As a non-professional but greatly interested member of the Naval Submarine League, I was heartened by Admiral Miller’s excellent letter (January ’85 issue). What especially clobbered my attention was his explicit recognition of the superior survivability of the SLBH over the ICBM.
The Navy’s TRIDENT system is demonstrably the finest deterrent we have going for us — even now before it gets the D-5 missile operational. I said so in a letter to the Scowcroft Commission, wben they were struggling to justify the MX. One of my points about land-based missiles waa, succinctly, “If it ain’t moving, it’s dead.” I concede an interim role for tbe old, slow, but still moving B-52s, as standoff oruise missile platforms. But, I’d like to see the Navy push for more of a good thing — more TRIDENT subs and missiles rather than the silo-based delivery systems that improved technology has checkmated.
I know it’s tough to speak out about controversial matters while under the constraints of career active-duty service. And the issue or which legs of the TRIAD have grown dangerously less reliable ~ highly politicized and studded with service prejudices and inter-service rivalries. But above all that, stands duty to country — to survival.
Let those of us who are convinced that TRIDENT should be our ~ deterrent system start telling it like it is.
In regards to recent articles by Phoenix, I fear that in trying to realize more and more potential from submarines we are making the mistake of putting too varied a capability on a single weapon platform. We may be putting too many eggs in a single basket, thus endangering the other eggs and the basket.
The current program to put the TOMAHAWK Land Attack Missile into SSN-688 class submarines is my example. These missiles in their nuclear or conventional modes have the advantage of being able to reach targets hundreds ot miles inland quickly, from a concealed site. These missiles could be launched from aircraft, surface ships, and from ground mobile launchers also, but nowhere are they more concealed nor can they be more surreptitiously deployed than on a submarine.
But look at what a fine, expensive weapon system we have just turned into a launch pad. We took our fastest, quietest, best listening, most heavily armed anti-submarine and anti-ship submarine and gave it another mission. While I will not argue against deploying a new and capable weapon system, if only because ot the headaches it will give planners on the other side, I think the implications of this new mission should be better considered.
To what operational commander do the “LandAttack” missiles belong and how will he communicate with the submarine? It is not difficult to envision, as Phoenix or Jerry Hiller did, a theater commander having an SSN drop a halt dozen or so land-attack missiles on a BACKFIRE base before an aircraft attack to completely di~able it. This is probably a darned good one-two punch. But it we’re in a hot, nonnuclear war. that SSN should be out scouring the ocean for enemy ships and submarines as it was designed to be. There is real waste if a theater commander uses a weapon system of such great offensive potential in a secondary mission role so fraught with risk. What will the sub have to do to be ready to fire? He’ll have to remain in near continuous gomgunications to ensure that the attack is still “on.” He’ll have to remain undetegted within a box that constitutes his firing area. He’ll have to come up and tire ~ ~ because he is a vital part of the overall attack. He’ll probably have to report his weapons away, too. This sounds a lot 1ike a strategic deterrent mission and yet the employment or nuclear “Land-Attack” missiles and their specific release procedures has not even been included.
This mission could have taken several important days in a short war. That Commanding Officer, while remaining undetected, may have had to pass up targets or opportunity that were more valuable than those few missiles. That c.o. may be staring at a room full of Mk-48•s and HARPOONS and listening to the KIEV battle group steam byt All because a few or his weapons have been committed to another operational commander.
This specific scenario may be flawed or implausible, but the idea that we should take an t8oo,ooo,ooo.oo offensive platform and saddle it with a dozen or so inexpensive missiles, the proper employment or which may keep the submarine from performing its primary mission and put its survival at great risk, deserves rethinking. One or the submariner’s greatest advantages has been his ability to choose when to shoot. Having someone else choose is a clear decision that the mission is more important than the survival or the submarine. I submit that these land-attack missiles and their missions may not be that important.
While I would never propose diesel submarines as substitutes for the.open-ooean submarines of our navy, perhaps the mission of slinking and lurking before launching could be well and inexpensively performed by an SSG. Maybe our aged SSBN’s or SSN’s would do well in the role, though I think that those who propose this give too little thought to the cost and radiation exposure required to refuel and recertify these reactor plants for another core life.
I’ve mentioned the communications, launch timing, and patrol area limitations which may arise, but what about other factors that may need to be different if the land-attack Tomahawk is to make a “Theater-Strategic” weapon carrier out of an attack submarine. In time of tension, will the theater commander demand, and get, two or three of these for his operational control? Will they have to be put on some kind of a oatrol cycle from advanced sites? Will they require £H2 crews? Will certain targets become so choice that they require continuous coverage? Will Navy targeters have to trade this off with Army and Allied missile batteries? Will these attack submarines get Pri-1 treatment from the supply system?
The attack submarine commanding officer may be America’s most capable warrior today. His weapon system is awesome in its potential and flexibility. He leads a honed team of our finest officers and men. He traditionally chooses how and when to attack whatever targets he can find. Should we risk wasting all that investment and capability on this type or mission at the expense or the true mission of the attack submarine?
LCDR H. M. Bolland, USN
THS MERCHANT SHIP TORPEDO
- There are reports pursuing a concept for an straight-running torpedo that the Navy is anti-merchan~ ship, “under $100,000 in cost.” Again it seems likely that a very fast torpedo for this job will be sought. But based on my WW II experience. plus the evident utility of the old MK VIII British straight-running torpedo used by the British nuclear submarine CONQUEROR in sinking the Argentine cruiser Belgrano, there are certain anti-shipping torpedo characteristics which should be seriously considered before the Navy rushes off with its high-tech answer.
WW II experience. and my knowledge of present-day ASW capabilities emphasize the need for a Wakeless torpedo. That. plus a submarine launching system that doesn’t leave a scar on the ocean or which won’t make a clearly heard ejection noise. What a pity it would be to shoot at a merchant ship. with others nearby and good targets to boot, only to be rapidly counter-attacked after the initial firing of torpedoes because the enemy was able to spot the launch point or the trail of the torpedo. A wakeless torpedo, plus the high mobility of the nuclear firing platform should allow successive attacks against other merchant ships while minimizing the chances of ASW forces zeroing in on the firing submarine. In fact, having a wakeless torpedo — plus the mobility of the nuclear submarine– virtually eliminates the usefulness of merchant ships taking evasive actions after one is hit. Significantly, a wakeless torpedo which is also “quiet” would not require excessive speed to insure hits.
In WW II it didn’t matter whether a torpedo was quiet in its attack because sonars were easily confused by the noise made by the merchant ships. But today, ASW sonars are far more discriminating. Hence a noisy launch of a torpedo and its noisy movement through the water can be as alerting as the wake-making MK 14s of WW II. A single salvo if using a noisy torpedo can now result in the elimination of further attacks. Since today’s battery-powered torpedoes are fundamentally “quiet” and relatively fast, the few more knots gained by a “noisy” torpedo seem to make little sense. What need is there for additional torpedo speed when the nuclear sub can readily maneuver quietly into shooting ranges under 1,000 yards against a merchant ship. With a torpedo in the water tor only about 30 seconds, there is literally no merchant ship maneuver that will markedly reduce hit probability. Significantly, the quietness or the torpedo should complement the firing submarine’s quietness to maintain an element or surprise in subsequent attacks and to not give away the firing position or the submarine.
Finally, the merchant ship torpedo should be a straight-runner in order to keep the cost down. CONQUEROR’s high mobility in the Falkland Island’s War more then compensated for the simple straightrunning torpedoes used.
To stay under $1,000,000 means that it also has to be kept simple. The tendency, for example, to have torpedoa which can explode “under the keel” — to maximize weapon effect — must be kept in check. It oosta a great deal to have this capability and WW II experience attests to the great difficulty in estimating the drafts of ships and hence the crJtical depth at which the torpedo should be set to explode. Simple exploder mechanisms and bigger warheads seem to be the lowcost answer while ensuring deatructability.
The promised 30-inch torpedo tubes on the SSN-21 and her large weapon load, make possible a quiet swim-out launch and the use of a distinctly different weapon for shipping than the present ASW torpedo. Big torpedoes can have a laminar flow shape and have the far larger warhead which responds to the increased size of merchant ships in today’s merchant fleets.
If the torpedo is focused on ita use against merchant ships, leaving the ASW warships to be handled by far more sophisticated torpedoes like the MK 48, a practical low-cost weapon becomes possible.
D. E. K.
THE TYPE VII U-BOAT’S DISPLACEMENT
Let it be clear that it isn’t my intention to review a review, I only want to avoid members getting peculiar ideas about the VII U-boat. Indeed, it is stated (page 74, April, 1985 SUBMARINE REVIEW) that: “The Type VIIC displaced 719 tons on the surface and 1070 tons fully submerged.”
The relation surfaced against submerged displacement is very much out of proportion (and whether or not the boat is “fully loaded” doesn’t matter . . . )
The “U-Bootskunde fur U-Boote Bauart VIIC”, corrected up to 15.07.1940, gives as
surfaced displacement: 761 m3
submerged displacement: 865 m3
The use of cubic metres (German practice) does not distract from the fact that these values are more acceptable as displacement figures; their proportion that is. Values vary a little upon sources consulted but the proportion, the relation between surfaced and submerged displacements remains practically unchanged.
1070 tons, mentioned in the REVIEW, is probably meant to be the ~ displacement of the Type VIIC.
It is of course possible that “fully loaded submerged displacement” is a term used in the USN for what I know as form displacement or “Formverdrangung” (German). I have become a member of the Naval Submarine League to learn something more about U.S. practices regarding submarines, including definitions.
Walter Cloota. Ins. Belgium