In reading “A Book or Five Rings” by Miyamoto Husashi, a seven teeth century Japanese samurai,
it seems apparent that his strategy for the use of weapons has application to today’ s submarine
launched antiship missiles.
Husashi noted that despite several thousand years of armed combat and changing weaponry:
“There should be no such thing as ‘this is the modern way to do it’.”
In effect, he said that his techniques for fighting were as applicable to our times as they were for the warrior of his day — armed with two swords, a long and a short. “Know the advantage of both swords” , he emphasized. As translated for today’s warriors:
“The long sword (missile) should be used broadly, the companion sword (torpedo) closely.”
Moreover, Musashi argued that:
“The long sword is the basis of strategy and masters of the long sword are called strategists, those who reach out.”
At the same time, he wrote that:
“The best ·use of the companion sword is in a confined space.”
Today’ s long sword the antiship missile — would be worrisome to Musashi for its great
complexity and its high cost with a consequent shortage in supply for war. However, he would be
pleased with its great standoff range, its stealth and its capability to home on an enemy
target and to counter the enemy’s efforts to avoid being hit.
Since submarine antiship missiles have yet to be used in conflict, the strategy for their use
can only be gleaned from writings about the various missiles available. Some of the
unclassified descriptions of probable missile employment may be in error but still there seem to
be certain techniques which Musashi, if he were living today, would red-flag. And there would
probably be some recommendations he would make to optimize their effectiveness.
The sea-hugging flight path of the antiship missile and its very small frontal radar crosssection
— “which gives a radar return of little more than that from a wet bird” — provide the
missile with great stealth. Its closeness to the sea makes it difficult for a target’s fire control
radars to dig the missile’s echos out of sea return. Hence, defensive measures are not likely
to be activated in time to prevent the missile from hitting. Additionally, the missile by using
frequency-agility in its terminal homing radar tends to provide a counter for enemy efforts to
jam or spoof the missile’s radar.
These qualities, in Musashi terms, should provide “an attack without warning where the enemy
is not expecting it”. Yet a published diagram of the trajectory of this sea-hugging weapon seems to
believe this. The missile has a flight path “only a few meters above the waves”, until it is at a
distance just beyond the range of acquisition of the target’s radar. At this point the missile is
shown to pop up for a “look” at the target in order to obtain a range. The missile then goes
back down for a low run-in until several miles from its target, when it again pops up in order to
dive into the target at a sharp angle.
]Musashi insists upon “attack in an unsuspected manner”. He would strongly reject standing up and
peering around — in view of the enemy. He would also reject a later dashing out of his cover while still a goodly distance from the enemy . That would subject him to a shower of arrows and
a barrage of spears.
Why then are today’s antiship missiles programmed as described above?
The argument for the pop-ups is to give the weapon a means to supposedly maximize the destructive effect of its warhead. By diving into the target, the missile’s armor piercing, high explosive warhead with its delayed action fuze, explodes deep inside its target. This seems to be consistent with Musashi’s, “Be intent solely upon killing the enemy”. But Musashi’ s philosophy for use of the long sword calls for “cutting the enemy to kill him”. Only when the enemy is overcome does he recommend the thrust -a stab at the heart. He eschews directing the long sword towards an enemy’s vital organ in
order to destroy him outright. Rather, Musashi prefers the use of simple sword cuts directed at
wide areas of the body where contact causes his enemy to be incapacitated and bleed to death.
This sword strategy appears to be confirmed by the Exocet sinking of two ships in the Falklands
War by the fires created. The Battle of Midway also reinforces the lethality of fire as against
explosive damage. Whereas the U.S. sank four Japanese carriers with fragmentation bombs that
barely penetrated their flight decks, the fires created caused their destruction. On the other
hand, although the Japanese obtained as many bomb hits in u.s. carriers they found that their armor
piercing fuze-delayed bombs while exploding deep in the vi tala of the carriers, did not prove
fatal. (A U.S. carrier eventually went down, but it was sunk by submarine torpedoes.)
Since the lethality of the warhead in today’s missiles is considered questionable, damage
resulting in a “mission abort” as opposed to a sinking is, in some quarters, considered acceptable. But to Musashi who stressed killing his opponents, this would be unacceptable. The proposal to have the missile enter the water short of its target and explode just under the ship’s keel to insure a sinking would also probably be rejected by Musashi, who stated that:
“The great virtue is simplicity.”
(It should be noted that the effectiveness of an explosion under the keel of a ship is critically dependent on placing the warhead within a space of only a few feet below the ship’s bot tom. Since
submarine skippers in World War II were off by a margin of over 50% in their guesses as to the size
of ships when viewed through the periscope, estimates of ship drafts and hence depths for
today 1 s missile warheads to explode, would likely be too far off to get desired results.)
Targeting of antiship missiles against distant ships is a primary concern of submariners today.
On the one hand they see a peacetime need for keeping track of a vast number of ship targets by
means of a multi-faceted ocean surveillance system so as to be able to attack specific enemy ships if
war is pre-empted — or to counterfire if put under missile attack. On the other hand, in
ongoing war it is felt that much of the ocean surveillance system would likely be destroyed or
neutralized quickly. Submariners would then be either forced to rely on solely onboard sensors
for targeting their missiles — or have external sources (aircraft, satellites, SOSUS, etc.)
provide targeting data on a piecemeal, far less reliable basis.
Outlaw Shark equipment has been developed for the peacetime data handling and display of the
positions of potential enemy ships as well as other ships whose positions must be known so that
they are not inadvertently attacked when missile fire is commenced. But Outlaw Shark is designed
for pre-empting a conflict, not to respond to an enemy’s pre-emption. Firing missiles back at a
fully alert pre-empting distant enemy is seemingly a sure way to waste weapons. Thus if
the u.s. doesn’t contemplate pre-empting a big war at sea, then Outlaw Shark is apparently
overdesigned for submarine needs. Moreover, the described method for targeting a submarine missile
in war presumes such a sparsity of target information — which is likely to be an order of magnitude less than in peacetime as to question the need for a system as complex as Outlaw Shark.
Targeting consists of an enemy ship located by a single observation at the time of missile launch. This causes the target to be merely a point on the seas with its course and speed usually unknown — and with a high probability that both could change very quickly. The launched missile is directed towards the located point where the enemy ship was observed, not where it is likely to be on arrival of the missile. This is occuring while the area of uncertainty in target position, created by the assumption that the target could be on any course and at top speed, is growing proportionally with flight
time. Even the wide-angle sweeping seeker in the missile’s nose quickly fails to cover all
possible positions of the assumed freelymaneuvering ship. If the combat range to such a
target is 25 miles, the missile’s seeker should pick it up, but at about 100 miles the area to be
terminally scanned is already over 500 miles square, for a submarine missile of .9 mach speed.
Thus, against a freely evading “point target”,when the combat range is over 1 00 miles, it is
considered necessary to program a missile to commence a broad area search pattern as it nears
the located point, in order to “find” its target.
Submariners who have known combat recognize that all targets fired at were tracked targets.
Several observations were invariably used to determine the course and speed of each target.
Even stopped targets were so verified with several observations. Targeting was no
instantaneous matter, and could stretch out over a period of days. Why then must the long range
firing of missiles be a hurry-up affair? Musashi says:
“If you try to wield the long sword quickly, you will mistake the Way (of strategy). If you
try to cut quickly, you will not actually cut even a little.”
Equally incomprehensible is the use of a firing solution which is so vague that the missile is
forced to use a search pattern which tends to alert its target and cause the costly weapon to be
wasted. By so using the missile, efficient salvo fire seems also precluded. This denies the
principle of “massing” to overcome a strong enemy. In Musashi’s terms:
“The essence of strategy is to fall upon the enemy in large numbers.”
The point being made is that for long range targeting of missiles , several observations should
be used to establish the track of an unalerted target and permit a directing of the missile
towards a point of interception. In the case of a group of ships, Musashi’s advice applies:
“It is difficult for large numbers of men to change positions, so their movements can be predicted.”
Another oddity described in the use of antiship missiles is the need for positive identification of any target being fired at.
Positive identification of a target in war from a single observation, such as a radar satellite’s
contact on a target emitting an identifiable radar signature or an infra-red imaging and ranging
(I2R) detection by an aircraft would only be tenuous at best. A visual sighting by a
submarine stands a better chance, but World War II submarine experience showed how difficult it
was to positively identify a ship target even when observed closely from short range and over a
considerable period or time. Musashi in battle would have the same sort of problem in identifying his enemies.
What do these concerns suggest?
The warrior recognizes that certain problems are endemic to battle — identification of the
enemy, lethality of weapons, sparseness of targeting data, disruption of communications,
inadequate response to surprise attack, etc. Hence there should tend to be no absolute weapon
solutions which are designed for or practiced. All that Musashi can recommend is:
“You must practice diligently in order to understand how to win.”
Unfortunately, the high cost and short supply of the long range missile precludes very much
operational practice, but other means have to be used for training.
Perhaps of greatest concern to submariners is the frittering away of the element of surprise
inherent to the antiship missile through overly complex tactics. An electronics-dependent weapon
is highly susceptible to being countered by EW measures, hence surprise in missile attack is at
a premium. The great covertness of present day submarines should not blind its submariners to
the need for covertness in his weapons as well. Lacking surprise in missile attack, there should
be a saturating of enemy defenses through the use of massed weapon power . Salvoes of considerable
numbers of missiles arriving near simultaneously provide this.
The submarine antiship missile is a superb weapon with wide flexibility in its use. Musashi
would relish it . He would also seek to perfect the strategy for its employment. But how, seems
to require further thought — and exercises, to determine a best “Way.”
THE U.S .S. BOWFIN MEMORIAL
The dedication and fervor of submariners in providing a memorial to the submarines and
submariners lost in World War II is no better illustrated than at Pearl Harbor. There, the
Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association sponsors the USS BOWFIN Submarine exhibit and the
adjacent BOWFIN Park. Both are close to the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center and enjoy its patronage.
Since April of 1981 over 400,000 visitors have viewed the U.S.S. BOWFIN Memorial, with a present
flow of over 12,000 per month. Proceeds from admissions to the submarine are used by the Association for restoration and maintenance of the BOWFIN as well as landscaping and beautification of the BOWFIN Park alongside.
The BOWFIN was well chosen to represent the U.S. submarines that fought against the Japanese.
Its war record was the envy of all submariners fighting in the far Pacific and particularly those
who operated out of Freemantle. We would bid the BOWFIN “good hunting” as she headed out on patrol, and then we’d see her return with a new string of battleflags, even before our submarines had
completed their refit. Admiral Ralph Christie (now appropriately on the Advisory Group of the
Association), then in charge of the Freemantle based submarine force, recognized the amazing
capability of the BOWFIN’s skipper, Walt Griffith, to find ships quickly and get rid of all of his torpedoes, and he wanted the experience of being 11at the front” and seeing what it was like. So he boarded the BOWFIN at Darwin after she’d returned there from her 3rd patrol for a quick reload. That was after only 14 days on patrol. Admiral Christie figured he could make a quick run with BOWFIN and be back at his desk before his boss, Admiral Kinkaid, was aware that his underling had abandoned his headquarters in Perth. Out the BOWFIN went for a 4th Patrol from Darwin, and nine days later dropped the Admiral off at Exmouth Gulf for a quick flight back to Perth. All 16 reload
torpedoes had been fired and two big ships had been sunk. Admiral Christie was reportedly
shaken by the violence of the surface actions, the last of which had the escorting Japanese ships firing at BOWFIN with all the guns which they could being to bear. The Admiral admitted he was glad to “clear the bridge” and leave Griffith up there alone to conn BOWFIN out of the melee.
Rear Admiral Jack Barrett, USN (Ret) the Senior Vice President of the Association, reports
that their capital debt has been reduced to $135,500 as of 28 February 1983 and that it is
being reduced at a rate of almost $9,000 per month. But, he notes, there will be a need to
accomplish major work in the future with an attendant significant cost and loss of daily
visitor revenues. Barrett offers his personal assistance during visits to Hawaii for any
members of the Submarine League. He adds an aloha from the Hawaiian submariners to the
officers and directors of the Submarine League.