Summer 2016 Edition
Rear Admiral Frederick J. “Fritz” Roegge commands the Pacific Fleet of the Navy’s Submarine Force from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Originally from Minneapolis, the Admiral entered the Navy through the NROTC program at the University of Minnesota. In addition to the B.S. he earned, he holds master’s degrees from both Catholic University and the Naval War College and was a fellow at MIT in between his many sea tours and shore assignments.
Q. Admiral, thank you for taking the time to talk with Navy Magazine. Along with the Commander of Submarine Forces Vice Admiral Joseph Tofalo and the Director of Undersea Warfare Rear Admiral Charles Richard, you recently laid out a specific vision of the goals and responsibilities of our submarine forces in a document called the Commander’s Intent at http://bit.ly/29JqxeY. In it, you list some of our most immediate security threats, including the recent expansion of Russia and China’s military activities, North Korean aggression and threats posed by ISIL and Al Qaeda. Can you tell us how our submarine and undersea forces are helping the U.S. to combat these threats?
Certainly. Every day we have SSBNs out on strategic patrol and SSNs off doing national tasking. And every day they are practicing and demonstrating the skills that we would
need in time of an actual conflict. So in peacetime they are practicing the things that the nation would require them to do at war – everything except actually firing a weapon.
Because they are doing that so well they are daily demonstrating the ability to hold at risk the kinds of things that an adversary holds dear, which contributes to deterrence.
Q: Undersea concealment provides a unique opportunity for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to support our national interests. Please share with our readers a success story or two about ISR missions?
Submarines are very, very good at stealth, at mobility, at contributing firepower and at having endurance that’s enabled by a nuclear reactor. Stealth allows a submarine to get access to places that other platforms can’t, and stealth allows us to remain undetected. Endurance allows persistence. For many kinds of tasks or challenges, we have indications or warnings that something is going to happen at some point that might be of interest. The ability of a submarine, which is self-sustainable, to remain undetected in those forward locations and to persist for a lengthy look period optimizes our ability to collect whatever we’ve been tasked to do. A submarine is capable of hanging out for hours, weeks or even months.
Q. One of the most interesting areas of growth in undersea warfare today is the increased capabilities and usage of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs). What do you see as the most exciting or useful developments in this area?
The most useful and exciting of them are still classified, but new technology spans the gamut from small, man-portable UUVs that a Sailor can unload and throw into the water, all the way up to things that are almost sized to be mini-submersibles on their own – and everything in between. The great partnership the Navy has with industry is allowing us to take commercially available technologies and figure out different kinds of payloads that meet Navy-specific requirements. We’re experimenting and, in some cases, doing real world operations already in the undersea environment with those commercial vehicles. Additionally, there’s a lot of great work going on in developing
the tactics, the concepts of operation, the command and control and the mission planning for utilizing these capabilities, so that’s all very exciting. squadron, or “UUV-ron,” which will be working for the submarine development squadron, Squadron 5, in Bangor, Washington.
Q. In addition to UUVs, what do you see as the development with the most potential to aid our underwater mission?
We’re very interested in “growing longer arms” as an effect, which means increasing our ability to achieve kinetic or non-kinetic effects beyond the line of sight from a periscope or beyond the reach of an advanced capability torpedo. One of the other technologies we are demonstrating right now is Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which can be launched from submarines. They are either controlled from or report back to submarines and other platforms. Submariners tactically consider bringing the ship as shallow as possible to get the periscope optic as high as possible so they can get the broadest look around the ocean surface. That’s called coming up to take a “high look.” Obviously, if you can get a UAV up you’ve got a very, very high look, a much greater range at which you can sense the environment around the submarine. Another exciting area is acoustic superiority. A number of specific programs and initiatives are being designed to improve the sensors we use to detect and sense the environment around us or improve the quieting of our submarines to avoid being detected.
Q. In the Commander’s Intent you list “Employ the Force Effectively” as your second line of effort. A lot of us have been trying to do that since at least 1977. You put a strong emphasis on making the most of our people power by developing officers and training Sailors well and by providing them with opportunities for professional development. Other than Jedi training, what are some specific training programs or new opportunities for those working in undersea warfare today?
The Undersea Warfare Development Center is charged with the development of the doctrine, con-ops, tactics, training of our platforms and assessment of performance. So that has been hugely beneficial in reinvigorating our training. Additionally, the Navy’s Sailor 2025 initiative is a look at “ready, relevant learning.” In the Submarine Force, we’re certainly taking advantage of efforts to make sure that we’re delivering the right training to the right Sailor at the right time and as efficiently and effectively as possible. I can think of no better way to describe how we are trying to improve the effectiveness of our force than what has thus far been a tremendously successful integration of women into the Submarine Force. We began this by bringing in female officers a few years ago, the first of those cohorts have completed their initial sea tours and are now on their shore duties. We are delighted to see that we’re retaining the numbers we expected and the quality we had hoped for. Now we’re in the midst of integrating enlisted female Sailors. We have our first female chief petty officers who have reported to their first sea duty assignments, and the first of the more junior Sailors will report on board in the next few months. Let me leave you with one other thought – every engagement with my Sailors begins with observing that this is just an incredibly exciting time to be a submariner and also an incredibly important time. Potential competitors or adversaries around the world are investing heavily in the kinds of capabilities that are designed to thwart the ability of the United States military to operate around the world by creating systems designed as anti-access and area denial. Fortunately for America, the Submarine Force remains preeminent in the undersea and retains that ability to operate covertly anywhere we choose in the world.