Navy Lieutenant Joel Holwitt weighs in with a cautionary tale, one that resulted in lighter and smaller submarines built before World War II that proved to be of little value, except as training vessels, during the war. In “Holy Mackerel , Not Again!” he draws a parallel between the ill-fated “smaller, cheaper, but far less capable” USS Mackerel (SS-204) and Marlin (SS-205) of that era and today’s foreign-built SSKs, which have attracted attention in the Pentagon for their smaller size and lower cost than the current nuclear-powered fast-attack SSNs. Might we be making the same mistake? Lieutenant Holwitt poses some pointed questions that beg to be answered.
Trying to balance the number of boats needed by the force with a cost that the looming smaller budgets will bear looks to be a tough nut for the submarine community to crack. But there might be a blueprint out there. In an era when billion-dollar shipbuilding programs tend to underestimate cost and the length of time required to actually build a particular vessel, the Virginia -class submarine program appears to be on the right track. An apparent breath of fresh air in the wake of several bungled acquisition efforts in the recent past, the strategy gets a thorough review from retired Rear Admiral John D. Butler. The former Program Executive Officer (Submarines) details the cost-saving method that made “2 for 4 in ’12” the rallying cry of those charged with running the Virginia program. Joining him with a sidebar piece is Captain Michael Jabaley, the Virginia ’s current program manager, who explains how he and his team are going about reducing what acquisition types call total ownership cost with a ratio known as 3:15. Both Rear Admiral Butler and Captain Jabaley have taken the complex equations used in this process and explained them as simply as we’ve seen in some time.
But how might these future submarines fight? And what role would unmanned underwater vehicles play? Using future warfare scenarios, Lieutenant Commander Brent Johnston and Vice Admiral John Richardson show how these new weapons would change doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures in undersea naval operations.
Most of the submarine warfare content in this issue is the result of the behind-the-scenes efforts of two individuals who should be recognized. Longtime Naval Institute member and frequent Proceedings contributor Rear Admiral William J. Holland spread the word that we were looking for good articles for our submarine focus (and, practicing what he preaches, even wrote this month’s “Now Hear This” column). This grew out of a discussion Admiral Holland and I had at a USNI conference in early 2010 as I was lamenting the lack of material received from the Silent Service. He gave me a lot of good advice but also generously offered assistance. With the word out, Lieutenant Commander Matt Boland, Special Assistant for Plans, Liaison, and Assessments to Director Submarine Warfare, coordinated the efforts of the many authors and made sure we received what we needed, on time and on target. Bravo Zulu to you both!