Vice Admiral Daryl Caudle, U.S. Navy, Commander, Submarine Forces
The digitization of sensor data across all spectra. Digitization has improved the processing, analysis, storage, distribution, and security of information for essentially every system on board submarines. Digitization, enabled by modern microprocessors, efficient coding, enhanced storage solutions, and high bandwidth networks, continues to enable combat readiness, lethality, and undersea superiority.
Michael Ravnitzky, Life Member
The evolution of kilometers-long towed passive sonar arrays with high-strength cables, multiplex signals, and ever-better computational processing. This has allowed giant leaps in the ability to detect and classify submarine targets at very long range, in addition to listening simultaneously above and below the obscuring thermocline layer.
Rear Admiral Blake L. Converse, U.S. Navy, Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific
The pairing of submarines with long-range missiles has radically transformed the character of undersea warfare. The addition of strategic ballistic missiles, land-attack cruise missiles, and antiship cruise missiles has elevated the submarine from a tactical to a strategic threat. A submarine carrying long-range ballistic missiles can deter war simply through its presence and survivability. A submarine with land-attack cruise missiles can operate off an enemy’s coast and hold strategic targets hundreds of miles inland at risk.
Lieutenant (junior grade) C. E. Keating, U.S. Navy
Charles Momsen was a tireless inventor who came up with several designs to save the lives of trapped submariners. After witnessing several incidents where survivors might have escaped had there only been a way out, he invented the Momsen Lung. This device, followed by other rebreathers, has saved many lives.
Scott A. Bruce
The turbine engine. From turboshaft engines in helicopters, turboprops, and high-bypass turbine-engine aircraft, to gas-turbine-powered ships, the turbine engine has provided high power-to-weight ratio and operational simplicity for antisubmarine warfare platforms. Efficient power plants allowed antisubmarine warfare aircraft to transition to multimission aircraft bristling with systems, sensors, and weapons.
Scott FitzGerald, U.S. Navy Veteran
You cannot kill the enemy if you cannot find it. U.S. Navy SOSUS hydrophones tracked Soviet ballistic-missile submarines from Murmansk, Russia, to routine patrol locations off the U.S. East Coast. As an ocean systems technician at Naval Facility Brawdy, Wales, in the 1970s, I had a front-row seat.
Captain Leo G. Dominique, U.S. Navy (Retired)
The MK-48 advanced capability torpedo and the continuous improvement technical pipeline that supported this program. This weapon and follow-on improvements have drastically improved the tactical warfighting advantage long enjoyed by the U.S. submarine force.
Commander John M. McGrail, U.S. Navy (Retired)
As a retired submarine officer, take your pick: Either the periscope or the self-propelled torpedo. Without the periscope a submarine is nothing but a semisubmersible surface ship. With only a spar torpedo, deck gun, and maybe a ram, the submarine would be combat ineffective.
Randy Shetter, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran
The development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles elevated the submarine to a strategic weapon, and thus a national asset. As part of the nuclear triad, it may be the most important element of this concept.
Lieutenant Commander Fritz Steiner, U.S. Navy (Retired), USNA ‘57
The capability to launch missiles ranging in size from intercontinental ballistic missiles to smaller cruise missiles—while submerged.
Lieutenant Commander Scott A. Wallace, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy
Lockout chambers paired with seal delivery vehicles and deep submergence rescue vehicles revolutionized the ability to clandestinely deliver special operations teams and rescue stricken submarines. They added new capabilities to submarine warfare and relevance to the joint force beyond destruction of enemy shipping.
Colonel Mark A. Olinger, U.S. Army (Retired)
The introduction of the Mark 27 torpedo in 1943, which had an acoustic guidance system. This technology formed the basis for torpedo guidance after World War II and remained in service until declared obsolete in the 1960s.
Lieutenant Avery Sheridan, U.S. Navy
The combat control system is potentially the most important advancement. From the World War II era fleet-boat mechanical torpedo data computer to modern electronic fire-control system software, the combat control system, when used properly, turned the U.S. submarine into a multirole weapon of war.
Ken Dunn, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran
The World War II German Type XXI U-boat was designed to be a true submarine with a streamlined hull, high underwater speed, enhanced air-purification system, and snorkel to allow long duration under water plus new weapons. The innovations were copied by many navies.
Marc DeLamater, Member since 1974
Automated Data Processing, both hardware and software, was the greatest technological innovation during the Cold War because it took the fusion of operational intelligence to a whole new level, as so ably described in The Admirals’ Advantage by Christopher Ford and David Rosenberg.
Kevin A. Capps, Retired Technical Writer
Air independent propulsion (AIP) power brought increased stealth to submarine fleets, improving the likelihood of successfully completing covert missions for special operations, surveillance and intelligence, and sea denial, particularly in the littorals.
Captain John Byron, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Three answers: Array sonars, ship silencing, and the Mark 48 torpedo.
Rear Admiral Ben Wachendorf, U.S. Navy (Retired)
The Mk 48 torpedo. This long-range, very effective weapon gave U.S. submarines tactical advantage over all adversaries.
The most important advance in submarine technology prior to nuclear power was the snorkel. Hands down. No close second.
Bob Walters, USS Caiman (SS-323) from 1955 to 1957, Member since 1956
Aside from Nuclear power? Showers and Laundry!
Mike “Lumpy” Dunn, U.S. Navy Veteran
Helicopters with active dipping sonar. In the high-noise environment around ships—especially high-value units—helicopters with dipping sonar (two during the day and three at night) are an unshakeable threat when employed correctly against a submerged enemy.
The obvious reply must be submarine-launched ballistic missiles, especially any with nuclear warheads!
David Lee Cornish
The nuclear submarine is still the future. However, I think that replacing nuclear ballistic missiles on submarines with ramjet technology is on the way. Once the adversary acquires the ability to make practical military use of hypersonic technology, our submarines along with their supersonic missiles rapidly lose their strategic advantage. Any supersonic missile launched from a sub at 2,300 mph will be knocked out of the sky by a hypersonic ramjet projectile traveling at 10,000 mph. Within the next 15 years our submarines will be hypersonic missile delivery systems.