For the past 45 years the attack submarine has been an invaluable platform for surveillance, intelligence, and warning. This capability comes from the submarine's stealth characteristic... the ability to enter an area to watch, to listen, to collect information without being seen. While satellites and aircraft are used to garner various types of information, their operations are inhibited by weather, cloud cover, and the locations of collection targets. In some situations it is difficult to keep a satellite or aircraft in a position to conduct sustained surveillance of a specific area. And, of course, satellites and aircraft are severely limited in their ability to observe or detect underwater activity. Submarines have been employed in various forms of surveillance and intelligence collection throughout the Cold War. Continuing regional crises and conflicts will require such operations in support of U.S. and allied interests.
In the future, submarines may also use Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) or drones to collect intelligence or conduct sustained surveillance of critical regions of the world. These vehicles will be sent out from a submarine to carry sensors into areas where it may not be safe or prudent for the submarine to venture. After fulfilling its mission, the AUV could return to the launching submarine, or transmit the data underwater or to a satellite. Information is vital to American political and military leaders if they are to make proper judgements, decisions, and plans.
The program derives its designation from the pieces of soft sandstone used to scrub the teak decks of battleships, and other ships with wooden decks. The sandstones were nicknamed the "holystone" since their use always brought a man to his knees, it must be holy!