This photo is a silhouette of a U.S. Navy Fast Attack (SSN) submarine.

CALL
to
WAR

A Proud Legacy of Innovation Inspires New Ways to Fight and Win

by RADM Richard P. Terpstra, USN


Surprise attack on American soil... An enemy we did not know well or understand... An enemy who knew more about us than we did about him... An ongoing revolution in warfare... The need to take the fight to the enemy.


The Old and the New
Many things have changed since a Great Generation rose up to challenge and defeat worldwide enemies bent on intimidation and the destruction of all who opposed them. Surely, World War II tested the character of our nation and demonstrated the importance of innovation and the continuing need for improving the way we fight in the face of unexpected threats and an unpredictable enemy. While times have changed, and technology has accelerated rapidly since the 1940s, lessons and principles of the past still beckon during this current conflict and conflicts yet to come. These lessons call upon the greatness of those in service today to act now at best speed. The global war on terror - and it is a war - or the next war against whatever foe may confront us, challenges us to think differently. I believe we can learn a great deal from the aggressive and sometimes risk-embracing mindset of our World War II warriors. Whether through technical and tactical means or sheer tenacity, new and important ways to fight and contribute to the war effort came quickly to those heroes - because they had to!
 
While some of this discussion may fall under the academic or policy realm of "transformation," my intent is not to add to the multitude of voices touting the need to transform our military capabilities - that chorus is loud and sometimes confusing - but it's right-on! Rather, my goal is to challenge each wardroom to discuss new ways to fight and to call your attention to warriors of the past and the way they waged war.
 
Joint Warfare Solutions
It's fitting to preface this discussion by noting the importance of joint warfare. The war on terror highlights the absolute necessity for sharing intelligence, situational awareness, and operational strengths. In order to connect the dots and preempt the enemy, the importance of the network as a weapon cannot be overstated. Against a shadowy enemy operating as an organization that knows no borders, nothing short of an all-source, collaborative, joint and inter-agency full-court press will suffice to preempt terrorist acts and keep us on the offensive. Organizations which work in isolation will become increasingly irrelevant. Both successes and tragedies in Operation Enduring Freedom can be traced directly to battle-space situational awareness - or the lack of it - with the latter resulting in fire on unintended targets. Sharing the operational strengths of different forces - making the sum of the whole much greater than the individual parts - is at the heart of joint warfare and central to finding new ways to fight and win.
 
Legacy of Innovation
You may have noted that I have not yet referred to submarines or submariners. This discussion applies equally to all services and all branches, but since I'm more familiar with submarine history and its inspirational examples of innovation, it's a good place to begin.  When strategists prior to the outset of World War II considered likely submarine mission areas and capabilities, most would not have included: counter-communications operations; capturing and interrogating prisoners; shore bombardment with both naval gunfire and rockets; anti-surface warfare - boarding and seizure, radar-directed surface attacks; harassment and diversionary operations; and landing-party sabotage in enemy territory. Yet, in just over three and a half years, each of these missions had been conducted successfully. Notwithstanding the strategic strangulation inflicted by our Submarine Force on the island nation of Japan, our innovative forefathers delivered a great deal more than expected. According to plans in effect before the war, submarines were to serve as scouts, combat auxiliaries supporting the surface fleet, and coastal defenders. Starting slowly with virtually no combat tradition or experience - and limited by many technical and operational problems - our submarines went on the offensive. The key word is offensive. In the end, aggressive, well-trained submarine crews, staying on the attack, resulted in unprecedented success and victory.
 
Near Term Discussion 
Forward 50 years to a different world with constrained budgets and a non-traditional enemy - what lessons apply? Our Submarine Force leadership has established a clear and powerful vision in the form of Submarine Joint Strategic Concepts. ( See the U.S. Submarine Force Mission and Vision, published by the Director, Submarine Warfare (N77), or their website: www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/future.html) . Team Submarine, SUBTECH, the Submarine Future Studies Group, and supporting industry are at work on many critical new capabilities, including our centerpiece, the well-designed USS Virginia (SSN-774)-class submarine. With that nearterm focus in mind, I offer some areas for discussion, while acknowledging a great deal of ongoing research and development. Extending the range, quality, and accuracy of sensors is vital. In the littoral, one of the most powerful methods of accomplishing this is through the use of Special Operations Forces (SOF). Much notoriety was given to the example of SOF on horseback in Afghanistan calling in precision air strikes. But imagine submarine-delivered SEAL forces directing attacks of submarine, air, or surface-launched weapons. The SSGN will be the most effective method of employing SOF in 2007, but my hope is that we move ahead now at best speed in this partnership. When properly networked, the joint Navy-SOF combination can provide tremendous synergy and many new war-fighting possibilities. Another method of sensor extension that seems promising is small, expendable, low-cost, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These devices, equipped with micro-sensors and communications packages, could be pre-programmed and launched or controlled from a submarine by any number of methods and deliver a unique, close-in quick-reaction capability for providing critical information not available from other sources. A "high look" used to mean six more feet of periscope sticking out of the water, but UAVs could give us several thousand. Networked with other surveillance and strike platforms, this concept has great potential for the joint expeditionary force.
 
A great deal of promising research and development has gone into unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs). Dr. Edward Whitman's article on the subject in the Summer 2002 issue of UNDERSEA WARFARE is an excellent primer. Another concept that will yield additional capabilities is the small, manned undersea vehicle. Think of all that can be accomplished by the Advanced Seal Delivery System (ASDS). I think we should be considering and assessing some unconventional uses of that asset. In the weapons arena, I believe that the capability to attack small, shallow-draft, high-speed surface craft will become increasingly important to the joint expeditionary force. Because of its inherent strengths, a submarine may be best-positioned to kill these threats to naval forces under many circumstances. By adapting existing small missiles for submarine use, I also believe we could significantly add to the power and effectiveness of sea-basing by providing a first line of defense. Submarine mobility, on-station time, access, and large electric-power availability portend great potential for information operations, directed energy weapons, and space-systems support. I suggest that study and investment in these key areas could provide near term capabilities that are not otherwise achievable and give combatant commanders many new and effective options. As a final thought, the submarine's advantages in an anti-access environment provide many reasons to team with other joint force platforms in scenarios where weapons , sensors, or communication devices can be delivered close-in by other platforms and then controlled or activated at a later time by an on-station submarine. This approach will allow the sea-based force to quickly deliver capabilities where needed, reduce most threats, and keep the others more at arm's length for added reaction time.  
 
Photo of USS Barb.  Caption precedes.
 
 
 

The bravery and ingenuity of the crew aboard USS Barb (SS-220) during World War II should inspire all submariners to consider new 
ways to fight the war against terrorism, as well as future conflicts 
that call the U.S. Submarine Force to battle.

 
 
"Raise a Rumpus" 
So began a personal message from VADM Charles Lockwood, World War II COMSUBPAC, to LCDR Gene Fluckey Commanding Officer of USS Barb (SS-220) at the start of that boat's War Patrol 12. The account of that mission, which earned her crew a Presidential Unit Citation and her CO the Medal of Honor, is inspiring. I highly recommend reading the well-told story of that patrol in ADM Fluckey's book, Thunder Below. I was awed by the bravery and ingenuity of this crew and their skipper, because they were always looking for new ways to attack the enemy. I'm glad they were on our side! This was the type of crew that had to turn down many volunteers for a sabotage party sent ashore to blow up a Japanese railroad train. I guess they ran out of targets at sea. 
 
This account caused me to reflect on whether I was doing everything I could to improve our capabilities in the war on terror and beyond. I wondered whether I was thinking and acting with the intensity and pressing need reflective of our nation at war. 
 
I am awed by the skill, talent, and dedication of the greatest submarine force in the world. I know that we are continually improving and have already contributed mightily to Operation Enduring Freedom. I am proud beyond words to have served as a part of the Submarine Force, and I am thankful for the safety and protection afforded to my family and all other Americans by the fact that our submarines are deployed. You are doing a terrific job! 
 
In closing, I want to leave you with two phrases that sum up the spirit of the great ship Barb. First, her motto: "We don't have problems, just solutions." And second, an excerpt from her Patrol 12 Unit Citation: "Barb fearlessly attacked the enemy at every opportunity." 
 
I will state again that great and innovative work is ongoing across the entire spectrum of submarine warfare. Amazing strides have been made in a tough fiscal environment that requires difficult trade-offs and skilled management. I hope that this article will stimulate additional discussion on those difficult trades and further debate within each ship on finding new ways to fight and contribute to the joint force.  Do we have an appropriate sense of urgency and aggressiveness for the war on terrorism; and do we have the will to take risks technically, physically, and fiscally to deploy new techniques and capabilities? Unmatched in submarine history, the heroes of World War II provide both example and inspiration in facing these current challenges. And their unwavering focus on winning provides much to reflect on as we answer the call to war. It did for me. 
 
RADM Terpstra is a 1974 Naval Academy Graduate who has served on many submarines in his career, including USS Von Steuben (SSBN-632), USS Sturgeon (SSN-637), and USS Pogy (SSN-647); he served as Commanding Officer of USS Dallas (SSN-700) from 1990 to 1993. Most recently he served as Commander, Submarine Group 10, and currently works for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).


 
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