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Submarines are also characterised by their operational endurance, i.e. the
number of days they can remain at sea unsupported. They have an ability to
deploy and remain within an area of operation for a lengthy period of time
without the need for re-supply.
US submarines usually carry supplies for 90 days and routinely stay on
station, alone and submerged for 60 days or more. They are, however, capable
of carrying supplies for up to 120 days. Large conventional submarines like
Australia’s Collins Class are reportedly designed around a 70 day patrol.
Smaller conventional submarines such as the Pakistani Agosta 90B AIP
submarine has an endurance of 60 days whilst German Type 214s and French
Scorpenes have advertised endurances of 50+ days. The Commanding Officer
of the Argentinean submarine ARA SAN LUIS during the Falklands war stated
that he could patrol for 60 days in his 1200 tonne Type 209 before needing to
refuel and re-supply.
By contrast, a single frigate has only enough fuel to be away from port for
about 12 days. A group of warships supported by a replenishment ship has an
endurance of about 30 days.
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
Freedom of movement is afforded to the submarine by its stealth and
endurance. Freedom of movement is the ability to move from place to place
with relative impunity and the ability to access into any chosen area within an
area of operations, including areas that are not easily accessed or occupied by
other friendly assets, to achieve positional advantage.
Submarines generally have unfettered movement within an area of
operations which means they can shift position within the area as the
operational or tactical situation changes. Whilst dived they are generally
unhampered by rough seas and poor weather.
Stealth, endurance and freedom of movement in combination allow a
submarine to exert influence over a very wide area even if it can only deliver
its weapons over a small expanse of ocean. Since naval forces do not know
the location of a patrolling enemy submarine, they must assume that the
submarine could be anywhere and plan their operations accordingly. Sun Tzu
said “The enemy must not know where I intend to give battle. For if he does
not know where I intend to give battle, he must prepare in a great many places
... and when he prepares everywhere he will be weak everywhere”.
A submarine’s wide range of sensor and communication payloads, its
effectors and its ability to operate covertly and independently across the
area of operations provides a Force Commander with an ability to task
a submarine with a number of different mission types as the strategic,
operational or tactical situation changes.
As an example, at the operational level, a submarine might arrive in an
area and be tasked first to insert Special Forces, followed by ISR, followed by
a mine lay, then be re-tasked to deliver a land strike package and finally be
ordered to engage enemy shipping and submarines.
Effectors such as torpedoes, anti-ship missiles and land-attack cruise missiles,
give submarines the ability to bring considerable force to bear on the enemy
at the tactical level. Heavy-weight torpedoes can deliver a large explosive
charge to an enemy submarine or ship, resulting in unit kill. Anti-ship cruise
missiles, whilst generally having a lesser effect on a ship than a heavy-weight
torpedo, provide the submarine with a valuable stand-off capability. Even if
they don’t sink the ship they are still likely to cause sufficient damage to force
its withdrawal from the conflict. The destructive capabilities of land attack
missiles are well understood, having been used in numerous conflicts since
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