The Navy’s Submarine Force runs hard to pace operational requirements
As Submarine Force commander, Vice Adm. John J. “Jay” Donnelly
provides the national command authority, theater commanders and joint
force commanders with the services of the world’s pre-eminent
submarines and crews. A second-generation submariner, he oversees the
operational readiness of the Navy’s entire submarine fleet, including
fast-attack submarines (SSNs), guided-missile submarines (SSGNs) and
ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs).
In his additional duty as commander of Task Force 144, Donnelly
serves as operational commander of the Navy’s nuclear deterrent
force, embodied in its SSBNs armed with Trident nuclear missiles. He
also serves as commander of Allied Submarine Command, responsible for foreign submarine operations under NATO command.
Donnelly brings extensive operational experience to bear, having
served in four attack and ballistic-missile submarines, commanding
the fourth. He also commanded a submarine tender and a submarine
squadron. His high-level staff experience ashore includes service as
chief of staff for the U.S. Seventh Fleet, a director in U.S. Strategic
Command and as deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Donnelly discussed the state of the Submarine Force with Managing Editor Richard R. Burgess. Excerpts follow:
As you look around the world, what threats do
you see rising and how do you prepare submarines to meet those threats?
DONNELLY: There are, today, about 40 nations operating
about 400 submarines worldwide. China is building a
very capable military with increasing warfare capabilities.
We’re starting to see an increase in out-of-area activity
from the Russian Navy. North Korea always bears watching, as do the activities in Iran. Irregular warfare [also] is
a global challenge for our nation and our Navy.
The Submarine Force is engaged in all of those areas
and all of those activities. Our submarines are on point
at any given time. On any given day we have about 30
submarines at sea: 10 SSNs forward deployed on average; two SSGNs forward deployed; and about six SSBNs
would be underway. We’re really global and engaged.
The Pacific Command area of responsibility is a high-interest area for our nation, the Navy and the Submarine
Force. As a result, we’ve redistributed our SSNs to put 60
percent of our boats in the Pacific. We also have three
SSNs forward deployed to Guam and homeported there.
What role do submarines play in responding to
DONNELLY: The real utility of a submarine to our
combatant commanders and to our national-security
decision-makers is that, because of their nuclear propulsion and their endurance and stealth, they have the freedom to operate in any of the oceans of the world. They
can position themselves and gather intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] information and inform
our decision-makers of situations while a potential adver-