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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology
paradigm. By default, the Navy expects to fight the new enemy in much the same way it intended to fight the old one and is therefore striving to adapt its old systems to the new circumstances. Thus, submarines, surface ships, and air systems are being modified to detect and localize the enemy diesel submarine in littoral environments and to destroy it with the help of conventional torpedoes. Air superiority is expected to eliminate the torpedo threat posed by enemy surface, air, and land platforms, and mine countermeasure systems currently under development are expected to forge a clear passage ahead of U.S. forces.
Absent effective guidance from the Navy leadership on likely changes in the nature of undersea warfare, the S&T community will continue to move in the direction dictated by institutional preservation and inertia and will therefore probably try to improve existing weapon systems beyond the point of diminishing returns.
Analyses conducted over the last decade have repeatedly shown that incremental improvements in endgame antisubmarine warfare (ASW) systems will not yield adequate results unless current overall capabilities are significantly improved. To make a difference for future undersea warfare needs, endgame improvements must therefore be coupled with corresponding improvements in front-end systems. In particular, torpedo improvement programs must be pursued in conjunction with programs to improve detection and localization as part of an overall systematic endeavor to improve the nation's undersea warfare capabilities.
Unfortunately, detecting and localizing small, quiet submarines operating near the ocean boundaries at near-zero speeds with conventional sonars developed to operate in the open ocean against large nuclear submarines is technically enormously difficult. Current efforts to significantly improve front-end capabilities by incremental changes to extant systems show little promise, and alternative methods better adapted to the specific circumstances of the new threat mode are not being seriously pursued. Under the circumstances, spending money and time to improve the current generation of weapons systems is of questionable benefit.
THE IMPERATIVE FOR NEW WEAPON CONCEPTS
The committee believes that there is a real penalty in pursuing the current evolutionary course of weapons upgrades instead of pursuing new concepts. The first line of argument in favor of new weapon concepts starts from the recorded performance of the current torpedoes. As indicated in recent war plan analyses, a large number of torpedoes would have to be fired to destroy an enemy submarine. The committee has not been provided with convincing evidence that the improvements being pursued under the program of record would significantly change this picture, so the required number of torpedoes is likely to remain high. Such a number could not be long sustained by the current U.S. inventory, however, if the Navy does not contemplate buying any more torpedoes. New weapon concepts must therefore be developed to get the Navy out of this dangerous predicament.
The second line of argument in favor of new weapon concepts starts with programmatics. The Navy's curtailing of torpedo acquisition could lead to a dangerous shortage of torpedoes for existing U.S. platforms and an equally dangerous loss of realistic training with torpedoes. In any case, the need for further acquisition will soon become apparent, at which time the Navy will have to consider buying additional torpedoes to maintain the inventory. Unless it has by that time developed alternative technologies for the current weapons, it will have to acquire a weapons system that would by then be obsolete. Furthermore, the nation's industrial expertise in torpedo manufacturing has atrophied and may be nonexistent when called upon.
The final line of argument has to do with the community of scientists and technologists working in