Terrorism today is one of the primary focuses for our armed services to concentrate on. One of these armed forces is the SSN or submarine force. I wanted to take a look at how our 50+ submarine force is equipped to handle the threats of terrorism. Submarines were the focus of the cold war and today may not seem very useful. I would argue though that as an intelligence gathering force and as a mobile weapons platform will help win the war on terror. A submarine can launch “harpoons” which amount to smaller cruise missiles that can hit targets on the land. The USS Cole demonstrated the shortsightedness of having boats in harbor. A submarines ability for extended deployment underwater will take away this form of fighting against a sub. The USS Seawolf which is one of two brand new seawolf class submarines carries a large number of Tomahawk missiles for use against land targets. Hostile nations like Iran have access to diesel powered submarines which if combined with a nuclear threat would need to be shadowed by one of out attack subs. The two classes of sub used by the US Navy are attack subs and boomers. Boomers are the large missile boats that still carry nuclear ordinance and other weapons. The boomers of other nations are shadowed by our attack boats as well as deploying attack boats to protect surface carrier battle groups. The idea of a nation like Iran being in possession of boats deployed on a diesel submarine (which is almost as quiet as a nuclear sub) is a very scary thought. The US Navy has the capabilities to try and engage those boats that will be carrying nuclear weapons but it may not be able to fight them as easily in the Arabian Sea.
Intelligence gathering and commando operations are another use for a submarine. The submarine can be used to wait of the coast and pick up agents leaving the country by clandestine means disappearing under the water before other nations can respond. They also have antennas that could receive short term transmissions for rebroadcast depending on the mission requirements of the undercover agent. Navy Seal Teams have also deployed from submarines in the past and submarines could be an efficient way of moving people in to shores which do not have a gradual coast. The Navy Seal teams could enter undetected as the approach is done under the water where few warning signs are available. Submarines can efficiently deploy mines in an area without the knowledge of an enemy. A mine dropping ship or plane might be detected but there is a far less chance of a mine laying sub being detected leaving the area hazardous to the ships of those nations that sponsor terrorism.
Submarines will be an important factor in fighting terrorism as methods become more advanced and as they are isolated in their camps. The ability to have a transport vehicle that can secretly deploy teams and or weapons even more undected than a plane will be an important factor in future warfare. The Seawofl class is the worlds most advanced submarine and although to date there have only been two completed only time will tell how many will be used in the fight against terrorism.
(All references on submarine capabilities can be referenced to Tom Clancy’s “Submarine”)