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The “Laws of Lanchester” state that the power of combat force varies with the square of the number of units in the force. This is true if the force has the “power of concentration.” The power of a non-concentrating force however varies directly with the number of units. Most importantly, victory of a concentrating force tends to be fast and total.

Lanchester analysed a large number of land and sea battles to derive his laws and predicted their importance in air war as well. Various battles of WWII have seemed to confirm his “Laws.” In         WWII, well-run  surface  escort forces occasionally approached the level of “concentrating forces.” So did submarine wolf packs on both sides, as long as they were able to make the necessary speed in night surface attacks. At the height of the “Battle of the Atlantic,” Admiral Doenitz, although lacking adequate air reconnaissance support, used submarine contact reports on convoys, despite the danger to his submarines from their DF’d transmissions. Concentration to Doenitz was more important than U-boat safety. And their safety would involve the possibility of collision as well.

When submerged, WWII boats were too slow, their weapon ranges were too short and they lacked communications to be “concentrating ·forces.” Since WWII, however, these restrictions have been removed and modern submarines now have every characteristic required for concentration. This is especially true if backed by air and satellite reconnaissance.

The  questions are : Do  we know  how  to   run    a campaign of concentrating submarines?  Have we  practiced this in peacetime? Is additional equipment required?

I can recall two past occasions where concentration of submarines was needed and it was not achieved. On the first, I was Exec of the SALMON on her last patrol and in a Wolf Pack off  the east coast of Formosa. It was evident from intercepted radio traffic that a hell of a battle was being waged by the U.S. carrier forces near the Phillippines. There were several dozen submarines full of torpedoes between the battle area and Japan. Yet no effort was made for days to get them into the fray. Finally our Wolf Pack was directed east to intercept any ships headed toward Japan which were fleeing from the “Second Battle of the Philippines.” The TRIGGER, the lead ship in our Wolf Pack column, soon spotted the tops of a battleship headed north. None of our submarines could catch it . But SALMON did later get a Japanese tanker which had fueled the battleships at Okinawa.

At a party in San Francisco some time later, I met Admiral Hark Mitscher and his new Chief of Staff, Capt. Arleigh Burke. Mitscher had been my skipper in HORNET a couple of years earlier, so I made bold to ask why had the Japanese battleships gotten away? He gruffly said, “You ask too many damn questions.” With an embarassed, “Sorry, Si r,” I backed off, repenting my gaffe. Later in the evening , Admiral Mitscher motioned me into a room where we were alone. Then he said, ” Our bombs bounced off the battleships and we had run out of torpedoes. And if you are wondering why your submarines weren’t in the battle, things were happening fast and we didn’t know how to bring them into action.”

In 1951 I was CO of TRUTTA, one of four fleet boats in a fleet exercise off Greenland. The submarines were to oppose a southbound surface task force making about 15 knots. The Officer in Tactical Command disposed his submarines in a patrol line perpendicular to the intended path of the target force. Because of reduced material readiness due to years out of overhaul, CROAKER was put into the center of the line, where she would probably require the least running. Her skipper was a canny, poker playing, lobster-loving actician. He was credited, as I remember, with 8 successful attacks during the war games. I think one other boat got in one. The rest of our submarines ended up running on the surface at high speed in lanes parallel to the target’s line of movement with no hope of getting in attacks under the exercise rules. Safety and frustration were mutually guaranteed. But a lot was learned about surface operations in heavy icing conditions. It is highly probable that in the next war merchant ships will continue to be concentrated into convoys and naval ships into task forces.

Even nuclear submarines are likely to be concentrated for mutual defense. It will then be necessary to concentrate submarines against these concentrated targets. In doing so, the need for submarine radio transmissions should be eliminated since they are probably more of a hazard than ever before. Collisions and the danger from friendly weapons must be minimized, and maximum tactical flexibility must be provided to each CO including reduced speed of advance for his submarine when searching for the enemy.

A system of equipment should    be  developed  to prevent collisions mainly for peacetime. This system should be designed to reduce vulnerability to friendly weapons in war as well. It could be an all around, high power, coded, very high frequency sound beacon system with an assured short range for collision avoidance and weapon IFF. With such a system, exercises involving the tactics of concentration needed in war could be conducted safely in peacetime.

Then, a system of submarine control could be refined today, using computers. The  objectives       of   such  a   system design  would be:

–   To  enable    the  Oficer in Tactical  Command in   one transmission to order any number of submarines into a coordinated attack against a target force, surfaced or submerged without his detailed knowledge of the submarines’ positions.

-To enable each available submarine to proceed with search, approach, attack, and evasion without making any transmissions — unless important to the attacks of other submarines.

-To maximize the concentration in time and space of the submarine attacks without risking collision or weapon interference.

-To make attacks as early as possible consistent with t.he above

-To provide for near simultaniety of attack by long ranged and short ranged weapons.

-To provide for depth separations in case of probable melee.

-To provide for a reorientation in case the enemy changes his PIM — path of intended movement.

The format for this coordinated attack doctrine could be a large set of transparent chart overlays. Each would be a family of colored-coded curves of relative movement  of  attacking submarines relative to a target force. The Commander’s order would give an attack-time and position as well as a PIM of the potential targets, plus a specified overlay to be used. Each submariner would then find his sub on the overlay and know what courses to steer and the speed to be made as well as other items of doctrine.

The curves on each overlay would vary with the size, speed, disposition of target force, approximate number of attacking submarines, weapons to be used, expected detection range of  target, and the expected counter detection range by target.

One of the main advantages to a stored doctrine of this kind is that it can be tested in peacetime and altered with lessons learned .

Since the curves envisioned would be computer generated, it probably makes more sense to store the information in a computer with updating/prograDIDing from the Commander’s attack message. It is likely that the whole doctrine could be stored on a 10 megabyte Winchester disc, usable with many of today’ s micro computers. It might even be piggybacked onto the Mk117 Fire Control System.

As doctrine is changed with experience, the changes would simply be entered as messaged patches. It seems probable that after the above doctrine had provided an initial attack, a melee would develop — with the target forces in close contact with the attacking submarines. When this happens, a whole new situation would apply. Then, close cooperation between submarines requiring overt communications by UT (underwater telephone) or active sonar would normally be required. In the melee, the above mentioned sound beacon should prove invaluable as the attacking submarines are forced to adopt tactics more like those of fighter planes than submarines — and short range weapons become decisive. Again, peacetime practice is likely to determine who wins in war.

If the next war develops with the speed anticipated, there will be insufficient time to evolve tactics by individual submarine experience followed by the slow process of critique and distribution of patrol reports. We’d  better  get  it right the first time.



What can the microcomputer, sometimes called the personal computer or table-top computer, do for the advancement of submarining in today’s Navy? Since the middle 1970’s when the “personal computer” first appeared in the market place, this marvelous invention has swept into our culture with no apparent constraints. A variety of new programs for these computers are being developed by very creative people. One such program recently packaged for public use provides one way these computers might help the aspiring submariner.

GATO is a submarine simulation program, in full color, written for the IBM Personal Computer. It has been produced by Spectrum Holobyte, Inc., 2006 Broadway, Suite 301, Boulder, CO 80302, and sells for $39.95. It is a fairly realistic simulation of a WWII GATO-Class Submarine operating in the Pacific Theater.

This program has vivid graphics that display ~he essential instruments for navigation and attack of enemy shipping, as well as remarkably good simulations of periscope, radar and visual images of the environment. The program provides command directives for classified patrols in areas viewed on a patrol chart. Enemy movements are conveyed to the submarine command. The time frame for patrolling has been compressed somewhat, but when the enemy is engaged the rapid sequence of events tests  the  tactical skills of  the participant in  a  most realistic way. The consequences of  poor judgement, sloppy decision-making,  or over cautiousness are impersonally penalized, while increased quality of performance shows up graphically with hits and ships sunk.

There are several ways this program and the personal computer should be an important adjunct to the development of submarine skills. This writer has been using the “personal computer” for the past five years. The variety of things it will do is awe inspiring. As a former submariner I can visualize many ways it could have helped while at Submarine School, qualifying at sea and for command, and at sea in command. It is a tool that amplifies what ever it is that one does creatively with the mind.

The interactive aspects of the GATO program introduces one to the immediate feedback feature of the computer. While the key commands are not complicated, they do give the user a feel for the way the computer accepts information and operates on it. The GATO program does lack the realities of submarining at sea . . .  the salt spray, the roll and pitch of th deck, the dripping of water over one’s face at the periscope, or the full impact of the depth charge attack. But the dynamics and mental gymnastics of the problem facing the patrolling submariner are there in full and moving color.

While  this edition of   GATO uses  a World   War diesel submarine as its model, there is no reason why it could not be upgraded to the characteristics of the state-of-the-art SSN or SSBN submarine, with the parameters of the expected adversaries. As an aid to the newly arriving officer at Submarine School who lacks the experience of several years at sea in surface ships, this GATO program would provide a valuable self-paced introduction to the basic submarine problem. In addition to this capability, it would provide a way for showing the curious submariner the marvelous flexibility and versatility of the personal computer, and perhaps speed the day when all submariners aspiring to command will have as part of their gear, a personal computer as essential to them as the ISWAS was to WW II submariners.

Capt.   Charles  H.    Hoke,   USN (Ret.)

(Editor’s Note: I played this computer wargame with Charley  one Saturday afternoon. It was a truly enjoyable experience with a lot of nostalgia mixed in for my WWII diesel-boat experiences recalled by the computer’s actions. Starting with a 2 level of difficulty, I went after a seven-ship convoy which seemed about forty miles away at the start of the problem. On the surface, at night, and at 18 knots, I was able to close two big merchantmen that had quickly dispersed and fled as my sub was apparently spotted charging into the convoy. Torpedo shots up the kilt were hits and the ships were scratched. Then I foolishly chased the lead ship which , when I got too close, turned out to be a destroyer. (I should have guessed that.) Down we went and the sounds of his pinging (which you can hear) were right on my sub. Too late I told Charley to “take her deep.” Before we passed 100 feet, the screen showed us breaking up from a successful depth charge attack, and the water on the screen rose over the instruments as well as us. At this, the computer asked, “Do you wish to play another game.” We did!

Next game, I took only single radar sweeps, and when at periscope depth exposed my scope only briefly. This time we nailed a destroyer broadside to, and later got one of the ships he was escorting.

Below level 5 of difficulty, it was easy to mentally play out the relative movements of the ships involved and to gain excellent shooting posi tiona. This was so, because  good tracks  of our own sub as well as for the enemy ships — even at long ranges — were available from an area readout and could be used to check the progress of an attack. But above level 5 — and we finally tried the highest level, 9 — the tracks of the enemy were not available except at very close ranges. This made the game really tough — but very realistic from what I remembered about WW II attacks. It took lots of conceptualizing as to where the enemy might be going, when to risk a radar sweep or a periscope look, what closing speed to use, how to navigate to clear some intervening islands, etc. Then, at level 9 the enemy had cracked our code and could spoof our messages, and wolf pack quack quack in the clear could get one suckered into accepting some bad dope cooked up by the enemy.

I felt that at level 9, I could only do a good job on the mission assigned by knowing the time constant involved . . . . 20  to 1 ? . . . . 40 to 1 ? . . . . and the dimensions in miles of the quadrants where the action was taking place. Although in the GATO game these two factors are only relative because, according to Charley, various computers have various operating times, it does seem possible to establish both parameters for the particular computer in use by a test run. Then, unlike the computer chess game I have at home where Black at level 8 always beats me, this GATO game at 9 might be mastered with a good deal of practice.)


A newly awakened interest in aircraft – carrying submarines has been generated by the article “Sink The Navy” by Charles Pease. The Japanese I-400 ia an example of such a sub from WW II. The I-400 was one of four 5,223-ton, diesel electric submarines which were completed during the war for bombing missions at great ranges away from their home base. These subs were 400 feet long with 39 foot width, provided by a double hull construction — the inner hull consisting of two cylinders side by side, making a figure eight configuration, as shown in the illustration. These aircraft carriers had a surfaced endurance of 37,500 miles at 14 knots and carried three small Seiran-type aircraft each of which could carry an 800 Kg bomb to its objective after the planes were catapulted out of the main deck hangar which was  34  meters  long  and  positioned  at  the side of the conning tower as shown. The planes could be fitted with floats if it was desirable to retrieve them after a mission.

Near the end of World War II, plans were laid by the Japanese to have aircraft carrying submarines conduct a bombing raid on the locks of the Panama Canal . But this mission was aborted in favor of bombing the gathering of U.S. ships at Ulithi Atoll. However, this mission also never came to fruition as the War suddenly ended after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Although antiship and land attack missiles, launched from today’ s submarines, can accomplish much of what was expected by the Japanese in the way of surprise bombing of shore targets, there are missions today for which it would be highly advantageous to have manned aircraft of high performance operated from a submarine. Certain shore targets can be so camouflaged against the homing seekers of missiles as to necessitate a manned aircraft application — where a human being on-the-spot can do intelligent bombing. And, a submarine lauching manned aircraft may be necessary to neutralize AEW aircraft and destroy manned bombers in the outer air battle. Hence, how a submarine like the I-400 might be updated with nuclear power and Harrier-type VSTOLS, can be readily       imagined. Perhaps a VSTOL  study of the character and applicability of an aircraft-carrying submarine is nov in order?

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This material was digested from SUBMARINES OF WWII, by Erminio Bagnasco, Naval Institute Press, 1973.

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