Submarines: July 22, 2002

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The Navy finds itself with only 54 nuclear attack submarines at a time when it needs 65 to conduct the War on Terrorism. Theater commanders are demanding more and more submarine patrols in their areas, and there are just not enough subs to go around. A number of steps have been taken to get more out of the submarines on hand. These include allowing the subs to transit from port to theater at higher speeds (which can be heard and tracked more easily, although one would assume Al Qaeda doesn't have a lot of destroyers with ASW systems), reducing turnaround time, and pushing Operational Tempo to 85 percent, a level regarded as ridiculous. (The official target on which the size of the submarine force is based is 60 percent.) Time for heavy maintenance, training, and experiments in new tactics or with new equipment has been zeroed out, and the existing submarines are being literally worn out from over use. When the Clinton Administration slashed the submarine force, every analyst in (and out of) the Navy said it was a bad idea that would come back to haunt the US during the next crisis. And the Bush Administration had planned (before 11 Sept) to cut the force by three more subs rather than pay for expensive refuelings. Three subs will be home ported at Guam in order to reduce transit times to the most distant patrol zones.--Stephen V Cole

 


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