We need to lead the way in transforming our fleet from one that can deliver brute force to one based on information and communication technology and precision-guided munitions - one that is ready to deal with 21st-century threats.
Even before the terrorist attacks on America more than a year ago, our leadership realized the need to
transform our forces into a single cohesive and cooperative team with the flexibility to respond to new
types of threats. September 11th brought into focus the requirements for precision strike, intelligence, and
the ability to operate stealthily under the sea. I firmly believe our Submarine Force is able to meet these new
threats because of our superb training and the think-on-your-feet mindset that has always been essential for
conducting business in our environment. Few other of our armed forces use the element of surprise like we
can, and in the asymmetrical war on terrorism, bringing the battle to the enemy must rely upon
catching him unawares and at his most vulnerable.
To do this, we need to lead the way in transforming our fleet from one that can deliver brute force to one based on information and communication technology and precision-guided munitions - one that is ready to deal with 21st-century threats.
The 20th-century Navy sailed in open oceans, and its primary mission was to defeat deep-water adversaries on the same terms. Today we are focusing on primarily projecting power ashore, controlling the shoreline, and contributing to the joint warfight.
Our leadership understands how important cooperation will be in the war on terrorism and beyond, not merely within service communities, but among the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard. SECDEF Donald Rumsfeld has asked us to justify all procurement programs by demonstrating how our weapons systems fit into a joint concept of operations. I believe we are well on our way toward that goal because of our community's inherent ability to respond quickly and effectively to new mission requirements.
Demand has risen for submarines to operate in the Southwest Asia littorals, and our new USS Virginia (SSN-774)-class is ideally suited to meet this call. We look forward to delivery of Virginia in 2004; in these pages, you can read of the keel-laying of the next member of the class, Texas (SSN-775).
Another part of our transformation toward flexibility appears in the proposed FY 03 defense budget. The four Ohio-class TRIDENT ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) planned for conversion to guided-missile-launching strike submarines (SSGN) will enable delivery of up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. ADM Vern Clark, the CNO, calls that "just the tip of the iceberg." Each SSGN can also support sustained operations with 66 Special Operations Forces and their equipment, or carry up to 102 SOF personnel in surge conditions.
We put another piece of technology transformation to the test in early August in Hawaii. As part of Millennium Challenge 2002, the Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) flawlessly executed her first operational exercises involving submerged, covert delivery and recovery of SEAL forces. Using ASDS allows us to conduct long-range, covert missions to insert and extract special operations forces, reducing exposure to cold water and the associated physical and mental fatigue of the special operations team.
The Submarine Force also is working closely with other communities in the Navy to train like we will fight. In this issue, we have a report from USS Chicago (SSN-721) on its role during RIMPAC 2002, demonstrating how the move has been made away from traditional carrier battlegroup operations. This exercise focused heavily on anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and demonstrated teamwork among all elements of the Navy, including surface ships, submarines, tactical aircraft, and amphibious forces.
In late August, the Navy and our partners at Raytheon successfully completed the first 550-mile fully-guided test flight of the Tactical Tomahawk (TACTOM) missile system in California. This new generation weaponry offers in-flight re-targeting capability and an ability to "loiter," or circle around a target area, until a command is issued to strike. Other options on this new weapon include a battle damage assessment capability and the transmission of in-flight health and status reports. TACTOM is ideal for an SSGN to use with its vertical- launch cells, and our top designers are working on a way to launch this new weapon from torpedo tubes. TACTOM is scheduled to augment our fleet capability by 2004.
During recent testimony to Congress, Secretary of the Navy Gordon England said the ability to transform is at the heart of America's competitive advantage. I would add that our Submarine Force is uniquely positioned to lead the way in a transformation that will enable waging war against both symmetrical and asymmetrical threats with clear purpose, confidence, and a focus on the future.