Admiral Says Submarine Force Not Getting Its Full Due

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Since 07-10-05

Excerpt from NSL UPDATE 06-15-05

By Robert A. Hamilton, New London Day, 9 Jun 05

Alexandria, Va. - Last year, submarines helped intercept smugglers' ships carrying a combined cargo of more than 40 tons of drugs, the head of Naval Submarine Forces said Wednesday. "That's enough to affect the price of drugs in New York City," Vice Adm. Charles L. Munns said on the opening day of the Naval Submarine League annual symposium at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center.

It was an unusually candid address for a submariner. In fact, Munns told those in attendance that he had to get the information declassified before he could pass it along to them. While he couldn't give them specifics, he said, "We're doing similar things in the global war on terror."

Munns said the submarine force has been spending hundreds of operating days working with navies in Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia on anti-drug and anti-terrorist operations. Since terrorists often use the sale of drugs to raise money for their campaigns, the two missions often overlap.

Munns asked his listeners to help him spread the word, because, he said, it's time the submarine force started to get more credit for its achievements. "The submarine force needs more brand recognition" among the Navy, the Department of Defense and the public at large, he told the crowd.

"We should not have brand recognition problems, but we do." Munns said an Atlantic-based submarine recently took a top DOD official out to sea, and that the official was so impressed with the crew he asked whether Munns had filled the boat with the undersea force's "all-star team."

"It was just one of 54 submarines," Munns said. Other top submarine officers followed Munns with disclosures of their own. Rear Adm. Jeffrey B. Cassias, commander of the Pacific submarine force, discussed how the Groton-based USS Dallas provided "sea shield" services during the Olympics in Greece, keeping a lookout for suspicious maritime traffic.

Cassias also talked about some of the new equipment that submarines are getting, such as the Patriot periscope radar system, which was adapted from helicopter radar, and the Night Owl, an infrared imaging system that enables submarines to identify ships on the blackest nights. Rear Adm. Joseph A. Walsh, director of submarine warfare, said his office is looking at equipping submarines with the Littoral Warfare Weapon, which would give them their first anti-aircraft capability since deck guns in World War II, and with super-fast torpedoes.

He also said that this summer the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul will test a system to deploy and retrieve underwater drones, which would give submarines an important new capability.

Munns also talked about the advanced capabilities of modern submarines, treading into an area that has usually been off-limits: the reactor spaces. He said he was giving a top defense official a tour of the propulsion area on USS Virginia, the first of a new class of submarine, when a crewman took the hourly logs on the reactor. In the past, the crewman would have filled out a 15-page checklist, a process that took 12 minutes or more to complete; on Virginia, the crewman pushed a single button, automatically logging all the information to a database.

Munns compared what he is trying to accomplish to the soft drink industry - everyone knows that Coca-Cola is one of the top colas, but nobody knows its secret recipe. Similarly, he said, the submarine force has to tout its unclassified triumphs.

 "We need to get out there and make people understand the value of what we bring to the nation," he said.