrary to some expectations, has received steady support in the post Cold War security environment. It has survived the Base Force review, the Bottom Up Review, the Committee on Roles and Missions, and the Quadrennial Defense Review, although the latter effort recommended that the Clinton administration skip CVN-77 in favor of CVX. Whichever path it pursues, the Clinton administration is poised to continue a 70 year tradition, broken only by the Bush administration, of funding at least one carrier every presidential term.5 One new carrier every four years on average is enough to sustain a total force of 12, since carriers now have useful lives of up to 50 years. In practice, this means that for the forseeable future, given the relative youth of todayís carrier force, construction rates designed simply to maintain the sole source supplier of these items will also be sufficient to maintain current force levels. Certainly this trend is not guaranteed to continue, and developing a cheaper but equally effective CVX design is therefore important for the out years, when carrier production rates will have to pick up if current force levels and capabilities are to be maintained.

At the same time, and more importantly for the topic at hand, the Navy's carrier force also faces a fairly well defined ceiling on its size and capabilities. A force of more than 12 carriers is unaffordable under today's defense budgets, which means capabilities are limited by a fixed amount of deckspace available for maintaining and operating aircraft. Maximizing the utility of this space depends both on complicated skills that are the product of decades of naval aviation experience, and also on the size and capabilities of the carrier's air wing. Regarding the latter, it is already clear that the air wings are going to be smaller, their combat aircraft are going to be multimission strike-fighters, and these will lack all-aspect stealth, have shorter legs than their predecessors, and are likely to remain committed to the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) configuration. These characteristics of the air wing will in turn have several significant operational consequences, particularly early in a contingency.

Multimission strike-fighters will have a large antiair warfare (AAW) role to play, both in defense of the carrier and as escorts for strike aircraft, and strike aircraft will also require either additional defense suppression escorts if they need to overfly their targets, or air-launched standoff weapons that allow them to avoid terminal defenses. Limited to a 500-600 mile radius without refueling, these aircraft will also require air-to-air refueling for deep attacks, a capability that the future air wing will provide organically primarily with strike-fighters used in a buddy refueling mode. Thus, there will be a significant multimission drain on the air wingís first day of the war strike capabilities. In addition, the continuing commitment to a CTOL configuration in order to maximize aircraft performance will preserve current constraints on how to ìoperateî both the deck and the battle group, because the air wing will still depend on catapaults and tail hooks to launch and recover.

Despite these constraints, naval aviation still provides potent strike capabilities, and its focus since the Gulf war on increasing and improving its stock of precision guided munitions more than compensates for the decline in the size of both the carrier force and its air wings. Other initiatives to find, for example, ways of increasing sortie rates can also compensate, but the important point is that these increases are occurring at the rate at which mature systems improve, not at the much steeper rate at which less mature systems improve. Major additional increments in the precision strike from the sea mission area will therefore depend on the development of better long range precision weapons for deployment on surface combatants and submarines.

Precision Strike From the Sea Tomorrow

Long range precision weapons like the Tomahawk cruise missile allow the Navy to involve all of its combatant platforms in strike warfare. Tomahawks fit into the vertical launchers on both surface ships and submarines and take the standoff tactic to its logical extreme by eliminating the intermediate aircraft stage. Standoff precision weapons, unlike combat aircraft, are a relatively immature technology whose development is still at the stage where rapidly increasing returns in both capability and cost reduction are still available. They also create the need for new concepts of operation for precision strike from the sea which better exploit the unique capabilities of the Navyís multimission platforms, bringing those capabilities into better alignment with the demands of a new security environment. Specifically, vigorous development of long range precision weapons will increase the comparative advantages of the submarine force in this mission area, giving the Navy more flexibility in how it divides the labor among its oversubscribed platforms.

For example, an increased role for the submarine force in precision strike from the sea would free up additional surface and aviation assets for countering opposing sea denial efforts, whether in air and missile defense, mine warfare, or for the ASW effort against very quiet modern submarines. ASW in particular is a mission which demands an all arms, coordinated approach that includes surface ships, submarines, fixed and rotary wing air assets, and the integrated undersea surveillance community.6

At the same time, a deepened commitment to precision weapon development would allow the Navy to gain the tremendous increasing returns on investment that occur early in the developmental learning curve of a new class of weapon, when costs drop and capabilities rise at their steepest rates. It is important for the Navy to capture these increasing returns because of the growing cost of penetrating modern air defenses using more traditional methods. Combined, these two initiatives would allow the Navy to increase its precision strike from the sea capability while simultaneously reducing its costs, measured in terms of dollars; foregone capabilities in air defense, missile defense, fire support, or ASW; and most importantly, combat losses to non-stealthy aircraft early in a conflict.

Therefore, in a world in which capabilities for precision strike from the sea include vertical launchers as well as aircraft, the value of each individual launcher, whether on a surface ship or a submarine, can be increased dramatically through further precision weapon development. Furthermore, the specific utility of the submarine force will grow in relative value if two additional opportunities are exploited - the added launcher capacity available in SSBNs made surplus by the end of the Cold War, and the improved wideband connectivity available from a new generation of communication capabilities spawned by the commercial information revolution.

Nuclear arms reductions caused by the end of the Cold War will likely soon liberate at least four SSBNs from their nuclear deterrence mission. SSBNs converted into SSGNs could well prove to be the dominant VLS platforms for precision strike from the sea, especially early in a contingency when the air and sea control battles are still being contested and the multimission pull on attack submarines, surface combatants and carriers will be highest. Historically, in comparison to smaller attack submarines, surface platforms have had many more vertical launchers and have therefore been able to deploy more strike weapons, even considering the fact that these weapons had to compete with air defense and ASW weapons in the surface shipís magazine. This basic comparative advantage disappears when the submarine half of the comparison is a converted Trident SSGN. An SSGN would combine all of the traditional capabilities of an attack submarine, along with approximately twice the vertical launcher volume in its converted missile tubes as is available on an Aegis cruiser.

At the same time, the commercial information revolution has spawned a completely new generation of satellite communications capabilities, some of which promise to help close the traditional Cold War gap in wideband connectivity separating the stealthy submarine force from the rest of the Navy. Given these technical opportunities, the submarine force is taking advantage of today's more benign tactical environment to implement new approaches to maintaining connectivity. Combined, these steps will allow the submarine force to link into wide area C4ISR nets that were largely off limits to the Cold War silent service due to the nature and location of their operations.

The next three sections discuss the results of the conference's look at the prospects for further precision weapon development, an SSBN to SSGN conversion program, and improved wideband connectivity for the submarine force.

The Prospects for Further Precision Weapon Development

Desert Storm saw the first use in combat of long range precision weapons in the form of Tomahawk cruise missiles and Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) ballistic missiles. Conventional cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) together with stealth aircraft represent a triad of delivery vehicles able to penetrate advanced air defenses and deliver precision weapons without the prior need to suppress opposing air and ground defenses. The significance of this potent combination of penetrativeness and precision has been widely noted in the context of stealth aircraft. For example, the Air Force presented briefing slides after the Gulf War showing one B-2 or eight F-117s replacing massive, Desert Storm-like strike packages of up to 50-60 aircraft assembled to assure the penetration of 16 F-15Es with LGBs or 32 F-16s carrying dumb bombs. Much less attention has been focused on the even more impressive capabilities that will result from further development of tactical cruise and ballistic missiles. The extent of these capabilities will depend specifically on progress in all-source sensor networks, more reliable and precise weapons for attacking targets found by those networks, and wideband communications linking finders and shooters. In all three areas, technological progress is just now poised to enter the period in the development cycle of rapidly increasing returns on investment.

Focusing here on precision TBM development as an example, the cost of precision, defined as the ability to accurately guide TBMs to their targets, is rapidly falling even as the degree of precision achievable is increasing. The most important driver of this trend has been the explosive development of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and its utilization with cheap, lightweight, but very accurate inertial measurement units in embedded GPS/INS guidance systems. Today these promise roughly 20 meter accuracy in the face of jamming, good enough for attacking fixed area targets, but tomorrow will provide 2-3 meter accuracy. A succint summary of the effect on weapon design constraints caused by accuracy improvements of this magnitude was recently provided by the Naval Studies Board of the National Research Council in a report on future weapon development. In a discussion of improving the performance of TBMs designed to strike fixed targets, it noted that:

"Impact accuracy is the single highest-leverage area available for point targets. Ordnance weight, hence throw weight, hence missile size, hence missile fly-away cost, varies approximately as the square of the required lethal pattern radius for submunitions, or as the cube of the standoff radius for monolithic HE (warheads)."7

Thus, for example, a doubling of TBM accuracy will reduce the payload required to destroy fixed targets eightfold, giving a 250 pound warhead the capability of a 2000 pound warhead. For accuracies of 2-3 meters, this would give a TBM with a 250 pound payload the ability to destroy targets that now require LGBs. Using 1980s technology, the ATACMS TBM used in Desert Storm throws a payload of over 1200 pounds more than 100 kilometers, and with slight modification will fit into the vertical launchers of both surface ships and submarines. Given 2-3 meter accuracy, a new generation of cheaper, smaller, longer-ranged TBMs could be deployed in larger numbers by the same launchers, giving surface combatants with 100 VLS cells the ability to deploy perhaps 300 such weapons, and giving Trident SSGNs with much larger launcher volumes the ability to deploy 500 to 1000.

It is the prospect of improvements of this scale in the performance of precision weapons, combined with similar improvements in the ability to find, designate, and assess the damage to their targets that lends credence to claims of an impending revolution in military affairs (RMA) in which so-called reconnaissance-strike complexes linked via wide bandwidth datalinks will become possible. It is too soon to determine whether these claims will prove correct. More importantly, even if this vision of the future does prove accurate, it is too soon to choose the most appropriate path to get there. Thus, the conference explored some of the major uncertainties that remain regarding the future development and comparative advantages and weaknesses of cruise missiles and TBMs.

Tomahawk and ATACMS are the prime examples of the two classes of weapon today. Roughly the same size and weight, cruise missiles like Tomahawk can achieve longer ranges for a given size than TBMs, but on the other hand, fly much more slowly. Increasingly, both types of weapon will be guided by embedded GPS/INS, but their different flight profiles produce different strengths and weaknesses. Due to its relatively slow speed, a cruise missile is more vulnerable to GPS jamming, because it spends more time within line-of-sight of jammers deployed near the target, which in turn gives its INS more time to drift. This means that true precision will still require a terminal sensor, which in turn imposes the need either for more substantial pre-launch mission planning, a data link that allows man-in-the-loop guidance, or reliable automatic target recognition (ATR) techniques. Because it flies so much more quickly, a TBM is less vulnerable to jamming in the terminal phase, because its INS will drift less while denied the GPS signal, introducing less error and potentially eliminating the need for a terminal sensor and all its associated costs, both operational and financial.

On the other hand, when viewed from a systems perspective, what appears to be a weakness for cruise missiles may in fact prove to be a virtue, given the need for timely battle damage assessment (BDA), the ability to determine the effects of an attack in order to determine whether there is the need for a further attack. A major lesson of Desert Storm was the need for better, more timely BDA, since its absence drives conservative planners to assign multiple weapons/sorties against each target in order to drive up the probability that it will be destroyed. With reliable and timely BDA, planners can "shoot-look-shoot," assigning follow on strikes against only those targets they know were missed in the first wave of attacks.

A current advantage of strike aircraft over standoff weapons is that the former usually return from their missions, often bringing with them information that can be used to perform BDA. The advantage of having a terminal sensor on a cruise missile is that it might provide similar information, sending back both an image of the target and its GPS position just before striking it. Adding a terminal sensor to a TBM for this purpose would be more difficult and expensive, because the nosecone of a ballistic missile in reentry is a very inhospitableplace for a terminal sensor. On the other hand, it would be quite easy for a TBM to report back its GPS position just before impact, which though not sufficient for complete BDA might still be sufficient to capture most of its benefits, especially against fixed targets. Thus, when one includes consideration of the need for BDA, particularly against moving or movable targets, the comparative advantages of the two types of weapon may evolve in unexpected ways. The cruise missile with the long time of flight, and therefore with the greater ìtime lateî problem that normally bedevils strike planning against moving or movable targets, might actually turn out to be more effective against that target set because it can more easily provide the full BDA report back needed for such attacks. By the same token, the very short time of flight TBM, which normally would have the best capability against time urgent targets, might prove relatively more effective against fixed targets, due to the likelihood that such targets would be more heavily defended with countermeasures such as GPS or datalink jamming.

Given the early stage of development of both types of systems, it is too soon for their comparative advantages and disadvantages to be resolved sufficiently to choose or emphasize one over the other, which argues strongly for maintaining parallel development programs for both cruise missiles and TBMs. Parallel development programs utilizing different approaches to the same problem are particularly important when the underlying technical base is in a state of ferment. When the technical base in a given area of development is immature, it is important to avoid the "lock in" that can result when choices between different systems are made prematurely, often on the basis of local, idiosyncratic factors that skew choice away from what later turns out to be the superior system or combination of systems. In the area of long range, precision weapon development, this argues both for parallel cruise missile and TBM development, and for a modular approach in each case such that the resulting weapons can carry payloads useful against a variety of targets, and be launched by both surface ships and submarines. On the latter front, current Navy TBM development efforts face a dilemma over the best way to proceed.

Two options for naval TBM development have emerged. The first is a joint Army-Navy program to marinize ATACMS, managed on the Navy side by the Strategic Systems Program Office (SSPO), and funded jointly by the Navyís surface and submarine communities. NTACMS would build on the Armyís ongoing efforts to improve ATACMS, and would produce a family of missiles with ranges from 100 to 300 miles, carrying either submunitions for use against soft area targets, brilliant anti-tank (BAT) submunitions, or a penetrator for use against hard/buried targets. NTACMS would be designed from the start to be compatible with the vertical launchers used on both surface ships and submarines.

A second option would take an older version of the Navy's Standard surface-to-air (SAM) missile and convert it into a land attack missile (LASM) of 150 mile range. The main element of the conversion would substitute the SAM's semiactive homing seeker with a GPS/INS guidance package, while retaining the existing unitary HE warhead used in the SAM version. Compared to NTACMS, LASM would be between a third to a half as expensive, and would already be compatible with surface launchers. This makes it cheaper for the surface community to pursue LASM alone than to pursue NTACMS together with the submarine community. On the other hand, little work has been done to determine if LASM is compatible with submarine launchers, and more important, there would be less certainty of a vigorous future development program for LASM if its development costs are not shared outside the relatively narrow base of the Navy's surface community. Given the clear need for a long term Navy TBM development program, and for modular weapons compatible with both surface and submarine launchers and useful against the full range of potential targets, the Navy needs to ensure that a near term, budget-driven decision to pursue LASM and delay NTACMS' deployment does not inadvertently prejudice either of those important objectives.

Compared to TBM development, the tradeoffs in cruise missile development are less taxing. Currently, Navy ships and submarines are deploying a version of land attack Tomahawk known as Block III, an improved, post Gulf War version of the original Block II land attack missile. The main advantage of Block III is that it includes a GPS receiver which greatly shortens the time needed for mission planning, and greatly reduces the bandwidth needed for communicating mission planning data, making Tomahawk more user friendly and timely. Two options for moving beyond Block III exist. Both would remain compatible with surface and submarine launchers and both involve adding a two way, UHF satellite data link to the missile, allowing man-in-the-loop target designation and BDA to be performed while the missile is in flight. The choice is between a more evolutionary Block IV program with an IOC in 2001, and a "Tactical Tomahawk." In return for the addition of more development risk and a later IOC, Tactical Tomahawk will provide significantly lower acquisition and life cycle costs with an airframe redesigned for low cost manufacture. Either option will provide a significant additional increment in capability, primarily through the addition of the data link, and the main tradeoff is between an earlier Block IV IOC with less development risk and the potential for a 50 percent reduction in production costs with Tactical Tomahawk.

At this writing, the Navy has chosen to delay NTACMS in favor of LASM, and to cancel Tomahawk Block IV in favor of Tactical Tomahawk. However these near term choices play out over time, the Navy needs to preserve flexibility in its future investments in precision strike from the sea, in terms of the platforms involved, the weapons they deploy, and the target sets against which those weapons are optimized. One means of ensuring the needed flexibility is to designate an organizational home for future Navy TBM development, one obvious candidate being the Strategic Systems Program Office (SSPO). This would elevate TBM development to a Navy-wide rather than a platform-specific level, and give it a sponsor with the political, managerial, and technical skills commensurate with its future potential. This will help ensure that both TBM and cruise missile developments will be a major source of innovation in precision strike from the sea, and that the submarine force will join the surface force in exploiting that innovation in a world in which base access will be less certain and opposing sea denial capabilities more potent.

Fortunately, an increased role for the submarine force in this mission area will be easier to implement than it would have been during the Cold War. In the next two sections, the report summarizes the conferenceís discussion of two reasons why this is so. The next section looks at the opportunity to convert Trident SSBNs into SSGNs, and the one following it looks at how the information revolution helps to create the opportunity for radically improved submarine connectivity. Trident SSGNs will give the submarine force greatly expanded magazine space for precision weapons and improved connectivity will more closely link SSGNs and SSNs to C4ISR networks for targeting, weapon control, and damage assessment purposes.

Submarines and the End of the Cold War

The U.S. Navy's nuclear powered submarine force was the dominant platform in two preeminently important Cold War mission areas - strategic nuclear deterrence and ASW. The end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union have led to deep cuts in the nuclear forces of both sides, and even though SSBNs will remain the core of the residual U.S. deterrent, their numbers will be reduced from 18 to 14 according to the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review. The end of the ColdWar has also eliminated for now the threat of a major, blue water submarine threat to U.S. sea control forces. This is fortunate since even before the end of the Cold War, the first truly quiet Soviet submarines were already threatening the U.S. Navy's passive acoustics-based ASW posture in which submarines had played perhaps the key role. Modern non nuclear submarines pose a similar threat, particularly those which combine an ability to stay submerged for weeks rather than days with the most modern anti-shipping weapons. Their increased proliferation, fueled in part by ìexport or dieî imperatives on the part of shipyards and design bureaux in Russia and Western Europe, and in part by the total dominance of the U.S. Navy on and above the seas, is already causing internal debates within the Navy over whether it needs to begin reinvesting in its sea control forces. If it is to succeed, such a reinvestment will need to support an all arms, undersea warfare team that includes aircraft and surface combatants, as well as submarines, all linked together by an IUSS network that is the undersea analog to the ISR nets that are fundamentally changing strike warfare.

Thus, even though nuclear deterrence and ASW will remain important in tomorrowís security environment, SSBNs and SSNs can and will play a significant role in other mission areas. This discussion will focus on the role of a Trident SSGN force in precision strike from the sea, and in particular on the unique capabilities created by using its missile tubes for missions other than nuclear deterrence. The main benefit of this conversion will result from the marriage of the SSGN and modern, long range precision weapons. This combination could accomplish in the precision strike from the sea mission area what the SSBN-SLBM combination did for nuclear deterrence beginning in November, 1960. Another benefit of the conversion will be the special operations capabilities that an SSGN will provide. Navy Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) teams, forward deployed aboard SSGNs, give the SSGN another potent means of producing precision effects ashore.

In order to understand the full value of an SSGN in precision strike from the sea, it is useful to return for a moment to the themes discussed in the first section, where the report discussed the continual tradeoffs facing the designers of strike platforms which must simultaneously survive attacks and launch them. Steps to counter one threat tend to limit efforts to counter the other, and the resulting tradeoffs tend to steadily increase the cost of achieving a given capability. The reason why the combination of submarines and long range precision weapons is potentially revolutionary is because it links a weapons platform whose inherent stealth makes it easy to defend with a weapon against which defense is extremely difficult. It is this combination of inherent survivability and lethality which the SSBN force brought to the nuclear deterrence mission, and given the rapidly growing lethality of modern precision weapons, this is what makes a conventional SSGN force such an important opportunity. The size of the opportunity can be measured by comparing the volume of the space available on an SSGN for this mission to that on either an Aegis cruiser or an SSN, the two platforms which together comprise todayís long range precision weapon force.

As indicated in the above graphic, Trident missile tubes are much larger than the vertical launchers on either surface ships or SSNs. Vertical launchers are able to accommodate a variety of weapons up to 21 inches in diameter, including Tomahawk, and on surface ships, Standard SAMs, and ASROC. Trident missile tubes are wide enough to accommodate 6 Tomahawk-size weapons. In principal they are also long enough to stack them two deep, for a total of 12 per tube, making for a theoretical capability of 288 VLS cell equivalents. In the near term, a capability of 144 VLS cell equivalents is more likely for the current generation of weapons which were not designed to be double-stacked. In theory, with 288 VLS cell equivalents, an SSGN is equal to roughly 2.5 Aegis cruisers and 7.5 improved 688 class SSNs in terms of total launcher volume. In practice, the ability to fully exploit this launcher volume will probably await a new generation of precision weapons designed from the start for concentrated storage in vertical launchers.

Because SSGNs will initially carry only a single stack of six 21" missiles in its tubes, and because two of those tubes will be dedicated to the SEAL delivery mission, only 132 VLS cell equivalents will be available for strike warfare. On the other hand, between 50 and 75 % of the VLS space on an Aegis cruiser will be allocated to air defense, missile defense, and ASW weapons, a physical manifestation of the multi-mission pull that they face in the new security environment. This means that a single SSGN will provide about as much long range, standoff precision weapon capability as resides today in all the escorts in a typical battle group.

Furthermore, the SSGN would remain a multimission platform, retaining the full range of traditional SSN capabilities in ASW, mine warfare, and ISR, and also adding a formidable special operations capability by dedicating two of its missile tubes to advanced SEAL delivery and recovery systems. Submarine support of special operations has a long if often untold history. The British experience in the Falklands provides perhaps the best example of the possibilities in this normally secret area. The most widely known submarine special operation in a war that involved many saw the HMS Onyx covertly deliver and recover special boat squadron commandos who helped destroy Argentinian aircraft deployed at the airfield on Pebble Island. A Trident SSGN would have the space aboard for a permanent contingent of SEALs. It could also meet a Marine Expeditionary Unit well out at sea and take aboard a company-sized Marine force reconnaissance team for a more limited period in support of a particular operation. A slightly more limited menu of submarine special operations capabilities are now provided by the converted Poseidon SSBNs Polk and Kamehameha, which will soon retire after more than 30 years of service. Also, the New Attack Submarine (NSSN) is designed to support special forces with its mine warfare lockout chamber, its reconfigurable torpedo room, and its ability to host SEAL drydock shelters and advanced delivery vehicles. However, Trident SSGNs are the only way to continue giving the Navy a covert delivery capability for SEALs and Marines commensurate with their likely utility in future conflicts.

The opportunity represented by an SSGN force can be measured directly in terms of the added strike warfare and special operations capabilities it provides, and indirectly in terms of the capabilities it liberates in the other platforms with which it shares missions, since they are normally multimission platforms as well. In the first case, an SSGN assigned to a battle group would double or triple its strike assets and give the battle group commander a means of suppressing opposing air defenses and shore-based sea denial forces from a stealthy, secure, forward-based platform. Used in this way, an SSGN would increase the effectiveness of and reduce the danger to other battle group strike assets early in a conflict.

Less obviously, by improving the submarine forceís contribution to precision strike from the sea, an SSGN would also help create additional ASW, air, and tactical ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities in the air and surface forces by giving the Navy more flexibility to focus on those mission areas should the need arise. This could be reflected physically in terms of finite magazine space allocations, allowing other platforms to carry fewer strike weapons, or tactically and operationally, giving other platforms more freedom of maneuver in space and time early in a contingency when multimission pull is highest.

The surface community provides a good example of the multimission pressures that may face all of the Navyís platform communities in future contingencies. Surface ships have central roles in AAW, ASW, strike warfare, and increasingly, in tactical BMD as well. All these missions compete for magazine space aboard ship, but they also can demand that ships be in four places at once: near a Battle Group or an Amphibious Ready Group (AAW), supporting engaged Marines ashore (fire support), prosecuting potential submarine contacts (ASW), near ports of debarkation for arriving forces (tactical BMD), and in Tomahawk launch boxes oriented toward strategic targets deep in an opponentís territory (strike warfare). This multimission pull is greatly exacerbated today by both the drop in total numbers of ships, and the reduction in numbers of ships assigned individual battle groups.

One method of dealing with multimission pull is to embrace sequential operations in which all platforms combine to focus on defeating opposing sea denial forces before projecting power ashore. In the immediate post Cold War period, the surface community and the Navy as a whole have assumed instead that investment in ASW can be dramatically reduced without threatening the ability to engage in concurrent sea and land control operations because the Cold War submarine threat is gone and has not been replaced. This meets with the approval of the political leadership, because power projection operations from the sea early in a conflict play a proportionately larger role in supporting our national strategy today than they did in the Cold War. This approach is dangerous for two reasons.

First, though the Soviet submarine threat is not likely to be replaced on a one for one basis anytime soon, ASW is still an important mission because even small forces of modern submarines, in contingencies where the U.S. is fighting over less than vital interests, can extract costs that will be deemed too great to ignore. Even if the Navy is correct in its view that such a force could not deny U.S. power projection across and from the sea, the other services, the national political leadership, and our allies will demand the highest level of protection for U.S. and allied ships. This is because there are few better ways for a weaker power to steal political victory from the jaws of otherwise certain military defeat than to impose casualties on the stronger power out of proportion to the latterís political stakes in the conflict.

Second, unlike during much of the Cold War, when Soviet nuclear submarines were relatively detectable using passive acoustic methods, the ASW mission against todayís very quiet submarines will demand an all arms, coordinated assault by all the Navyís ASW assets. This is because a very quiet opponent can only be detected at relatively short range using the passive acoustic ASW techniques that were and are the forte of the stealthy submarine force. This means that a complete menu of ASW techniques will be needed which can only be provided if all the Navy's ASW assets are engaged, which means that the Navy needs to keep investments in training, procurement, and R&D for ASW flowing to all four of its ASW communities, including the integrated undersea surveillance community.

It is in this context that one of the most important benefits of an SSGN force emerges. Given the strike warfare potential provided by an SSGN force, there is less need for the surface community to focus on that mission to the exclusion of others where its capabilities are unique and irreplaceable, whether in ASW, AAW, tactical BMD, or fire support for engaged Marines ashore. This does not mean that surface ships will not play a major role in strike warfare, and indeed submarines will continue to play a major role in ASW. What it does mean is that the optimum alignment in the future security environment between the Navy's multimission platforms and its multiplatform mission areas may require that the submarine force help reduce the multimission pull confronting the Navyís other platform communities by reducing their strike warfare burdens, particularly early in a future conflict.

What may sound like the roles and missions version of musical chairs actually has strong historical precedents. For example, after World War II, submarines became the preeminent ASW platform because they were optimally suited to exploiting the passive acoustic breakthrough that proved so useful in forward operations against snorkeling diesel submarines in transit and later, relatively loud nuclear submarines. In World War II, submarines had played essentially no role in ASW. After it, they rapidly became the dominant community in that mission area.8 At the same time, the surface force, whose active sonar-based ASW capabilities were ill suited to countering fast nuclear submarines, were uniquely suited to deploying SAMs at sea, a revolutionary new weapon that gave that community a dominant role in AAW, just in time to counter air-to-surface weapons evolved from the Kamikaze threat that had overwhelmed Navy carrier defenses in the last year of the war against Japan. This tradition of AAW innovation in the surface community has continued with the AEGIS program, the cooperative engagement capability, and will be important to future efforts to counter stealthy anti-ship missiles and perhaps, tactical ballistic missiles.

What these examples show most clearly is that naval doctrine needs to remain flexible as geopolitics and technology conspire to produce new security environments, which in turn place new demands on the Navyís platform communities, forcing them to create new weapons and eliminate obsolete ones, and to change the division of labor among the platforms that deliver the weapons. In both cases, the resulting intraservice politics can be competitive, and to the participants involved, it can appear like they are engaged in a zero-sum game in which the budgets and relevance of their respective communities are at stake. But the innovation that results is important, and less often leads to the demise of any one of the Navyís platform communities than to their collective rejuvenation.

Connectivity and Precision Strike From the Sea

The previous section discussed how new ways of performing precision strike from the sea can simultaneously increase the Navyís leverage ashore and allow it to refocus on countering enemy sea denial forces. This effect is achieved primarily by realigning the current division of labor among the Navy's platform communities to better exploit their unique capabilities in a changed security environment. For those who believe in a revolution in military affairs, this should not be a contentious assumption, since the basic premise of an RMA is that innovation will lead to enormously greater returns in battlefield outcomes for a given investment, especially in strike warfare where most discussions of an RMA begin and end. However, more than several conference participants detected an air of strategic/technocratic optimism in this assumption. There are several ways that this discussion might be found guilty of that sin.

Strategically, it may be overestimating the inherent value of strike warfare, whether from the sea or from an airfield ashore, which of course would be a fundamental critique of the RMA concept, and which would also argue against a Navy attempt to use innovation in strike warfare to increase its leverage ashore. Technologically, it may be overestimating the ability of C4ISR nets to provide targets to the strike forces whose capabilities to attack targets no longer lag as far behind the supply of those targets as they once did. This critique would argue that there has been an inversion in the relative effectiveness of weapons and the C4ISR nets that serve them, with advances in the former now exceeding the capabilities of the latter, which would argue for greater investments in C4ISR rather than in weapons. Finally and most specifically, it may be underestimating the connectivity challenges involved in linking advanced C4ISR and precision weapon capabilities together into a so called reconnaissance-strike complex.

Thissection focuses mostly on the last question, which applies with special vigor to the submarine force, which historically has been perceived as the silent service. It neither assumes the existence of an RMA, nor of an all knowing, all seeing C4ISR network. Rather, it focuses on the general question of whether connectivity problems block the further development of precision strike from the sea, and the particular question of whether submarines face unique connectivity problems that mitigate their other advantages in this mission area. Precision strike will be an important element of future warfare whether or not there is an RMA, and this section will simply argue that connectivity is not a reason to discount the effectiveness of the Navy or itís submarine force in precision strike from the sea. In a much briefer section that follows this one, there is a discussion of the Navy and future ISR networks of relevance to precision strike from the sea.

Connectivity is the ability of one platform to receive information from and/or transmit it to another. These information flows can be one or two way; they can move at low or high data rates; they can be prone to enemy jamming or resistant to it; they can be easily detectable or covert; and their range can be limited to line-of-sight propagation constraints or capable of propagation over the horizon. At some radio frequencies, over the horizon propagation occurs naturally, but at higher, more militarily useful frequencies, line-of-sight constraints are defeated through the use of communication satellites, the most common being those in geosynchronous orbit where the satellite remains fixed in space relative to a particular point on the equator. Three or four geosynchronous satellites equally spaced around the equator can cover the entire earth with the exception of its two poles.

Military requirements and the laws of physics conspired during the Cold War to make the U.S. Navyís submarine force largely dependent for connectivity on one way broadcasts, often at frequencies low enough to allow reception by submerged antennas. This approach was consistent with the tradition of autonomous operations established in the war against Japanese shipping, and was reinforced by the Cold War military requirement to operate continuously near Soviet home waters, where radio transmissions could be easily intercepted, geolocated, and used to cue opposing ASW assets.

Sharing in many respects the same traditions, but facing a very different set of military requirements, the rest of the Navy adopted a very different approach to connectivity, embracing first line-of-sight data links and then satellite communications more aggressively than the other services, and continuing to lead developments in those areas today, with systems like the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEP), Link 16 (nee JTIDS), and EHF satellite communications. Several particular military requirements drove these developments, the most important being integrated fleet air defense and oceanwide undersea surveillance. These missions, as well as more recent ones like cooperative ASW and precision strike from the sea, share a need for jam resistant, high data rate, and in some cases, covert, two way connectivity among the platforms and sensors involved. The only way for a communications system to enjoy all these capabilities at once is to use relatively high frequency communications systems in order to get wide bandwidths, and if these are to have over the horizon reach, they will use satellite relays linking high gain or large aperture communication antennas at the transmit and receive terminals. In general the size of these antennas vary inversely with the frequency, with higher frequencies allowing smaller apertures, and with new developments in both phased array antennas and radio signal modulation, the aperture required at any given frequency is dropping. But it is still the case that in an "aperture race" between a submarine and a major surface combatant the latter will always win, inducing ìsurface envyî in the former, to quote the conference's presenter on this topic.

This is because today's submarines are limited to apertures no larger than the diameter of their communications masts, whose size is limited both by the width of the submarineís sail, and by the desire to minimize detection probabilities by airborne search radars, keeping antenna apertures below those optimal for reception at the SHF frequencies now most commonly used for wide bandwidth, military and commercial satellite communications. This combination of military requirements and the laws of physics imposes an upper bound on the data rates achievable by a submarine, especially at SHF, and it is commonplace to assume that these data rate limits in turn deny submarines the connectivity needed for missions like precision strike from the sea. To conclude this would be to continue a long tradition in the area of submarine communications of blaming basic technical constraints for operational practices that have other sources, in this case the Cold War military requirement to maximize stealth.

The submarine force realizes that it can no longer be the silent service if it wishes to function effectively in the post Cold War security environment.9 Future submarine connectivity will depend primarily on the interplay between military requirements in a new security environment and the possibilities created by new technology. The interrelationship between these two variables demands that the submarine force play a role in determining connectivity requirements in precision strike from the sea, since those requirements can easily be written in a way that unnecessarily limits the submarineís role in this mission.

Keeping this interrelationship in mind, several ways of improving submarine connectivity were discussed. First, though submarines will always be limited in aperture versus surface ships, great improvements in bandwidth are still possible by using EHF satellite communications. EHF satcom can provide high bandwidth to and from very small aperture terminals. Thus, it can easily combine the T-1 data rates (1.54 megabits/sec) that are currently available only at SHF with very small terminals compatible with any platform able to deploy much lower data rate UHF satcom terminals. Of course, the commercial information revolution is creating global information channels that can move data at gigabits per second, and compared to these T-1 may look slow, but a more apt comparison is that between T-1 and the kilobit/sec data rates characterizing fleet communications developed during the Cold War. Using the latter, it was impossible for submarines (and aircraft carriers and surface ships for that matter) to quickly download either the Air Tasking Order or Tomahawk mission planning data during the Gulf War, but at T-1 rates, both can be accomplished in minutes.

Second, more can be done to ensure connectivity with submarines submerged below periscope depth. One approach would be to revisit the concept of an offboard communications buoy, linked by wire to the submarine and towed at reasonable depth and speed, or more ambitiously, linked by long range (>100 km), covert acoustic communication links. Another would be to increase the capabilities of submerged antennas for receipt of traditional VLF and ELF broadcasts, primarily to improve the "bell ringing" function of these networks so as to reduce the time needed for a submerged submarine to adopt a higher data rate communications posture.

Third, submarines need better support from shore surrogates. These can act to reduce connectivity requirements in two generic ways; by on the one hand processing information before passing it along to the submarine, thereby reducing the required data rate of the transmission; and on the other hand, by serving as the submarineís representative to Navy and joint C4ISR nets, thus allowing a virtual link to be maintained when the submarine is not easily accessible, and also allowing the submarine to use only one link to connect to multiple networks rather than forcing it to deploy a babel of separate links, one for each network.

Fourth, the submarine force should take advantage of two serendipitous facts: most submarine connectivity requirements are asymmetrical, meaning that the capacity of the downlink usually needs to be greater than the uplink; and modern broadcast satellites have no trouble assuring T-1and greater downlinks to very small aperture terminals as long as they are included as part of the original design requirement. This means, for example, that the Global Broadcast System (GBS) planned for later versions of the Navy's UFO satellite system, which is designed to downlink up to 24 mbps to a surface ship terminal, could still assure 3 mbps downlinks to today's submarine terminal as long as the signal is designed with that terminal in mind. This point applies with even greater vigor to future commercial or military Ka band satellite communication systems like Teledesic or MILSTAR II, which promise much improved downlink capacity to very small aperture terminals.10 The Navy should ensure that all of its platforms, including especially its submarines, are able to exploit the opportunity go beyond traditional, bulky SHF satcom systems.

This introduces the last and arguably most important method of improving submarine connectivity, which is to manage data rate requirements. For example, is it sufficient for submarines to uplink high resolution still shots rather than full-motion video taken from its optronics mast or downlinked from a UAV under its control? Is it sufficient for a submarine to periodically voice conference rather than video conference with a battle group commander? These are examples of tradeoffs in requirements which, at seemingly small cost in capability, generate huge virtual gains in connectivity. Other examples of managing data rate requirements have already occurred, perhaps the most important being the switch with Block III Tomahawk to a GPS rather than Tercom-based enroute mission planning system. Still to come are the connectivity advantages that will accrue when submarines deploy TBMs, since these do not require target imagery in advance or a datalink to achieve endgame precision against fixed targets in the way that air breathing standoff weapons like Tomahawk do.

The silent service should not aspire to be the garrulous service, and a submerged submarine is never going to be a congenial place to watch the Super Bowl, but neither the Navy nor the submarine force should allow connectivity to limit the latterís participation in precision strike from the sea, since neither technology nor military requirements stand in the way. The limits on effectiveness in this mission area will result more from limits in the capability of supporting ISR nets. Without addressing this issue directly, the next section briefly discusses the potential need for an organic Navy ISR capability against moving targets ashore.

The Navy and Future ISR Nets

Whether or not they help produce an RMA, new sensors will undoubtedly provide better information to future commanders about their battlefields. One of the most important of these new sensors is the combined synthetic aperture (SAR) and ground moving target indicator (GMTI) radar capability provided on manned airborne platforms such as Joint STARS and U-2, unmanned platforms such as Global Hawk, and perhaps in the future, constellations of small satellites in low earth orbit.11 These systems, all of which are or will be national or joint common user systems, use advanced radar signal processing techniques to image fixed targets and detect and track moving targets, night or day and in all weather conditions.

As national or joint systems, they will have a broad focus, and the finite aperture and processing power available will not be everywhere at once. The apportionment of these relatively scarce resources will likely be the responsibility of the Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC). In a major contingency, these and other national or joint ISR systems can best be used to cue operational/tactical level systems that use similar techniques and that are under the control of operational commanders, allowing for more focused and continuous coverage of specific areas suspected of containing SCUD launchers, self-propelled artillery, mobile SAM units, or armored unit columns on the move. In precision strike from the sea, these lower level systems will need to be deployed by naval platforms.

Among the obvious platforms for this mission are the P-3 and S-3 aircraft deployed by the VP/VS air ASW community. The main problem is that, like the surface community, the air ASW community is a key player in the fight against very quiet submarines but is also being increasingly diverted to other missions. Serving as airborne SAR/GMTI platforms would give a portion of the air ASW force a new mission and therefore a new source of funding, but it might also further divert the VP/VS communities from ASW, where their unique capabilities will be in great demand if future power projection operations from the sea face opposing submarines. The key technical issue in the tradeoff between air ASW and air ISR for precision strike from the sea concerns the very different radars that are currently optimal for these very different missions.

In air ASW operations, radars need to be able to detect very small periscopes that are exposed only for a matter of seconds in the midst of significant sea clutter with an acceptable false alarm rate. It may be possible to give a radar that meets these demanding criteria a full overland SAR/GMTI capability as well, but further development is required to achieve this objective. Currently the Navy has a program to give its P-3s a radar that combines traditional air ASW modes with a SAR mode for precision targeting ashore, but it has not yet been able to fund the more ambitious R & D necessary to give that radar a GMTI mode as well. The same upgrades could be provided to the S-3 community because they share the same basic radar, but the prospect of a Common Support Aircraft (CSA) replacement for the S-3 has so far discouraged the Navy from investing in that course. This means that Carrier Battle Groups will lack an organic SAR/MTI radar capability until CSA arrives sometime well into the next century. This relatively small lacuna in the Navyís capabilities could have disproportionate effects in scenarios like the Taiwan Straits crisis of 1996, when shore bases for deploying land-based systems like JSTARS were not available because of the political sensitivities involved. There is both a near and a longer term solution to this potential problem.

The near term solution might involve taking an already developed SAR/GMTI radar off the shelf and installing it on the small ES-3 ELINT/ESM force, giving those specialized platforms essentially the same sensor suite as the U-2 or the Global Hawk UAV, and therefore giving the Battle Group a fully autonomous, organic SAR/GMTI platform before the arrival of CSA. The architecture to support this capability already exists as part of the Battle Group Passive Horizon Extension (BGPHE) system. The longer term solution is to make sufficient R & D money available to ensure that the radars on current and future VP and VS platforms, whether P-3s, S-3s, or their successors, can be given the full menu of overland SAR/GMTI modes without compromising their ASW capabilities, particularly with regard to periscope detection in the crowded littoral environment. Such a development path would ensure that the Navy can acquire robust, organic, operational/tactical level ISR capabilities for precision strike from the sea without being forced to diminish its already thin air ASW capabilities.

In general, the quality of ISR networks supporting precision strike from the sea will largely be a function of national or joint programs. In no way should the Navy seek to duplicate all these capabilities organically, especially because they are becoming increasinglyuser friendly to the operational/tactical operator, and in the case of systems like Global Hawk, useful even when regional bases ashore are not available. At the same time, the Navyís increasing capability to launch precision attacks from the sea against targets ashore does argue for a limited, organic, airborne SAR/GMTI capability as a complement to national or joint systems.

A Strategy for Preserving the SSGN Option

The previous three sections discuss why submarines can and should play a greater role in precision strike from the sea. The core argument is that the arms control driven opportunity to create an SSGN force, together with improvements in submarine connectivity to more capable ISR nets, make it possible for the submarine force to help the Navy meet the unique demands created by a new security environment. These benefits, combined with the uncertain timing of START II ratification in Russia, make it important for the Navy to develop a near term strategy for accomplishing the SSBN to SSGN conversion. This section of the report describes such a strategy.

The SSBN to SSGN conversion is complicated by the politics of the post Cold War strategic arms reduction talks (START) process between the United States and Russia. The START I treaty was signed in 1991, and START II was signed in 1993, although only the former is in force since the Russian Duma has so far failed to ratify the latter. START I brought the nuclear forces on each side down to 6000 warheads, and START II will reduce them further to about 3000 warheads using more inclusive counting rules. Partly in order to hasten START II ratification, the United Sates has promised to begin a START III negotiation as soon as START II is ratified on the understanding that the new treaty would assuage Russian concerns with START II, which center on fears that they will be unable to maintain forces equal to those that the U.S. will maintain under the treaty. Thus, the expectation is that START III will if implemented lead to further reductions down to roughly 2000 warheads.

The forces that the U.S. will maintain under START II were determined during the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review and will include 14 Trident SSBNs, four less than the 18 in today's force, and it is this planned reduction which creates the opportunity for a Trident SSBN to SSGN conversion should START II be ratified. Under START II, this conversion might have been conducted without consideration for treaty limitations since the treaty limits were high enough to allow the legal fiction that the SSGNs were still SSBNs, and that their launchers still counted against those limits. Clearly this legal fiction would no longer be possible under START III, whose limits will be low enough to require that the SSGNs be converted in a way that removes them from the category of treaty limited systems. Unfortunately, the treaty mandated requirements for such a conversion were written largely at the urging of the United States, at a time during the Cold War when it was more concerned with preventing the Russians from making such conversions than it was with preserving the option, unthinkable at the time, of doing them itself. Therefore, the formal requirements for making SSBNs non-treaty limited are designed to be onerous, and would be expensive to implement in the case of Trident.

Given both the larger value of the START process, and the protracted delay and political complications that would inevitably accompany any formal effort to amend either of the existing treaties, the conference discussed a less formal approach to the SSBN to SSGN conversion issue. The basic strategy is to negotiate a provision in the START III treaty that converted SSBNs are not treaty limited. Russia is extremely unlikely to simply accept such a provision, which means that the U.S. will need to pay a price, probably consisting of some limitations on the number and use of its SSGNs, a set of procedures to verify those limits, and some sort of political compensation to secure Russian acceptance. An important constraint is that the politics of START II ratification are inherently unpredictable, and the political circumstances necessary to secure ratification could arise with little or no warning, and as soon as they do, the negotiation of START III will commence. Once this process begins, it will be too late for the U.S. government to develop a new position on SSBN conversion, which means that it needs to be developed now.

This means that the Navy needs to decide now what it wants from an SSGN force and what it is willing to give in order to get it and communicate that position to those who will negotiate the treaty. Questions about limits likely to arise include whether a ban on nuclear weapons aboard SSGNs, limits on the total number of SSGNs, and a ban on any SSGN to SSBN reconversion are acceptable. Likely verification requirements will include formal notice of the intent to convert, an exhibition of the conversion once complete, and periodic inspections thereafter of one of the missile tubes. Finally, one likely price of the negotiation will be a ban on long range, nuclear armed, sea launched cruise missiles. The Navyís position on these questions needs to be settled soon if the Navy wants to keep to a minimum the risk that itís SSGN option might inadvertently be limited or negotiated away in the rush to get START II ratified and START III negotiated and signed.

Conclusions and Recommendations

From Gibraltar to the Sea of Japan, along the long arc of the Mediterranean-Indo-Pacific littoral, lie important U.S. national interests in a vast region where it lacks assured access to military bases ashore. Recent events in the Arabian Gulf are only a particular manifestation of this emerging geopolitical reality. This juxtaposition of national interest and limited access makes the United States more dependent on the ability of its naval forces to project power from the sea than it was during the Cold War. But as geopolitics pull the Navy from the sea, a countervailing technological trend increasingly demands that it stay at sea. This is because new technology available for building sea denial forces, particularly in undersea warfare, poses an increasing challenge to the technology available for ensuring sea control, and nowhere is this trend more strongly evident than in the current imbalance between ASW forces and modern submarines in favor of the latter, whether they be nuclear or non-nuclear.

Already evident by the end of the Cold War, when Soviet Akula class SSNs flustered their NATO opponents, this adverse trend is likely to continue as the result of proliferation of modern non-nuclear submarines, fueled both by "export or die" imperatives in European and Russian shipyards, and by the perceived need for less developed countries to find asymmetric means of countering overwhelming American military and naval superiority on the surface and in the air. This proliferation is already causing debates within the Navy over whether it needs to reconsider its post Cold War decision to deemphasize sea control in favor of power projection from the sea, setting up a potential clash between advocates of a navy focused on land control versus one that hews to its traditional focus on sea control.

The perceived tradeoff between land and sea control results from a situation in which the Navy's relevance in the future security environment exceeds the capabilities it can buy with its current share of a flat defense budget. Because its relevance exceeds its current capabilities, the Navy faces a crisis of relevance. Two methods of dealing with this crisis are available. First, service shares of the budget could be realigned to reflect more accurately service shares of the national security burden in the new security environment. Second, the division of labor among the Navy's internal platform communities could be realigned in response to technological trends that have changed their relative strengths in different mission areas. The first approach would cause interservice conflict, while the second would cause intraservice conflict, and therefore neither is politically attractive, which makes some prefer the option of continuing to make "sea control" pay for "From the Sea."

The Navy should strongly resist this siren song. This report suggests a strategy for internal innovation as at least a partial means of dealing with the Navy's crisis of relevance. Alone, this strategy still may not be sufficient to bring the Navyís capabilities in line with the demands of the new security environment. Thus, the Navy also needs to consider using the new, post Goldwater-Nichols, joint military structure as its architects intended - as a mechanism for making requirements and allocating budgets in service blind fashion. This would involve a reversal of the Navy's traditional attitude toward the joint military structure, an attitude formed during the Cold War when Americaís continental commitment to the defense of Western Europe often isolated the Navy politically as the odd man out among the three services. Today, the tables are turned, and it is the landbound services which face crises of irrelevance. Given this reality, the Navy may find support rather than opposition in a powerful joint military structure, a subject worth considerable further study.

On the question of internal innovation, the report makes four recommendations: exploit the post Cold War opportunity to convert Trident SSBNs into SSGNs; utilize the 40 years of missile development expertise resident in its SSPO to institutionalize a vigorous Navy tactical ballistic missile development program; continue efforts to improve the connectivity of its submarine force; and strengthen the warfare area sponsors for forces likely to face asymmetric threats in their mission areas.

SSBN Conversion. SSGNs created from converted Trident SSBNs would dramatically increase the vertical launcher space available to the submarine force for supporting precision strike from the sea. This would put the Navy in a better position to consider which of its platforms - air, surface, or submarine - are best suited under different circumstances to exploit better long range precision weapons. Better long range precision weapons will improve the Navy's "first day of the war" strike capabilities, and SSGNs will help the Navy reduce the tradeoff between land and sea control by freeing surface platforms for other important missions where their comparative advantages are greatest.

Tactical Ballistic Missile Development. The Navy's Strategic Systems Program Office has 40 years of unparalleled success in managing the development of ballistic missile technologies. This expertise should be applied to future TBM development. Institutionalizing Navy TBM development by giving it a home in SSPO would ensure that tradeoffs between cruise missiles and TBMs or between different launch platforms for them are not made prematurely, at a time when progress in the underlying technology is moving ahead at a lightning pace. The future is bright for both types of systems and the Navy therefore needs an aggressive TBM development program to complement its highly successful cruise missile program. Both systems should be developed in ways that preserve their compatibility with both surface and submarine launchers, and through the use of modular payloads, their utility against the full range of fixed, mobile, hard, time urgent, and area targets.

Submarine Connectivity. New precision weapons depend on better ISR nets to reach their full potential. Many developments in this area are occurring in the national or joint arena, and the submarine force needs to maintain and perhaps accelerate its current efforts to improve its connectivity to those arenas, both technically by deploying higher data rate communication systems, and politically by shaping system requirements in order to accommodate unique submarine needs. The submarine force must continue to shed its Cold War habits of silence if the Navy is to fully benefit from the unique capabilities submarines bring to new missions like precision strike from the sea.

Warfare Area Advocacy. The Navy needs powerful advocates in its individual mission areas, just as it has powerful advocates for its individual platforms. Warfare area advocates bring an integrated perspective to mission areas in which no single platform can perform alone, and provide a counterbalance to the tendency when budgets are low for the Navy's semi-independent platform communities to follow Willie Suttonís advice and simply go where the money is. The balance of power between platform and warfare area sponsors in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations is an organizational variable that has a long history, and the Navy can manipulate this variable in order to produce different desired effects. It will be particularly important in tomorrowís security environment to ensure effective warfare area sponsorship in areas where asymmetric threats are likely to arise, since such threats are often relatively easy to ignore in peacetime, but in wartime, they turn out to demand a massive, integrated, all arms response. The best way for an organization to avoid the asymmetric threats it sees on its horizon is to make sure its peacetime organization contains an advocate whose job it is to sponsor the efforts needed to counter them.


1. Of course, nuclear war plans did envision defense suppression strikes by ICBMs and SLBMs, but the Air Force sought bombers which were not dependent on such strikes in order to assure their ability to penetrate under all circumstances.
2. Transforming Defense: National Security in the 21st Century, Report of the National Defense Panel, December 1997, p. 33.
3. Ibid., pp. 12-13.
4. The main evidence here lies in the establishment of a warfare area sponsor for ASW in the CNO's office, N84, and the recent assessment by that office for the Congress on the current state of ASW affairs in the Navy. For a discussion of contemporary ASW issues, see Owen Cote and Harvey Sapolsky, Antisubmarine Warfare after the Cold War, MIT Security Studies Conference Series. A text only version of the report is available at
5. Starting in 1931, when Hoover funded Ranger, every Presidential term has seen at least one carrier funded except the Bush administration. 
6. For more on the need for coordinated ASW see Cote and Sapolsky, Antisubmarine Warfare After the Cold War, pp. 8-9.
7. Panel on Weapons, Naval Studies Board, National Research Council, Technology for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 2000-2035, Volume 5, Weapons (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1997) p. 117. The panel on weapons was chaired by Dr. Alan Berman.
8. See for example Owen Cote and Harvey Sapolsky, "The Navy and the Third Battle of the Atlantic," The Submarine Review, July 1997, pp. 40-42.
9. Rear Admiral E. P. Giambastiani, Jr., USN, "Silence in Our Wake," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 123/10/1,136, October 1997, pp. 48-50.
10. On Teledesic see or Jeff Cole, "A New Satellite Era Looms Just Over the Horizon," The Wall Street Journal, March 18, 1997, p. B1.
11. On the last, see David A. Fulghum, "Small Recon Satellites Win 1999 Budget Funding," Aviation Week & Space Technology, Vol. 148, No. 6, February 9, 1998, p. 28.