Undersea Surveillance:

Navy Continues to Build Ships Designed for Soviet Threat

NSIAD-93-53: Published: Dec 3, 1992. Publicly Released: Dec 3, 1992.

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GAO reviewed: (1) how the threat of enemy submarines changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union; and (2) what changes the Navy proposed regarding its Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) program.

GAO found that: (1) the Soviet global submarine threat has declined dramatically and is no longer the primary threat to the United States; (2) the focus has shifted to the evolving threat of regional conflict in shallow water; (3) the Navy has not yet developed performance requirements for an undersea surveillance system to counter the shallow water threat; (4) the Navy built SURTASS to counter the Soviet submarine threat in deep water, but it planned to use SURTASS against the shallow water submarine threat; and (5) preliminary test results showed that SURTASS had potential for shallow water submarine detections, but the Navy has not demonstrated SURTASS shallow water capability through developmental and operational tests.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress transferred funds for the T-AGOS-24 ship to other Navy shipbuilding programs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should postpone the Navy's decision on whether to build Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH) ship T-AGOS-24 until the test results of low frequency active operational performance and SWATH operational design are fully evaluated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Navy shipbuilding plans show T-AGOS-24 and T-AGOS-25 to be built in future years. Since the end of the Cold War the Navy has redefined its mission and decided not to build the ships in question.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should reevaluate plans to buy T-AGOS-25 through -27 SWATH ships--an estimated $525 million to construct--until the submarine threat is better defined, the system requirements to counter the threat are documented and approved, and the contribution of alternative submarine detection systems under development is analyzed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

 

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