Submarine officers think more than most other naval officers about achieving or being subject to surprise in battle. Surprise is the very essence of attack submarine warfare. Once a war has started, surprises come in a rush involving a great variety of subjects:, weapon capabilities; operational capabilities; intent of the enemy; enemy force levels; own logistic capabilities; aspects of intelligence. Because of its often devastating effect, surprise attack at the outset of a war is of special importance. Further, the rapid development in the last 40 years of the techniques of terrorism has greatly expanded the variety of surprises which might occur at the outset of a war.
In his excellent, well-worth reading book “SURPRISE ATTACK”, Richard K. Betts of the Brookings Institution has analyzed the surprise attacks which have initiated wars during the last 40 years. They almost invariably have produced enormous shock effect. His studies are made primarily froDl the point of view of a u.s. NATO planner, but much can be derived from them to affect U.S. submarine thinking.
The U.S. Embassy, Marines, French Army and Israeli Army in Lebanon were not dummies. Yet they were caught in succession within weeks by the same mode of devastating surprise attack. In each case, a heavy truck load of high explosives was suicidally driven at high speed through fliliBy lief~nses and exploded in headquarters buildings, causing many casualties.
Hardly HI-TECH, a kamikaze truck could just as well drive into any U.S. submarine base, force headquarters, shipbuilding yard, The Pentagon or onto submarine piers and subs alongside. A kamikaze boat could do the same from the water side.
Maybe a hundred such attacks could be made simultaneously. The U.S. keeps insisting it won’t start the next war. If one starts, some other country must be responsible for it; and the enemy can be counted on to take advantage of surprise. The Russians have sponsored the training worldwide of thousands of “terrorists”, and supplied them with worldwide networks of communications, supplies, safe-houses and other infrastructure. Terrorism has become another weapon of war. A fine treatment of this subject is in “COUNTERATTACK” , by Christopher Dobson & Ronald Payne. It’s the story of the West’s battle against the terrorists.
Habituation, ambiguity, and distraction are prime tactics of terrorism to overwhelm routine intelligence activity. The inability of the U.S. to control its borders allows thousands of unidentified aliens to be available for terrorist work. Books like “THE PUZZLE PALACE” have so revealed the functions and abilities of NSA that surprise attackers could reliably plan their attacks so as not to be betrayed by friendly comunications.
So far only one form of surprice attack–the high speed truck-out of the many possible, has been mentioned. The complexity of countering such an activity is enormous. This is particularly true since many thousands have been trained and equipped to fight this way. Is there adequate activity within the submarine community to protect the vital fraction of u.S. power which SSBNs and SSNs represent? Or, in the event of a devastating attack, would submarine Admirals be forced to lamely say, “Gee, I thought the FBI was supposed to prevent that sort of sneak attack on u.s. territory.” One felt real sympathy for the marine Colonel in Beirut as he faced TV.
The FBI is a weak reed on which to lean for the protection of a force so vital to U.S. Defense–her submarines. It has proven itself inadequate over 60 years to conquer the Mafia, which has grown to the point of controlling a fraction of the government itself. When the smuggling of drugs becaae a $10 billion business in Florida alone, the FBI and allied agencies were unable to intercept more than 10 percent of the traffic. Further, not only has the Mafia expanded to an over $100 billion annual business, but new mafias, including offshoots from Japan and China were being formed. To the degree that peacetime legal constraints have inhibited the FBI and local police; a standby War Powers Act is indicated to provide for a one week sweep and termination of such activity.
There can be no doubt such organizations as the Mafia can be bought by a foreign power. Let’s face the fact that the internal security provided by existing agencies is probably inadequate. This being the case, it seems inescapable that military, naval, and submarine officials should press for more effective action by others, or provide it themselves. A Subll8rine Force Commander will be as responsible for his submarines destroyed by sabotage or “terrorist” attack as for those destroyed in battle.
As a start, it might be suggested that each Submarine Force Commander should annually conduct a study of the vulnerabilities of his force to surprise or unconventional attack and how to reduce those vulnerabilities. Personnel doing the studies should not be limited to run-of-the-mill submarine officers but should include specialists of various kinds. In Britain, a special Air Force Squadron has proved highly effective in handling terrorism. Similar such organizations have proved to be necessary in France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland as well.
Almost by definition, a surprise attack is one which is considered by the activity attacked as sufficiently improbable that no countering measures need be taken. One such kind of attack, which should be given more thought than it receives, is that in which Russia launches an all out war on only the U.S. Navy using no nuclear weapons. A clear cut victory in such a war could lead to the hegemony which Russia wants–with its control of an undamaged world. It would be launched when mutual nuclear deterrence is effective. And it would most probably be on a worldwide basis, using every means against ships at sea as well as in port.
Recon satellites, sub and air launched missiles and mines, plus sabotage, make such an attack practical, where it could not have been so at an earlier time. At a minimum it should be recognized that all ships in port, as well as at sea must be readied for such an attack. The Soviet “first salvo” is likely to include far more activity than just weapon fire. At present, U.S. ships in port appear to be as unprotected as if Pearl Harbor had never happened. Such an attack would probably include cruise missiles, which could home in on individual ships in port. (I remember being told that air launched torpedo attack in Pearl Harbor would be impossible because it was well known that air launched torpedoes would hit the shallow botton of the Harbor.)
Such an attack could be greatly facilited by mine fields covertly laid, in peacetime, which relll8ined passively inactive, until activated by remote signal. The covert laying of such lllinefields by innocent seeming merchant ships is certainly feasible.
It is apparent that the U.S. should be thinking about conducting such a surprise attack on its own. In so doing, thoughts about how to achieve surprise would alert the U.S. to possible enemy measures.
Another area of vulnerability has to do with the process of determining the loyalty of persons recruited for sensitive positions. Limited by liberal democratic philosophies, the U.S. uses a system of background checks invented by the British for use by a small insular population during a major war. Even so, it has been discovered that about a dozen turncoats held highly sensitive positions in Britain for up to 30 years! The validity of this system in the much more variegated population of the u.s. and over a much longer time, has got to be suspect.
Before WWII, loyalty among Americans was almost a given. Immigrants from enemy nations had turned out to be loyal to America. But the combination of uncontrolled entry of aliens and the power of the KGB and other foreign agencies as demonstrated during the Vietnam era and recently in the KGB-directed “nuclear freeze” effort–using the Media against national policy–has been truly sobering. The loyalty of tens of thousands of u.s. citizens has seemingly been fractured! The story of a subverted media and the subversive organizations responsible has been told in two books: “The Spike”, a novel by deBorchgrave, and “Target America” by James L. Tyson and Reed Irvine. Perhaps the worst part of this developing subversion is that the u.S. has taken no corrective action.
If the probability of disloyal Americans has to be accepted, vulnerabilities expand rapidly. Communications and operations must be considered comprised. Weapons sabotage becomes an expected thing, and difficult to prevent. Every can of food or other package loaded aboard a submarine must then be inspected to ensure that it is not an explosive or toxic bomb. Ships undergoing refit to prevent their crippling-destructive effects must hence be guarded against such actions.
If the Navy gives this subject the attention it deserves, it will likely demand funds for corrective action to prevent $billions spent on nuclear submarines from being needlessly wasted, while seriously jeopardizing national security. Almost 50% of U.S. strategic submarines are in port at any one time, and possibly susceptible to such enemy subversive activity.
If the Submarine Navy is seemingly being overloaded with the author’s concerns, it is because correction of this situation might best be launched by such a small but totally important elite.
The essential importance of intelligence in these matters is pointed up in the definitive study of the Pearl Harbor disaster .. At Dawn We Slept .. by Gordon W. Prange. LtGen. Walter C. Short, commanding U.S. Army forces in Hawaii just prior to the attack, had received an ambiguous war-warning message from Washington which he felt gave priority to “defense against sabotage.” Short’s actions were “a sin of commission–placing Hawaii’s defenders on a sabotage alert.” This not only distracted attention and energy from the real danger coming Hawaii’s way but huddled his unarmed fighter planes together so that the Japanese would encounter pathetically little interceptor resistance “on reaching Oahu while providing Nagumo’s planes with easy targets. Thus, Short’s measures were to help the Japanese achieve one of their important objectives-nailing the Hawaiian Air Force to the ground and preventing it from effectively interfering with the Japanese attack or retaliating against the (Japanese) task force.”
Here, Gen. Short’s lack of intelligence information about what turned out to be a negligible sabotage threat was as serious as his lack of intelligence about the real threat–which he ignored.
Some finer feelings, it seems, may have to be bruised to ensure that our U.S. submarines are properly protected by government activities–which are provided with the authority and assets necessary to prevent a disaster to U.S. freedom.
Capt. R. B. Laning, USN (Ret.)