Threat Re-emerges, Navy Renews Emphasis on ASW
By OTTO KREISHER
After a decade in the shadows, the Navy has put antisubmarine warfare
(ASW) back at the top of its warfighting priorities, injecting new leadership
and increased funding into the fight against a re-emerging undersea threat.
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Vern Clark has created three new
organizations to drive an effort to improve ASW capabilities by accelerating
the development and fielding of new technologies and operational concepts,
re-energizing and updating fleet training, and drafting a new ASW master
plan. The newest of the organizations is Fleet ASW Command, headquartered
in San Diego, which was established in April. It will work directly with
fleet units and commanders to integrate ASW training and operations.
The other organizations are:
¦ Task Force ASW, in the Navy Staff in Washington, D.C., that
will review and study options available for revamping the Navy’s
¦ The Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems
at Naval Sea Systems Command (NavSea), which coordinates research, development
and procurement of new ASW systems.
In announcing the stand up of Fleet ASW Command, Clark said he had acted
“because this is important and we’re not just going to talk
about it, we’re going to do something about it.”
With the end of the Cold War and the long confrontation with the huge
Soviet submarine fleet, and a decade of conflict in the Persian Gulf,
the Navy’s focus had shifted to other fields, including strike warfare.
But ASW has returned to prominence because Clark “looked at what
the president requires of the Navy. That is access to project power”
into an area of conflict, said Rear Adm. Mark W. Kenny, the flag officer
in charge of Task Force ASW. “He sees that the biggest threats to
access are (the) submarines and mines of our potential adversaries.”
The extent of that threat has increased dramatically due to the proliferation
of advanced diesel-electric submarines, Kenny said. At least 40 nations
operate a total of more than 400 submarines, many of which are the modern
diesel boats that are exceptionally quiet and can stay submerged for extended
Two of the largest submarine forces are in the Western Pacific, a key
Navy operating area, said Kenny, a former attack submarine skipper. China
has at least 69 submarines, including modern diesels and nuclear-powered
boats, and North Korea is thought to have 26 relatively old diesels. In
the Persian Gulf, Iran has obtained three Russian-made Kilos in a move
to contest U.S. naval dominance. The challenge presented by these quiet
submarines is heightened by the fact that they operate mainly in the noisy,
shallow waters of the littoral.
The Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems was formed
at NavSea in November 2002 during the Navy’s service-wide acquisition
realignment. Capt. Paul Rosbolt oversees ASW programs at the office, which
coordinates ASW systems across all five of the Navy’s Program Executive
Offices on such platforms as the Littoral Combat Ship, DD(X) and Virginia-class
The CNO formed Task Force ASW in February 2003. Initially a study effort,
the task force developed into a fulltime organization with a core of about
a dozen personnel, augmented as needed by the Navy staff, said Kenny,
who assumed leadership of the task force last October, joined by Capt.
David Yoshihara as director.
The task force has focused on addressing Clark’s challenge “to
change the warfighting calculus” in ASW and try “to do that
with the technology that’s available to us,” Yoshihara said.
It also has studied the Navy staff’s planning and considered “where
we think we’ll have to engage the threats,” Kenny said. And
“we have, for the first time since the Cold War, increased the funding
going into ASW programs.”
Rear Adm. John J. Waickwicz took command of Fleet ASW Command April 8
in San Diego. The command has detachments in Norfolk, Va., and Yokosuka,
Japan. When fully staffed, he said, it will have about 100 personnel in
San Diego, 40 in Norfolk and five in Japan. “We’ve essentially
been designated as the warfighting center of excellence for ASW,”
The command’s primary missions are to foster ASW operations through
fleet training, assess ASW performance at all levels through fleet exercises,
coordinate with the Navy Personnel Development Center and individual commands
in the qualification of ASW personnel, and ensure rapid fleet insertion
of advanced technologies, he said.
Task Force ASW also is deeply involved in pushing technology to the fleet,
Kenny said. That reflects “the sense of urgency” coming from
Clark, who is “frustrated” with an acquisition process “that
can take eight to 10 years to deliver the types of systems we think we’re
going to need to prevail.” To find new tools that are available
now, he said, the task force reaches out to the government’s science
and technology communities and to industry and academia.
But more than just improving antisubmarine operations, Clark’s
goal is to “fundamentally change” ASW operations away from
individual platforms — ship, submarine or aircraft — to a
system with the attributes of “pervasive awareness, persistence
and speed, all enabled by technological agility.”
To meet this goal, “we think we’re going to have to go offboard
of our platforms,” using unmanned aerial, surface and underwater
vehicles, and a network of distributed sensors to provide the identification
and localization that would allow quick transition to the attack, Kenny
said. “That’s what we’re focused on: (finding) a high
number of quiet contacts in a demanding environment with a timeline that
requires us to gain access quickly.”
The task force has tested those concepts in at-sea experiments focused
on distributive systems, which could be an array of easily deployed underwater
sensors, passive and active, networked together and linked to manned platforms,
Among them is the Advanced Deployable System, which the Program Executive
Office for Integrated Warfare Systems currently is studying, along with
such other ASW-related concepts as a multisensor Torpedo Recognition and
Alertment Function Segment (previously known as Torpedo Recognition and
Alertment Function Processor) and the Multifunction Towed Array to improve
detection and tracking capability.
The new concepts and tactics will be tested in the largest ASW exercise
in years, slated for the Western Pacific in late October and early November.
Called Undersea Dominance ’04, the exercise “would include
state-of-the-art current systems, some systems we’re about to field
and some systems that reach out in technology,” Kenny said.
Because the fleet and theater commanders face a threat today, the task
force is working to give surface warships a significant improvement in
ASW signals processing through the rapid insertion of commercial-off-the-shelf
systems, he said. The task force also is rushing to complete the first
new ASW Master Plan since 1991 and a new ASW concept of operations. The
master plan, which should be completed this fall, will chart the way ahead,
with emphasis on how to “accelerate technology to the warfighter”
and employ it in new ways, Kenny said.
The aim of the master plan is to achieve a state of “undersea superiority”
that would ensure rapid access to a threat area, he said.
Much of what the task force does will be handed off to Waickwicz’s
command to integrate into the fleet. One of the command’s other
priorities is to improve the system for evaluating fleet ASW exercises
and operations. Tactical air exercises are recorded to allow rapid replay
and study, but collecting the data on an ASW exercise can take weeks,
“We want to have a replay within two to three hours after the event
was finished, so people can see what was done and can make corrections,”
To provide that speed, the command is developing the Antisubmarine Tactical
Assessment System, which is to be a web-based means to quickly collect,
replay and evaluate ASW exercise data based on common performance metrics,
Restoring ASW competency after a decade of neglect might be seen as difficult,
he said, but when the CNO and the fleet commanders make it their top priority,
“it’s a lot easier task for me to get people interested.”