An antisubmarine warfare (ASW) campaign will be the opening phase of conflict in the western Pacific, one of the planet’s toughest acoustic environments. It will be a “come as you are” street fight against an adversary who may engage the United States in unanticipated ways. Does the U.S. Navy want to be surprised? Can it afford to wait?
ASW has a history of surprises, and the lessons learned—again and again—rarely seem to stick. The litany begins with World War I as the U-boat demonstrated an unforeseen open-ocean capability. During World War II, U-boats again threatened Britain’s lifeline, and torpedoed tankers burned along Atlantic beaches. The postwar revelation of Germany’s Type XXI U-boat and the prospect of the Soviet Union building hundreds of copies made ASW an urgent national priority, while the Nautilus (SSN-571) forced a complete reassessment of U.S. capabilities.1 The quiet Akula-class submarine was the last great shock of the Cold War.
1. R. F. Cross Associates, Sea-Based Airborne Antisubmarine Warfare 1940–1977, vol. 1, 1940–1960 (R. F. Cross, 1980), 64.
2. John R. Benedict, “The Unraveling and Revitalization of U.S. Navy Antisubmarine Warfare,” Naval War College Review 58, no. 2 (Spring 2005): 97.
3. Edward S. Miller, War Plan Orange (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991), 205, 240–41.
4. Cross, Sea-Based Airborne Antisubmarine Warfare 1940–1977, 61–64.
5. Project Hartwell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology “A Report on the Security of Overseas Transport,” 21 September 1950, ii.
6. “Project Nobska: The Implications of Advanced Design on Undersea Warfare,” Final Report, 1 December 1956, Committee on Undersea Warfare, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, vol. 1, “Assumptions, Conclusions and Recommendations,” 8–9.
7. D. A. Backes, Impact of CST (Critical Sea Test) on Navy Programs: The CST Process for Technology Transition and Programmatic Change, SPAWAR (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command) CST/LLFA-WP-USW-27 (September 1996), 3.
8. C. Manke, “Overview of U.S. Navy ASW Organization during the Cold War Era,” Naval Undersea Warfare Center-NT Technical Report 11, 890, 12 August 2008, 29.
9. U.S. General Accounting Office: “Evaluation of Navy’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Assessment,” NSIAD-99-85, 12 July 1999.
10. Cross, vol III, Appendix B, 85–92, or USGAO, Evaluation of Navy’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Assessment.