Terry Jones on 688(I)
Reprinted from Jane's Combat Sims Magazine, February 1997

Terry Jones served more than 26 years in the submarine force. He is experienced in all aspects of submarine warfare and served in four classes of submarines. He has more than five years of command experience in both attack and ballistic missile submarines. Terry has first-hand operational experience with current weapons and combat systems, and he has operated in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic Oceans, as well as in the Mediterranean Sea. His contributions to the submarine force include the development of tactics for such diverse scenarios as Arctic warfare, special warfare, open ocean ASW, bastion ASW, and over-the-horizon targeting. As a Principal Analyst at Sonalysts, he is involved in the development of combat systems for future classes of submarines.

688(I) Hunter/Killer EA: How long did you serve in the US Navy?

TJ: I was a commissioned officer for 26 and a half years.

EA: Please describe the types of ships on which you served.

TJ: Two Benjamin Franklin-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs)-USS Henry L. Stimson (SSBN 655) and USS George Washington Carver (SSBN 656); a Los Angeles-class attack submarine (SSN)-USS Groton (SSN 694); a Sturgeon-class attack submarine-USS Billfish (SSN 676); and an Ohio-class (Trident) ballistic missile submarine-USS Nevada (SSBN 733).

EA: When you joined the navy, did you know you were going to become a submariner?

TJ: Not when I began as a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) midshipman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), but during my senior year I volunteered for nuclear power training and for submarine duty.

EA: Tell us about the different phases of your education and training. How long do you have to prepare to become a submarine commander?

TJ: After commissioning, six months were spent in nuclear power school, and six more months were spent at a land-based nuclear reactor training unit qualifying on all watchstations in that plant which was an operational duplicate of a naval shipboard propulsion plant. Following that I attended officer submarine school, which, at the time, was six months long. (Today officers attend the Submarine Officer Basic Course (SOBC), which is about 16 weeks long, and then return for the Submarine Officer Advanced Course (SOAC), which is six months long, just before their second sea tour (five to six year point).)

Once on board my first ship as a division officer, I had to qualify as Diving Officer of the Watch, Engineering Officer of the Watch, Engineering Duty Officer (in port), Officer of the Deck, Duty Officer (in port), and Weapons Duty Officer (in port). There were also other requirements to be met to complete qualification in submarines which allowed me to wear gold dolphins, the warfare insignia of a submarine officer. Then I had to pass an intensive examination to be qualified to serve as an Engineer Officer of a nuclear propulsion plant. I also began to work on Qualification for Command.

688(I) Hunter/Killer After shore duty to do graduate work, I served as an Engineer Officer (department head). During this second sea tour, an officer needs to complete the Qualification for Command. Usually there will be another shore tour before the third sea tour as Executive Officer (XO), the second in command on a ship.

Before commanding a submarine, an officer will have had three operational tours at sea and three shore assignments. There is also an intensive Prospective Commanding Officer course that is more than six months long just prior to command. An officer will normally go to command at about the 16 year point in his career today.

EA: What was the hardest part of your training?

TJ: The most difficult part of the training is the period that follows commissioning as an officer and lasts for three to four years until qualification as a nuclear engineer officer is completed. The entire period is intense and demanding. A junior officer must balance the demands of his job as a division officer, the need to stand watches for six hours out of every eighteen hours when at sea, and still complete the long list of qualification requirements that I mentioned before. In addition, when the ship is in port, the junior officers will be in a duty status one day out of every three or four, which means that they must remain on board instead of going home at night.

EA: Describe the most interesting missions you ever undertook.

TJ: I can't provide a lot of detail of actual missions, but I can say that when I was XO of USS Groton we circumnavigated the world. When I commanded USS Billfish, I was lucky enough to be a mother submarine for one of the deep submergence rescue vehicles (DSRVs) and we simulated the recovery of crews from bottomed submarines by actually transferring people between submarines of other NATO countries and my ship while submerged. As CO of Billfish, I was also lucky enough to go to the Arctic and operate under the polar ice cap. We even had a rendezvous with two other submarines at the North Pole and we all surfaced for some liberty on the ice. The other two submarines were both SSNs, one US and one UK.

Of course, some deployments are interesting because of the port visits that you get to make. I was lucky to have the chance to visit ports in Scotland, Spain, England, France, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, and both the east and west coasts of the United States and Hawaii.

EA: Was there any mission that you didn't particularly enjoy?

TJ: No. There were stressful missions, but there was always a sense of accomplishment that made every one of them rewarding.

EA: How large is the crew of a modern attack submarine?

TJ: There are approximately 130 officers and men assigned to an attack submarine, but they may not all be at sea with the ship on a given day. It depends on the reason for being at sea and the length of time that the ship is scheduled to be out. (You could put up with some crowded conditions for a few days of training, but not for a long deployment.) The crew is augmented with enough people to allow for having some in long professional training courses or on leave.

EA: How does that number break down by station? In other words, how many people does it take to man each of the various stations?

TJ: The goal would be to have at least three people for each watchstation, because the typical routine is to stand watch on a "one in three" basis, that is to be on watch for six hours and then off for twelve hours.

You can't take the crew size and divide by three to get the number of watchstations because there are some on board who perform other functions and don't stand routine watches. There are also people who are in training or "qualifying" for watches.

EA: Describe a typical day in the life of an average submariner?

TJ: Watches are six hours long, so the meal schedule is adapted to the changing of the watchsections. Food is available every six hours (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and "mid rats" or midnight rations). That way, you have an opportunity to eat when you are going on watch and coming off.

When not on watch, submariners have to find the time for training (division, department, and crew-wide), damage control and other casualty drills, their own qualification (in submarines and on the next senior watchstation), cleaning the ship, maintenance and administrative tasks, and sleeping. Many people operate on an 18-hour day: getting up for watch; working, training, and qualifying during the next six-hour period; and sleeping some of the next six-hour period before repeating the cycle.

Recreation takes the form of watching movies, reading, and exercising. There isn't a lot of space for the latter on an SSN, so it takes ingenuity.

EA: How does the submarine commander's daily routine differ from his crew?

TJ: The CO doesn't stand watch per se, so he is always on call. He has to be, because he is held personally responsible for the safe operation of his entire ship. Because he is responsible for the readiness of his ship, he is involved in much of the training that is carried out, and he will participate in all of the casualty drills. He even takes a personal role in the qualification of people for senior watchstations, so he will be part of the oral interview boards that grant final certification. Of course there is always administrative work to do, but at sea the CO's focus is always on the current mission and what is happening tactically. He is in frequent communication with the Officer of the Deck (OOD) and will often be in the Control Room himself to observe operations and the employment of sensors.

When he chooses to sleep, the CO will still be interrupted by calls and reports from the OOD. If operations are so intense that he would get no rest, the CO can designate a Command Duty Officer (CDO) to take reports from the OOD and give permission to do certain things. The CDO is typically the XO or a senior department head.

EA: How would you compare life on board an attack submarine (SSN) with that of a ballistic missile sub (SSBN)?

TJ: In many ways, life on a nuclear submarine is the same regardless of the class of submarine. Operationally, however, you probably have more control over the schedule of events on an SSBN. The operational pattern is more regular and less event-driven than on an SSN.

There are people who prefer each type of submarine. Some like the variety of missions and the varied schedule of the SSN; some prefer the more consistent pace of operations of the SSBN (and perhaps the greater "creature comforts" that the larger SSBNs can offer).

EA: How long is a submarine typically at sea?

TJ: This is extremely variable. A submarine may be out for five days for training or for two or three months at a stretch when deployed.

EA: What limits the time a nuclear submarine remains on patrol?

TJ: The only real limit is how much food you can carry.

EA: What is the most challenging type of mission for an attack submarine today?

TJ: No comment

EA: What is the biggest threat faced by attack submarines?

TJ: No comment

EA: If you had to name the top three most important factors in successful submarine operations, what would they be?

TJ: Stealth, connectivity (communications), and situational awareness (knowing your environment and who else is in your battle space)

EA: What advantages does the 688(I) have over the most technologically advanced submarines produced in other countries?

TJ: Many, but the most important one is having the best trained submarine crews in the world.

EA: Disadvantages?

TJ: None

©1997 Electronic Arts