124. Report by the Anti-Submarine Warfare Panel of the President’s Science Advisory Committee1


A. Charge to the Panel

The Panel (membership attached as Appendix A)2 was formed in May 1964 by the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and asked to review our Nation’s present and planned capability in Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW).

The ASW Panel was to assess for the President:

the extent and nature of the submarine threat,
the technical possibilities for coping with this threat,
the extent to which the programs we are undertaking or are projecting will take advantage of the available technical opportunities for coping with the submarine threat, and
the organization for developing and applying the technical means for solving ASW problems.

The PSAC ASW Panel examined the Navy’s ASW program during the period May 1964–July 1965. This report was completed in August 1965.3 Time has not stood still since that date, and in particular the Navy has accelerated or undertaken many important efforts that implement in part certain of the Panel’s recommendations. For example, the Navy has expanded its exercise program and continued to develop an improved analytical capability; the Captor program has been accelerated; much greater coherence is seen in the torpedo-countermeasures program; greater emphasis has been given to anti-ship torpedoes; etc. The Panel is aware of these developments, in broad outline, but for the most part it has not investigated these matters in sufficient detail to attempt to revise the report to take into account new progress. The Panel believes that its assessment of the total ASW program remains valid and that its recommendations require further action.

B. Panel Activities

In carrying out its mission, the Panel undertook to examine all relevant technical areas, recognizing that this involved many aspects of [Page 379] technology and a wide variety of naval programs. We also sought to take full advantage of the wealth of experience accumulated by our naval personnel and by other technical groups, both through an examination of their writings and through personal contacts and discussions. Finally, we sought to gain as much first hand experience as our schedules would allow with the current operational and R&D ASW equipment and with our ASW forces.

In so doing, the Panel has considered the present families of ASW platforms: 1) submarines, 2) surface ships (destroyers), 3) fixed-wing aircraft, and 4) helicopters; ASW sensors: 1) fixed acoustic surveillance systems, 2) submarine-borne active and passive sonar, 3) ship-borne active and passive sonar, 4) variable-depth sonar (VDS) either towed or free-swimming, 5) helicopter-dipped sonar, 6) sonobuoys, 7) airborne magnetic anomaly detection (MAD), and 8) radar; ASW weapons: 1) Mk-37, Mk-44 and Mk-46 acoustic homing torpedoes, 2) mines, and 3) nuclear armed torpedoes or depth charges, including such delivery methods as anti-submarine surface launched rockets (ASROC), submarine launched rockets (SUBROC), and drone anti-submarine helicopters (DASH); and ASW fire-control and data-processing techniques and equipment.

In addition to these primary technical areas, the Panel has examined in some depth the Naval organization for R&D in ASW, including in particular the Navy’s programs and techniques for developing, testing and evaluating systems and equipment. The Panel has also been concerned with manning requirements and training, ship automation, reliability and serviceability, the methods by which ASW effectiveness is measured, and the rationale for force-level determination. The Panel explored deeply with the Navy the detailed nature of the intelligence available on the Soviet submarine threat, and some members of the Panel went more extensively into the total store of intelligence.

Members of the Panel participated in ASW carrier task force exercises, visited shore-based sound surveillance systems, flew in shorebased and carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft and in helicopters, sailed on destroyers hunting submarines, spent several days on nuclear-powered killer-submarines (SSKN) of the most advanced types (Plunger-Thresher), and witnessed trial firings of Polaris missiles from nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The Panel also visited naval laboratories and facilities, as well as the headquarters of ASW, both Atlantic and Pacific. In addition, the Panel has had constant contact with the staffs of DDR&E and the Department of the Navy, as well as a joint meeting with a United Kingdom ASW panel under Dr. John Kendrew.

Thus, we believe that we have examined the relevant technical areas. We have benefited greatly by our contacts with naval personnel [Page 380] and by the work of other technical groups. Although we were able to visit many naval establishments and to examine much equipment firsthand, we were not able to do so to the extent that we would have liked and have instead had to rely to a great extent on the available technical data. We believe that the available data have been provided by the Department of Defense and the Navy; as we received these data we were gradually led to the conclusion that one of the primary weaknesses in our ASW program was the scarcity of technical and scientific personnel in positions which carried real management responsibility and/or authority.

In this report, the technical material and supporting arguments are to be found in Sections III through VII; conclusions and recommendations are contained in each of these sections; however, the major ones have been extracted and are to be found in the summary section (Part II). A first reading of the material should include at least Parts II and III.


A. The Submarine Threat

The submarine threat to the United States is very substantial and will remain so indefinitely. As a measure of its intensity, we can note that the Soviet Union has a fleet of approximately 350 long range submarines of which 40 are nuclear and 310 conventional; that China has already built one and will probably build more copies of the Soviet diesel-electric G-class submarine which is capable of firing short range ballistic missiles while surfaced; and that such lesser powers as Indonesia and Egypt have been given Soviet submarines and can, therefore, pose a threat to elements of our naval forces in limited wars. Without question, submarines will with time become available to more and more nations perhaps including South American nations.

We found it useful to classify the submarine threat in the following important categories:

Submarines carrying nuclear weapons which can be used against CONUS by the Soviet Union now and by China in perhaps five years, as a deterrent force.
USSR submarines which would be used against our Naval forces (i.e., carrier and amphibious landing force) and against merchant shipping which might be carrying out theater support in a limited war.
Submarines of small powers which might be used as in para 2. Although we do not have detailed knowledge of the technical characteristics of the newer Soviet submarines, we have some quantitative data to support the conclusion that, with the possible exception of the most recent classes whose acoustic characteristics are not well known, current Soviet submarines are relatively noisy—except, of course, when [Page 381] they work on battery. In addition, nuclear submarines may possess a very small separate machinery plant to allow long endurance “creep” operation at reduced noise level. This does not mean that the Soviets may not now be developing relatively quiet nuclear subs, as we have done, or even fuel-cell powered quiet submarines. In fact, it is hard for us to assume otherwise since the Soviets certainly have the technical capability to do so and they are surely aware of the fact that noise is a key weakness in their subs.

B. Our Capability

Our capability in ASW depends on a composite of sensors, ordnance, platforms to carry the sensors and ordnance, and tactics for their utilization. The sensors which are used for detection and classification, location, and tracking of submarines include active and passive sonar, MAD, radar, and even visual sighting. These sensors must work in the open ocean, which is a complex medium with poorly determined properties that vary with both time and location. The platforms in which the sensors are installed include surface ships, submarines, fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, sonobuoys, as well as fixed platforms in our coastal water and other critical areas. The effectiveness of each element, or combination of elements, of course, also depends strongly on the technical characteristics and the tactics of the enemy submarines.

No one device or tactic plays a predominant role in our capability to detect, classify, locate and kill enemy submarines, and our capability is indeed a result of the combined use of the elements which make up our ASW forces. We do not foresee at this time any single new invention, development, or discovery which would by itself drastically alter this interdependence. The Panel does recognize that if large surface-effect naval vessels such as the Captured Air Bubble (CAB) ship could be successfully developed, they would, because of their great speed, be substantially less vulnerable to submarines than present types of vessels. It also recognizes that a reduction in the noise output of USSR submarines would greatly reduce our over-all effectiveness, but would affect the elements of our ASW forces differentially to different degrees.

Assessing our ASW capability for various threats is an extremely difficult task. It cannot be done convincingly by combining in a simple way the performance capability of each of the many elements that make up our ASW forces. It must depend in good part on empirical data from imaginatively and carefully designed naval tests and exercises. These are costly and difficult to design, execute and evaluate, but are nevertheless essential if we are to have any confidence in any assessment of our ASW capability. Although efforts to test and evaluate our ASW forces have been greatly expanded in the past two years, and the quality of the at-sea exercises shows continuing improvement, much still [Page 382] needs to be done in this very difficult aspect of ASW. As a result, we are now in the position that any such assessments are largely based on incomplete, inconsistent and fragmentary data; and any reliable quantitative assessments of our over-all capability is virtually impossible at this time.

Quantitative evaluation is fundamental not only in assessing our over-all capability, but also in assessing the desirability of various courses of action at all levels in the ASW program, from exploratory development, to component selection, to force design and procurement, to the selection of tactics and ASW strategy. Unless the marked improvement in this area which we have observed over the past two years continues and is expanded, we shall be forced to continue to rely too heavily on judgment in areas in which the rapidity of technological advance has provided opportunities and problems well beyond the scope of past military experience. Although the design, execution and evaluation of appropriate analytical studies, naval tests and exercises are difficult, they must be pursued with increased vigor.

In assessing our capabilities, we note that some of the individual components of our ASW forces, such as nuclear powered submarines (SSNs), are clearly qualitatively superior to their Soviet counterparts. We are impressed by the dedication and general quality of the officers in our ASW forces. These forces can clearly cope with the existing submarine threat from any of the smaller nations, although not without some losses. We note also that the Navy has carried out successfully numerous difficult intelligence missions, using components of the ASW forces, but the analysis of our ASW capabilities against the Soviet threat is still a complex problem. We can, however, say that our currently programmed (5 year) ASW forces would have extreme difficulty in denying to the Soviet Union a submarine-launched nuclear second strike capability which is a substantial augmentation of their land-based strategic nuclear forces.4 Our active ASW is not good enough and our detection net is too soft do this.

By addressing ourselves to the specific threat, we may be able to acquire the capability of denying the Chinese a credible nuclear deterrent as long as the Chinese deterrent is based solely on a few G-class subs with short-range missiles aimed at West Coast targets. A detailed study of this threat and of possible techniques to counteract it is clearly warranted.

Although we believe that being prepared for an all-out non-nuclear war in Europe in the style of World War II may be somewhat unrealistic, [Page 383] we emphasize that in most of the information provided to the Panel, a large fraction (1/2 to 1/3) of currently programmed ASW forces was justified primarily for this purpose. Nevertheless, our capability is poor to protect against substantial loss in sustained conveying of groups of 50 to 150 slow merchant ships in the face of a concerted attack by a Soviet submarine force. The fact that the Navy was unable to present to the Panel a current carefully-thought-out and realistic convoy doctrine or policy (and probably has an insufficient number of torpedoes if the USSR uses countermeasures) is symptomatic of the uncertainty even the Navy has in this matter.

Regarding the protection of carriers, amphibious forces and replenishment groups against the USSR submarine force, we appear to be placing a great deal of reliance on the effectiveness of the SQS–26 sonar used in bottom-bounce and convergence zone modes. Our limited (and inadequate) collection of oceanographic data does not support confidence in the bottom-bounce and convergence zone operations over large areas of the oceans and this leads us to doubt that detection will be achieved with a consistency sufficient to permit effective escort protection in many of the situations postulated for its use. Moreover, we believe that the potential effectiveness of our SSN/SS barriers has been overestimated, principally because enemy attacks, variations in enemy tactics, and even simple torpedo countermeasures have not been realistically assessed. Thus, we conclude that our carriers, amphibious forces, and replenishment groups are likely to be much more vulnerable to submarine attack, either by the USSR or by the smaller nations possessing USSR submarines, than has been stated in Memoranda to the President and presentations to the Congress on the basis of the Official Navy Study Cyclops II. In the case of small nations, for which submarine effectiveness is alleged to be very poor because of the inexperience of native crews, we note in particular that identification of the nation to which a W-class submarine belongs poses difficult technical and political problems and that the operational readiness of these submarines could rapidly be enhanced through appropriate use of “volunteer” crews.

C. ASW Expenditures

Considering the total submarine threat to the U.S., the very costly, but, in our view, inefficient program we mount to counter the important categories of the threat, and considering the high cost and low effectiveness of adding to our force structure many of the platforms, devices, techniques, etc., now being considered by the Navy, we conclude that some portion of the budget originally planned for the further operation and acquisition of present types of systems should be re-allocated to improvement programs to increase those systems substantially in effectiveness [Page 384] from their present marginal levels. Many of these systems, in fact, have considerable potential for improvement. Further acquisition of larger numbers of marginal or ineffective systems would provide far less ASW defense for our dollar than will such improvement programs.

D. ASW As A Systems Problem

The structuring and utilization of the various elements in our ASW forces constitute a systems problem in its most challenging form. The interdependence of the elements with each other must be appreciated and accounted for. Major commitments either for development or deployment in any one area must be made in the light of an assessment of the net contribution of each element to the over-all system. We cannot afford to neglect systems analysis and management here, even though they are far more difficult than in the strategic military areas where they have been very effectively utilized. On the contrary, because of the greater complexities and the greater number of subtleties involved, it seems to us that an over-all systems approach to ASW would be more fruitful, would reduce unnecessary duplication and redundancy, and could provide more insight than it does in those areas where it is more easily applied. How else can we possibly measure the increase in effectiveness we get for each dollar spent in ASW, or even the relative value of investing in different elements of our ASW forces, or the priority which we should assign to different development projects?

E. ASW Management

The responsibility for ASW in the Navy now is diffused through the many bureaus, laboratories, etc., in the Navy, and we find little evidence of effective testing, analysis, evaluation or decision-making concerning our over-all ASW forces. Rather, we have the impression that our ASW posture is largely a residue of tradition, of history, and of considerations of “balanced forces” rather than response to the realities of the current and projected threat and the current and projected technology. It is quite natural that past history, tradition, and internal forces within the Navy would have strong influences, but they cannot be allowed to overwhelm whatever hard data, analysis, test results, etc., one can bring to bear on the problem. Clearly, the Navy recognizes its dilemma and has tried in the last year to focus much of the responsibility for ASW in two newly created positions: the Director of ASW Programs under the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Manager of ASW Systems Projects under the Chief of Naval Materiel. Although we support these actions as steps in the right direction, we consider them inadequate to cope with the problem in spite of the obvious competence, dedication, and serious intent of the individuals chosen to occupy these positions. The new offices do eliminate in part the excessively piecemeal approach of the [Page 385] old organization, but they seem to have inadequate technical staff and insufficient line authority and responsibility in ASW.

We conclude that the Navy is not yet organized to maximize its ASW capability, and that to do so would require a major reorganization which would recognize and treat ASW as a technical system and provide greater management focus for responsibility and authority. In order to achieve marked improvements in our ASW effectiveness per dollar spent, there must be a high-level organizational element within the Navy with a strong technical staff which would have the responsibility for examining all the elements of ASW and their interrelationship, and would also have the authority to control the major portion of the resources allocated to ASW. It would be only too easy simply to recommend a Polaris type management system for handling ASW. But we recognize that the ASW problem is characterized more by its differences than by its similarities to the Polaris system. We do, however, recommend that the Department of Defense develop a management system for ASW which will have the substance and authority that the Special Projects Office had; but this will evidently require more effort and more technically competent people to manage adequately this more complex and more varied field.

F. Major Conclusions and Recommendations

1. General.

The Panel has heard the Navy on a number of occasions on matters relating to the rationale underlying force level development, threat and desired capabilities of Naval forces. The Panel was convinced that the information that was presented to it was inadequate and that the rationale underlying the development of forces has not been adequately developed. In its deliberations the Panel has arrived at a number of conclusions in this area that do not coincide with those of the Navy, and strongly believes that the Navy should devote much greater efforts to the development of a rationale for the employment of ASW forces and of justification for its development and procurement programs.

Our primary general conclusion is that our over-all ASW capability is very poor in relation to what we should expect from a program which costs the nation approximately $3B per year. The principal reason seems to us to be an inability to take full advantage of technical opportunities available to us, which is directly traceable to management policy which in effect gives excessive emphasis to quantity, to the relative neglect of quality (technical performance, availability, reliability, ease of maintenance, etc.) in force development. This is reflected most clearly in a relative lack of effective operational tests and evaluation of components and systems, and hence in a lack of a realistic factual basis on which decisions might be based. This is further reflected in a collection [Page 386] of components that are not well matched, or capabilities for individual components that are clearly out of phase. (The mismatch between destroyer sonar detection ranges, fire control accuracy, and weapon acquisition range is one example. Another is the lack of balance between torpedo countermeasures capability, which is practically nonexistent, and other characteristics of torpedoes such as range, lock-on range, etc., which have been continually improved. Another is the lack of balance between sonobuoy detection capability, which utilizes narrow band spectral analysis (LOFAR) of low frequency line structures, but is not directional, and correlation analysis using sonobuoy (CODAR) localization which depends on broad band noise with average higher frequencies and hence much greater attenuation. A final example is the great emphasis placed on anti-submarine torpedoes and the relative lack of effort on anti-shipping or anti-surface ship torpedoes.) These deficiencies will not be corrected by further procurement of the present systems. Thus, the Panel does not endorse several major components of the present ASW procurement program, and instead, concludes that a major effort should be made to improve the quality of our ASW posture rather than increase the numbers of those components that are often inadequate to their mission.5 An increase in the numbers of such components over the next five years at the proposed rate means only a modest increase in total numbers, but it is questionable whether this will correspond to an equivalent increase in over-all effectiveness. However, the institution of several major developmental programs over the next five years is almost certain to lead to a very major improvement in our ASW capabilities in the period five to fifteen years from now, provided that these programs are well executed.

In adopting this conclusion, the Panel recognizes that over the next five years major improvements in our ASW posture can come about only as the result of improving the presently-existing components. In addition, the proposed developmental programs, if they are to be properly executed, will require a major reorganization in the management of ASW.

In concluding that many of the proposed increases or replacements in present ASW forces are not justified, the Panel examined the threat, with the results which follow:

General War with USSR . The Panel recognizes the capability of the USSR to use surface-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and surface-launched cruise missiles (SLCM) in an attack on the Continental United [Page 387] States (CONUS). The limited size of such attacks, plus the possibility of early detection and warning, reduce the attractiveness to the USSR of this as a first strike alternative. The USSR SLBM and SLCM’s could be used in a second strike as a follow-on to their first strike or in the event of a first strike by the U.S. Our present ASW forces might detect the build-up for a first strike, but have a limited capability for interdicting one. The U.S. capability would diminish and could become largely ineffective in the event the Soviets elected to use such submarine forces as a second strike. A numerical build-up of our SSN and DE-1052 destroyer forces over the next five years would lead to only minor improvements in both our capability to detect or interdict.
Non-nuclear War with USSR . The Panel believes that the large number of Soviet submarines would lead to very large U.S. and allied shipping losses during the early months of such a war—perhaps sufficiently great to materially reduce the effectiveness of allied ground forces, though the Panel has not examined this point in detail. An increase in the number of ASW components could possibly produce a proportional decrease in shipping losses in convoys, but the Panel believes that alternative tactics to convoy operations could also decrease such losses.
General War with Communist China. The Panel believes that the Chinese Communists could deploy in five years a small number of missile-carrying submarines which would pose a threat to West Coast cities and act as a deterrent against our use of nuclear weapons. While such a threat is not decisive, it does provide China with a negotiating tool. The Panel believes that development of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] techniques may effectively neutralize this threat. The development of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] tactics will require extensive operational tests. Success in these tests should lead to increased consideration of a forward Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) and to the development of special [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] aids.
Limited War. The Panel concludes that there is a definite threat to carrier task forces and to amphibious forces in limited war situation. Such forces are vulnerable primarily because of inadequate sensors.

In view of these considerations, the Panel recommends acceleration in certain development programs, changes in the organization of the R&D program, and reduction in several procurement (or replacement) programs.

[Here follow Sections (or Parts) III–VII.)

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, Office of Science and Technology, Vol. 1 [1966], Box 42. Top Secret. A title page is not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See Document 99.
  4. We note that since the publication of the draft of this report, greater emphasis has been devoted to the concept of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and more emphasis to the question of coercing the USSR through blockades at sea; neither of these changes in emphasis is evaluated in this report. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. The Panel is aware that current budgeting procedures result in R&D and procurement programs being considered quite separately, but believes this to be unwise, especially for systems which are not normally replaced over an interval of from 15 to 20 years. [Footnote in the source text.]