As a Naval Aviator during the 1930’s, I was always frustrated by the complete lack of appreciation of the Senior Officers of the Navy for the airplane as a vehicle that would change the face of war at sea as well as our Maritime Strategy. Only WW II and actual combat brought aircrC\ft into the many roles they now play in our plans for war at sea. Our Senior Officers only envisioned the airplane as a scouting system for our Battle Line in the classical approach to a fleet battle. Early warning, reconnaissance, air lift, dive bombing and many other roles were not even thought about in those days.
Today history repeats itself in the world of the submarine. We have been blinded againl This time by a propulsion plant! Our submarines are far from being effective warships. Weapons make a warship, and though our submarines can go around the world without refueling they can’t be very effeoti ve when they have too few weapons I The weapons they have today are torpedoes, soon they
will have the TOMAHAWK, but his is not the crux of the problem. The truth of the problem is that the
Navy has not exploited the submarine across the spectrum of Naval Strategy. As it stands now the
submarine in the u.s. Navy plays a single role in conventional war like the airplane was expected to
do before WW II. For strategic war, submarines like the TRIDENT play a deterrent role and history
shows that it wasn’t the submarine force of the U.S. navy that brought the Polaris system into being.
It is strange that we have Chiefs of Naval Operations pushing stongly for such things as Hydrofoils and Small Aircraft Carriers but no one pushes for the many roles that a submarine can and should do in a war at sea. The role of the submarine to meet the problems of a sea war are many and not just associated with the “power plant! 11 If one gets wrapped around the axle as to whether a submarine should be nuclear powered or conventional, one will lose sight of the forest for the trees. History is a good teacher and indicates how nice it would have been to have had enough submarines to help protect our tankers along the East Coast in the early days of WW II. It would also have been nice to have enough submarines to be able to mine many places. To have enough submarines to have good barriers in the Caribbean, as well as in other parts of the world where we needed such protection would have been equally nice.
If one thinks the Naval Aviators are in concrete about aircraft carriers, one should contact the nuclear submarine community! Arguing about whether a submarine should be nuclear or diesel does nothing but evade the critical question that faces us in the exploitation of the submarine at sea as a part of overall U.S. Naval power. This question will be tackled when rhetoric has been overtaken by facts. We have said for years we wanted an SSN at tack force of 90 submarines — now its 100. We are not going
to get there. Today’s attack submarine is basically a torpedo boat for sinking ships as was done in WW II. But today the ships to be sunk are Russian submarines to be engaged in the classical WW II scenario of one on onel We must have a broader approach to the use of the submarine regardless of the propulsion plant! It has many roles including operations with combined forces that must be exploited.
The advent of the HARPOON and the TOMAHAWK give rise to many questions. What is an Attack
Submarine? Is it a torpedo boat or an attack vehicle with long range missiles for use against surface ships and shore targets? Such questions really need discussion rather than what should be the propulsion plant. How many people in battle have been killed by propulsion plants?
This may be a strange article by an “Antique” Aviator for a publication about submarines but
history is a good teacher and it is time our submarine community was awakened to the over all
potentialities of the submarine as a vehicle in the Strategy of our Navy.