Sea Control


The United States is a maritime nation whose trade and military power both depend upon assured use of the high seas. Ocean transport provides the vast majority – over 90 percent in most cases – of our strategic lift requirements. Two world wars have convincingly demonstrated, however, that even modest submarines are a major threat to sea transport. U.S. World War II submariners, comprising less than 2 percent of naval personnel, sank over five and a half million tons of Japanese shipping – more shipping than was sunk by all other means combined. Their campaign was a critical factor in the industrial collapse of the Japanese war effort. At the same time, German U-boats forced the Allies to commit disproportionately large forces to defend Allied sea lines of communications (SLOCs) in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Had submarines been used against the United States in the Korean, Vietnam, or DESERT STORM conflicts, the timely delivery of forces and materiel would have been dramatically impeded, and military costs could have been significant.

Submarines are the quintessential sea-control platforms, with proven capabilities to hunt and kill submarines and surface ships on the high seas and in the littorals. U.S. nuclear submarines provide our only assured capability to wrest control of the sea from a determined enemy employing submarines in an area denial or anti-SLOC role. As a result, the merchant shipping of this nation, and that of allies and friends, is free to conduct the trade on which our prosperity and security so vitally depend. Even more important, the logistical reach required for worldwide power projection can be counted on whenever and wherever called for.

The Chief of Naval Operations emphasized the centrality of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) to sea control in the ASW Focus Statement he promulgated in 1998. This document called for revitalizing ASW training, modernizing weapons and sensors, adopting a network-centric approach, and in general, treating ASW as a shared, cross-platform system effort. Simultaneously, an active ASW exercise program was mounted to develop these themes at sea, and in 1998, this ranged from individual SHAREMS for tactics development to large combined exercises, such as NATO’s DOGFISH in the Mediterranean.

Research and development efforts last year brought significant progress in integrated battle force multi-static active systems, periscope detection radar, and several ASW command/control and data fusion efforts. Meanwhile, a full-up Advanced Distributed System for littoral surveillance was tested for the first time in an integrated configuration; rapid prototype twin-line towed arrays were deployed on SURTASS; and the Acoustic COTS Insertion System (ARCI) was successfully demonstrated on USS Augusta (SSN-710) as the “way ahead” for submarine sonar signal processing.

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“… our Navy must have at its core the world’s best submarine force.
We cannot assure command of the sea today or tomorrow without it.
The weapons that will dominate battlespaces of the future are those that are lethal,
stealthy, mobile, and flexible…Of all the weapons we are building now, the
submarine fits this description best.”

– Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman,
at the commissioning of USS Connecticut (SSN-22),
11 December 1998

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