Editor’s Note: An article on the Falklands War by Vice Admiral George P. Steele, USN (Ret.) adds some thoughts relevant to submarines which should also be regarded, along with “The Submarine Lessons of the Falklands War” earlier in this volume. Some of George Steele’s pertinent thoughts from his article, “Warnings from the South Atlantic,” follow:
“The Royal Navy used nuclear-powered killer submarines to render the Argentine Navy powerless and to cut sea communications to the Falklands . . . Not only did this submarine shield allow the Royal Navy to operate without fear of surface attack, it also prevented adequate resupply or reinforcement of Argentine forces on the islands . . .
“If the British had been thrown back into the sea, their sea power eventually could have brought all Argentine .maritime commerce to a halt. Argentine ports could have been mined, and military bases could have been attacked to bring the Argentine air force to its knees and facilitate the blockade. British sea power could have completed the destruction of the Argentine economy that its own generals had begun. Without doubt, a new Argentine government would have sued for peace and evacuated the Falklands.
“In many ways the Falklands Islands mini-war of 1982 resembles small conflicts of earlier times in which the distant exercise of sea power settled political disputes. Military and political disputes. Military and political lessons dating from ancient times were relearned. The Big surprises can be attributed to the short memories, defective educations, or poor judgments of British and Argentine political leaders. British leadership failed to maintain military credibility when the Falklands were threatened by a volatile and ignorant military dictatorship. The deployment of a single nuclear-powered killer submarine to the area as well as a small garrison with surface-to-air missiles to hold the Port Stanley airfield would most likely have deterred
the aggression. Another year of conventional-force reductions in the British armed forces, as planned, and the British seaborne invasion would have been out of the question.
“We must try at least to understand the power of the nuclear killer submarine with its long-range cruise missiles and its guided torpedoes. There is no antidote in sight to the nuclear submarine except another nuclear submarine, and we should build a superior force of such ships. Above all, neither the nation’s leaders nor the public may safely indulge any longer in wishful boasting about the military power of the United States. To cry that we are the greatest will do us no more good than it did the poor Argentines.
“The Falklands episode should serve as a providential reminder of the importance of a superior navy. It is high time to rebuild our sea forces.
“For many years the United States’ civilian and Navy leadership has been in the hands of those who have put the projection of power ashore above all else. Now, in light of the tremendous sea force possessed by the USSR, that policy is clearly bankrupt. As Alfred Thayer Mahan put it, “the proper main objective of the Navy is the enemy’s navy.”
Reprinted from Orbis, Fall 1982,with permission of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.