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As a dedicated tail book aviator, I want to say some nice things about submarines, submariners, and the Submarine League – and I want to ask some questions. But as a preface, I must firmly declare that anything I say is NOT to be construed as being against the 90,000 ton NIMITZ class aircraft carrier. That is a wonderful weapons system, that will be around for many years to come, despite the ever increasing capabilities and dramatic potential of the submarine. The NIMITZ class carrier, the AEGIS weapons system, and the nuclear attack submarine, all operating separately or together under the strategic umbrella of the SLBM force, is what distinguishes the u.s. Navy from all of the other Navies of the world. The United States is fortunate to have such a Navy in being and any who have contributed can feel proud of their efforts. I like the NIMITZ, I like AEGIS, and I like nuclear submarines. I am not about to abandon my admiration for any of the three.

First, about the Submarine League. I offer my sincere congratulations to the founders and those carrying out the mission of the League. The “silent service” has had good reason for keeping silent, but there comes a time when full exploitation of the existing and potential capabilities must be understood by some outside the closed, silent fraternity. Friendship and support come from understanding and understanding comes from knowledge. In my opinion. the League is providing the knowledge for understanding and must be gaining friends for the submarine community in ever increasing numbers. The SUBMARINE REVIEW is the only professional journal I read trom cover to cover – and I have done so since publication of the first issue. I hope it continues in its present format, ie, stickman drawings, no commercials, and no politics . . . .  a truly professional journal.

Further, I am happy that the League decided to open its membership, including attendance at the annual symposia, to individuals who have never been active members of the submarine fraternity. I hope that policy will be expanded, with some concentration on increasing membership and attendance at symposia by representatives from all warfare specialities, particularly people from the active duty Navy. A goal that some would endorse is a joint convention/symposia of the Submarine League and the Association of Naval Aviation. Also, if and when the surface warfare community gets their “league” together, that league should be included, and probably act as the focal point for all. Since it seems to be an established fact that ships plying the surface of the ocean are going to be essential to the survival of our nation, guaranteeing the freedom of such activity should be the fooal point of professional discussions on naval matters. I believe there are many who, while applauding the competition between warfare communities as being healthy for advancing the capabilities of a single community, also abhor the degree to which parochial competition tends to stifle the growth or overall naval capability. By following its broad charter amd membership policy, the League can be particularly helpful in breaking down some of the most impenetrable barriers of the past. Again, my sincere congratulations!

Next, on the subject of submarines. My appreciation of the strategic value of the SSBN came early as I was on the first plane that landed in Omaha at SAC Headquarters in 1960, to work with others on the joint preparation of the first Single Integrated Operational Plan {SIOP), which included the first targeting of Polaris. A subsequent tour as the Deputy Director of the targeting staff in Omaha enhanced that appreciation of the SLBM. Then, under the tutelage and most cooperative attitude of the great Dennis Wilkinson, while I served as the Commander, Second Fleet, I began to get a much better appreciation of the value of the nuclear attack submarine. That appreciation expanded greatly with continued guidance from Pat Hannafin, a couple of fine staff officers, and the commanding officers of some attack submarines, during my stint as the Commander of the Sixth Fleet. Since that time, I have attended several symposia, listened to many experts, and been stimulated by the SUBMARINE REVIEW. I have reached the point where I think I am about qualified to ask some questions. The REVIEW seems like a logical place to pose those questions and I do so, with the objective of learning more and helping to stimulate more thought and discussion about a very important element of our Navy.

About the SLBM force:

  • In retrospect. did we really need the full 41 Polaris/Poseidon submarine program? Couldn’t we have made more than a substantial contribution to deterrence with a smaller force? Is it necessary to go for the total TRIDENT program as now envisioned? Does the country really need the hard target kill capability proposed with the D-5 missile? Isn’t the SLBM the hardest target to kill particularly when compared to an ICBM? Isn’t a high confidence counterforce capability impossible to achieve, until the ASW problem is solved? Shouldn’t we therefore be putting more of our effort on ASW if we really want a bard target kill capability? Shouldn’t we be supporting more of the defensive initiatives of the President, backing off from some of the offensive systems which are now going to soak up a lot of money? Wouldn’t even a delayed TRIDENT program, particularly with the D-5 missile, provide plenty of offensive power. thereby enabling the country to abandon the MX program? Shouldn’t some professional articles and views be published on that point? As Yogi Kaufman stated at a recent symposium, he’s ready to contest some or the other legs of the TRIAD, in view or the great capability provided by TRIDENT. Is that too political an issue for professional strategic submariners to take on as a project?

On nuclear attack submarines:

  • What is so magical about 100 SSNs? Shouldn’t there be more? Wouldn’t the admirals on active duty support such action, it allowed to consider the issue in a purely professional atmosphere, void of political considerations? I recall writing a message from the Sixth Fleet over twelve years ago, setting forth a requirement for at least 13 or 14 SSNs in the Mediterranean, in peagetime. With the increasing capabilities of that system, is 100 really the right number? Shouldn’t it be a lot more?
  • Do professional submariners really support the idea of the SSN functioning as a major contributor to the ASW element in the carrier Battle Group? Or are they just giving lip service to a requirement, really preferring to go off by themselves and do their thing in the traditional independent duty mode of operation?
  • How about potential? Doesn’t PHOENIX (whoever that is) have a point in his (her?) article on “potential” in the October issue of the REVIEW? While there is some indication that PHOENIX suggests replacing aircraft carriers with nuclear powered submarines, (an ill advised concept in my opinion), I am sympathetic to the idea that we may not be exploiting the full capability of the nuclear attack submarine. Isn’t there a potential for the SSN to be an advance battle element in a fight – the lead force – not just a scout? I have to confess that when I consider taking a large carrier task force to combat in the North Atlantic, – or anywhere – I know I would feel much more comfortable if preceded by an armada or attack submarines, . properly armed and turned loose to exploit their capabilities.
  • What about types and missions? I really got turned on by Dick Laning’s article in the October REVIEW, discussing the many missions that could be accomplished by the old Polaris boats. To a student or how to fight in some or the remote areas or the world, the missions Laning discusses make a lot or sense. How do other professional submariners reel about his views – old Polaris/Poseidon boats serving as launch platforms for massive numbers or cruise missiles or torpedoes (in lieu or the battleship?); covert laying or sensor systems, net systems, mines; serving as early warning devices against low flyers; anti-air warfare platforms; covert logistic support vehicles; and so forth? I should think the Marines would be particularly intrigued with a submarine that had the capability to covertly transport a large number or tully equipped troops to a scene or special action. Further, many naval aviators have been intrigued ror years with the idea or a submarine with aviation capability . . . . previously discussed in the REVIEW, and once again mentioned in the October issue . . The story or the Japanese submarine/air capabilities in World War II are fascinating. What has prevented us from developing that same kind or capability?
  • What about size? Should all attack submarines be as big as the SSN 688? Do submariner’s ever think about small tactical subs fighting under the seas – the undersea version of the fighter pilot’s dog fight? The big buzz words with aviators are “air superiority”. Don’t we need “undersea superiority”? and wouldn’t a stable of small fighter subs fit in that mission? Wouldn’t they be cheaper, easier to build, and thereby more numerous – adding a large dimension to the kill capability (Pk) against the total threat . . . .  as opposed to the Pk against a single opponent? (Just asking).

Finally, about submariners. From the bridge of a carrier or any other platform, one has to be impressed with the talent and accomplishments of those wearing dolphins. For one thing, their sea stories equal any hangar flying tales the tailhookers can concoot . . . especially at the bar. In fact, sometimes one is a bit intimidated by the quality of the talent. Beginning with Admiral Riokover’s injection into the selection process for people entering the nuclear power program, there can be little question that the submarine force has enjoyed a “pick of the litter” situation . . . .  only the best. Watching some of that talent depart the Navy rolls after relatively short periods of service can cause some concern. One wonders if the Navy is really getting the maximum benefit. Is the very restrictive nature of the submarine fraternity, the healthiest environment for the Navy overall? Are those high walls and many wickets that must be passed to make it in the submarine community also acting as barriers that keep the inmates from broadening their experiences in the outside world? Is the Navy getting the maximum from the talent . . . .  or is that talent being required to be so completely dedicated to submarines that it sometimes experiences early burnout? Some of the most interesting and effective naval officers in the aviation community were those tailhookers who wore dolphins before they earned their wings. And there have certainly been some outstanding surface warfare sailors who spent several years in the dolphin world prior to their surface ship duties . .  Names like Train and Bigley come to mind . . . .  not to mention the ultimate example, Jim Watkins. Is there effort in the submarine community to have their talented people injected into other communities – in order to broaden their own experience and enable them to do more for the overall Navy, not just the submarine force?

In summary and conclusion, I like submarines, submariners and the Submarine League. That doesn’t mean I am ready to see a periscope in tbe cockpit of every tailhook aircraft. but I am impressed. And once again, I offer my sincere congratulations to the founders or the League and the implementers or its policies. An open forum, dedicated to submarine warfare bas long been needed. It is a pleasure to find a medium where questions can be posed to the submarine professionals . . . .  with admiration and respect for all they have accomplisbed . . . .  and will continue to accomplish in tbe future.

Jerry Miller

Naval Submarine League

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