Navy's efforts to maintain realistic anti-submarine warfare training got a
boost when the Ninth Circuit Court temporarily reversed an injunction granted
earlier this month. In essence, the Ninth Circuit stated that the lower court
had failed to properly take into consideration the national security interests
of the United States.
What sort of national security
interests are there? Well, the United States military had long had an edge in
the quality of its troops. This training is well known in cases like Red Flag,
the National Training Center, or Top Gun. But other areas of warfare need this
training, too. One of these areas has been anti-submarine warfare.
The use of active sonar during
those training exercises is necessary, not only to train American sonar
operators, but also to train American submariners to deal with countries that
use active sonar (and which don't have to deal with environmental groups suing
the government to ban the use of active sonar). The military lives by the
axiom, "you fight like you train." This was the case for the Roman
army in ages past (the saying went, "Their drills are bloodless battles,
their battles are bloody drills.") and for the U.S. military, too.
Comments about Desert Storm often compared the experience to the Air Force's
Red Flag exercises or the Army's National Training Center - with the caveat
that the Iraqi forces weren't as tough.
New non-nuclear submarines
like the Russian Amur/Lama, the French Scorpene, and the German Type 212 are
entering service. Unlike past non-nuclear submarines, which used
diesel-electric plants, these submarines also come in variants that use fuel
cells or other forms of air-independent propulsion. While diesel engines can be
loud enough to permit passive sonar to detect them far away, fuel cells are
much quieter, and that makes active sonar a necessity. The quieter a submarine
is, the closer it can get to a ship using passive sonar. An active system
negates this by bouncing sound waves off of the hull of a submarine. How quiet
a submarine is does not matter when active sonar has located it.
Environmental groups, like the
Natural Resources Defense Council, have filed multiple suits, and have won
injunctions, limiting the use of active sonar in training exercises. They often
did grant exemptions for war, but the problem was that war is the wrong time to
start learning how to use active sonar.
This would be the equivalent
of asking Pierce Brosnan (who has narrated a web video for the NRDC on sonar)
to do a 007 movie without being able to rehearse the lines or stunts. Brosnan
at least gets re-takes if he were to mess up. The appeals court, though,
recognized that the U.S. Navy would not get any re-takes in war, nor could it
re-float a sunken ship or to bring back dead sailors and Marines, and allowed
the Navy to resume training - for now. - Harold C. Hutchison ([email protected])