Terry Jones, Sonalysts: Interview
by Leonard (Viking1) Hjalmarson
IN the middle of 1997 Janes Combat Simulations released 688i Hunter/Killer, a WIN95 simulation that was incredible in its detailing of complicated systems. The sim not only took us on board the enhanced 688 class Hunter/Killer, it also came with an advanced AI structure and a very sophisticated mission editor. Rounded out by multiplayer abilities, 688i is still going strong.
Longbow 2 dripped realism, and 688(I) likewise weighed in beyond many expectations. The combination of Paul Grace, a lover of the blue deeps, Sonalyst's Incorporated, under the guidance of Captain Terry Jones (USN, Retired), and the resources of Janes, the best known and most informed source for information on fighting ships in the world gave us Good Stuff! Jones himself has served as captain in both SSN and SSBN submarines, and Sonalysts has been doing defense contract work for the military and industry since 1973. Recently Mr. Jones gave us some of his time and this interview is the result. (Note: Screen shots are from 688(I)
Make It So
Csim: Mr. Jones, how long did you serve in the US Navy?
TJ: I served on active duty for 26 and a half years.
Csim: Would you list for us the ships and ship classes on which you served?
TJ: USS Henry L. Stimson (SSBN 655)(GOLD Crew) - Benjamin Franklin (SSBN 640) class
USS George Washington Carver (SSBN 656)(BLUE Crew) - Ben Franklin class
USS Groton (SSN 694) - Los Angeles (SSN 688) class
USS Billfish (SSN 676) - Sturgeon (SSN 637) class
USS Nevada (SSBN 733)(GOLD Crew) - Ohio (SSBN 726) class
I also had the opportunity to ride almost every other type of submarine that
we built, including the one-of-a-kind ships, during my career.
Csim: Did you join the Navy in the submarine service?
TJ: Yes, I was selected for nuclear power training and volunteered for
submarines before I was commisioned. My first duty station was nuclear
Csim: What kind of training is involved in preparation for submarine
service and how did you transition to command?
TJ: All line officers (eligible to command ships) receive nuclear power
training, which includes six months of school and six months at an operating
reactor plant as a student. That is followed by basic submarine school.
Once on board an operating submarine, the junior officer has to qualify as
Diving Officer of the Watch, Engineering Officer of the Watch, Officer of
the Deck, Engineering Duty Officer (in port), and Duty Officer (in port).
With those qualifications completed and a few other things to finish, the
officer can be designated Qualified in Submarines and wear gold dolphins.
While still assigned to the first submarine, the officer will also complete
qualification to serve as an engineer officer of a nuclear powered ship.
(This requires a day of written examinations and a day of oral interviews in
Usually shore duty follows and an advanced officer submarine school. Once
assigned to a second submarine as a department head, the officer will have
to complete another demanding Qualification for Command of a submarine.
Shore duty probably follows this second sea tour as well. The third sea
assignment will be as an Executive Officer, the second in command on a
submarine. This tour really grooms an officer for command of his own.
Another shore tour may follow the XO tour. Before going to command of a
submarine, the officer has to complete intensive training as a prospective
commanding officer (PCO). This includes three months of detailed study of
nuclear power plant design, construction, operation, and safety. This is
followed by three months or more of tactical and operational training
(weapons, tactics, sensors, combat systems, and submarine missions), which
includes periods at sea.
All of this assumes that the officer has done well enough to have been
selected for advancement and for assignment to more senior billets along the
way. This selection process is extremely competitive, selecting the best of
the best to succeed to command.
Csim: What were the more challenging aspects of training?
TJ: Believe me, it's all challenging. The initial qualification in submarines
is hard because there is so much to do in addition to your regular duties as
a division officer. Engineer Officer qualification is hard because of the
huge volume of technical information that must be understood and the many
procedures that have to be learned. PCO training is challenging because of
its comprehensive nature; a career's worth of learning and experience has to
be brought to bear on the situations that are given to the PCOs.
Csim: What was your first undersea cruise experience like?
TJ: My first deployment was a strategic missile deterrent patrol on a Polaris
submarine. There were so many qualifications to complete and so much to
learn that I don't remember finding much time for sleep or relaxation such
as watching a movie. In those days we operated from Rota, Spain, and the
patrol was more than two months long without surfacing.
Csim: Describe some of your more interesting missions.
TJ: When I was the XO of USS Groton, we deployed to the Indian Ocean for a
six-month period. We made port visits in Diego Garcia and Perth, Australia,
and came home through the Panama Canal, having circumnavigated the world.
When in command of USS Billfish, I was fortunate to do many things. We
deployed to the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic. I trained with SEALs,
and was the mother submarine for one of the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles
(DSRVs) during a NATO exercise, actually transferring people out of bottomed
allied submarines which were simulated to have been disabled. We also
deployed to the Arctic, surfacing through the ice many times and conducting
a three-submarine rendezvous at the North Pole with another US SSN and an
SSN from the UK.
Csim: What is the crew compliment of a modern attack sub?
TJ: The total number of people assigned would be approximately 135, but they
would not necessarily all get underway with the submarine each time.
Csim: How many stations are there and how do the shifts work?
TJ: It will vary with the current mission, but there are typically about 33
people on watch at any given time when the submarine is submerged. Watches
are typically six hours long, and people may be in a one-in-three or
one-in-four rotation (six on, twelve off or six on, eighteen off).
Csim: Tell us a bit about life at sea.
TJ: There is little slack time at sea on a submarine, especially for those that
are in a one-in-three rotation. In the twelve hours off between watches, a
person has to attend training, work on qualifications, perform maintenance,
attend to administrative tasks, clean, and participate in casualty drills,
to say nothing about sleeping, eating, exercising, or showering.
As you would expect, everyone lives in tight quarters on board a submarine.
The Crew's Mess (eating area) also has to serve as a training classroom,
office area, meeting room, study hall, and movie theater. The only space
that anyone has to call their own or that offers any privacy is their bunk.
Don't get the idea that it isn't fun, however. The work is challenging but
rewarding. You serve with an all-volunteer group of people that are the
best in the Navy. The food is great, and there are opportunities for
diversion even within the busy schedule. The morale of a submarine crew is
Csim: How does the routine of a commander differ from the other officers?
TJ: The Commanding Officer (CO) doesn't stand any watches at sea nor does he
have duty days when the ship is in port. (On a duty day, an officer must
remain on board to oversee the operation and safety of the ship or the
nuclear propulsion plant. Refer to an earlier question on training.) On
the other hand, the CO is always on call. When at sea he can count on
having interrupted sleep because, for any six-hour watch period, he will
receive reports from the Officer of the Deck (OOD) and the Engineering
Officer of the Watch when they have been relieved, and he will frequently be
called by the OOD on watch to give permission for certain things that
require the CO's concurrence. Except when he is trying to rest, the CO is
intimately involved in the tactical operation of the ship and with the
training of the crew.
Under Naval Regulations, the CO is given great authority to make decisions,
but is also held solely responsible for everything on his ship. The "buck"
really does stop with the CO.
The Target Motion Analysis Station.
Csim: How did you become involved with Sonalysts?
TJ: When I left active duty, I returned to a home I owned in Connecticut to
begin the process of looking for a civilian job. I knew many people that
were already working for Sonalysts. As a result, I was interviewed and
offered a job.
Csim: Sonalysts seems to be a very diverse organization. What are some of
the projects you are working on?
TJ: In addition to the combat simulation work with Electronic Arts, we do
modeling and simulation for defense customers internationally, support Navy
laboratories in the development of new combat systems and sensors, create
computer-based training including intelligent training aids, develop
software for government and commercial customers, develop home pages for
companies that want a presence on the web, and provide weather and flight
tracking systems to commercial airlines and major airports worldwide (Hong
Kong, Kuala Lampur).
Other government customers include the Federal Aviation Administration, the
Dept of Energy, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Through a contract
with Brookhaven National Laboratory we provide training to operators of
nuclear utilities in the former Soviet Union.
The production of training films for government customers has grown into the
current capability for video, film, and animation. We have three large
sound stages, a unique audio recording studio, and state of the art
animation and editing suites. We do a lot of television work and an
increasing amount of feature film work.
We also design and build trade show booths (AT&T Olympic Village at the
Summer Olympics). We are a "one stop shop" for commercial design, and after
success with the Mohegan Sun Resort, we now support Sun Resorts worldwide.
Although this list is varied, it is only the tip of the iceberg. We have
almost 500 entrepreneurial partners that are unconstrained with regard to
their imagination and the business direction that they want to follow.
Csim: How did Sonalysts become involved with Paul Grace and Janes?
TJ: A former Sonalysts partner, Rob Batchelder, approached Paul about
licensing EA's Seawolf sub game so that Sonalysts could upgrade and market
the game. Instead, Paul offered Sonalysts the opportunity to develop, from
a clean sheet of paper, a new sub game for EA and Jane's. We accepted
Paul's offer, and the result was 688(I) Hunter/Killer.
Csim: How does 688i compare to a real military simulation?
TJ: 688I was designed with entertainment value in mind (3D animation, music,
humor). The graphic user interface (GUI) is somewhat simplified and is more
appealing to the eye. The irony is that the trend in military software is
to do just that - to adopt commercial standards for ease of learning and
ease of navigation through a series of tasks. As far as the fidelity of the
simulation is concerned, it is extremely high. The capabilities of the
platforms and weapons are very realistic.
Csim: What areas of submarine life are the hardest to simulate?
TJ: Teamwork. What seems straightforward to the player of 688I really results
from the work of an entire crew; you can't be successful in submarines as a
"one man show".
Time. For playability reasons, the scenarios can be played in a matter of
hours. In real life, the missions could take days or even weeks.
Environment. For the game, we could not model the temporal and spatial
variability of the ocean and the atmosphere. In real life, that is a real
concern for the submarine crew.
Csim: How much accuracy are we seeing in weapon and systems modelling?
TJ: We used Jane's as the source of all platform and weapons performance data.
Jane's has a well earned, international reputation for accuracy and
Csim: If there was one area you could expand on or feature you could
add to 688i what would it be?
TJ: I think it would be interoperability with other combat sims so that
multiplayer would offer the opportunity to put together a task force or
Csim: In what areas are soviet subs keeping pace with western technology?
TJ: Most. Quoting from an unclassified publication from the Office of Naval
Intelligence, "The Russian submarine force continues to set the most
competitive technology pace for U.S. submarines and antisubmarine warfare
(ASW) forces. Sophisticated proplusion, quieting, and weapons systems are
at sea now and are being incorporated into new construction submarines."
Csim: In what areas are they still far behind?
TJ:: Probably in training and operations. Because of economic difficulties,
their ships do not operate at sea or deploy as much as their western
Csim: Some analysts argue that the end of the cold war has reduced the
need for this kind of stealth technology. What do you think?
TJ: Just the opposite. The end of the Cold War has resulted in high technology
being made available for sale on the world market. The former Soviet
republics need hard currency, so very capable platforms can be purchased
easily. This proliferation makes it imperative for the U.S. and its allies
to continue to push the envelope with regard to stealth and extremely
Csim: Other analysts argue that air power for sea control has many
advantages over submarines and few disadvantages. Please comment.
TJ: Air power is flexible and responsive and is essential in many situations.
However, an aircraft has the ability to remain on station for minutes or
hours. A submarine can remain on station AND UNDETECTED for months. So you
pick your weapon of choice depending on the situation. If you want to
intimidate, putting an aircraft carrier and its air wing in the region will
do that. If you want to be ready without the chance of escalation, putting
a submarine on station will give you weapons and surveillance capability
without the need for a logistics tail. Air power and a strong submarine
force are complementary and are both necessary.
Csim: Sonalysts is involved in the production of an under ice campaign
for 688i. Why under ice? What is unique about that environment that
makes it the best candidate for an add on campaign?
TJ: We wanted to do this because of the opportunity for spectacular graphics and
because the environment would provide a new set of challenges to the player.
The under ice environment is noisy for passive sonar and very difficult for
active sonar. Communications is challenging because you can't go to
periscope depth whenever you choose to.
Csim: Sonalysts is also involved in the production of the Aegis
simulation that will interface with 688i. Why Aegis and how will the
addition of the surface sim add scope to the battlefield
TJ: This will provide combat sim enthusiasts the opportunity to use state of the
art systems in missions very different from the 688I scenarios. The player
will be able to control air engagements and particpate in land attack,
strike, and surface warfare. Eventually, coordinated operations will be
possible, but we don't want to say too much about that yet.
Csim: Thanks Terry and all the best to you and Sonalysts on your future endeavours!
For more information on the coming AEGIS sim go to Paul Grace 688/Aegis Interview
Go to Janes Combat Simulations.
Main Naval Combat
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Last Updated January 19, 1997