In 1951, after an absence trom submarines or about 5 years, I was delighted to find myself in command or TRUTTA (S8-421) which we had recently recommissioned trom the reserve fleet.
To those ot us with WW II experience, the sub operations we were involved with looked like run but were a bit elementary and routine. SubDevGroup II was working on detection, while Guppy conversions seemed designed to investigate fUture hulls and propulsion. Thus we in TRUTTA decided to concentrate our thoughts on weapons and their control.
We arranged many torpedo firings of Mk 14s, 16s, 28s, 27s, 37s and of the mobile Mk 27 mine. We found that the Mk 14 bad been changed in a most embarrassing way which meant that the warhead didn’t detonate. Needless to say the Alt which produced this effect was changed. The other weapons did what they were supposed to do and little beyond that. We recommended that the enormous energy of the Mk 16 be used in a 60 knot version — a firing mode for use in dog fights against ASW surface ships. And that it be equipped with a settable zig-zag program for use against convoys or task forces. In general, fUture weapons, we felt, should be wakeless, quiet, be longer range, have passive and active homing, be wire guided, have a high attack speed, be able to search in depth for submarines, and we should be able to carry many more weapons and reload them much faster. Launching of the weapons should be without bubble and be quieter. The TDC would also need improvement to provide faster rate control solutions, with active sonar used in the close-in antisubmarine dogfight situation — and there had to be better bearings-only solutions.
Our letters on these subjects sparked little bureau interest. So most of our ideas were communicated in conferences. Whether or not we had any unique effect on the future of weapons, at least we knew how to handle what we had!
About this time I read that in WW II, submarine laid mines had had a hit probability about equal to torpedoes. This was a surprise to me who had considered mining a strictly secondary mission. So we decided to learn about mines and made about 20 plants using Mk 10 mines. These plants were dangerous and arduous, but they started a train of thought which follows.
The effective width of a mine is perhaps its most critical characteristic. Our mines, both suspended and bottom laid, bad only a small radius of destruction and they were limited to relatively shallow water. The best way around this was to make them mobile and homing to produce a contact hit. Propulsion, we figured, could be provided by buoyancy or by a torpedo-like system. Such a weapon could be stored in a fluid which would preserve it in a pressure equalized canister on the bottom of the ocean or on a line tethered to the bottom. The canister would release the mobile mine on a sensing of a proper target signal. Such a system would be more effective than what we had in WW II, but would still be limited by our inability to carry more than about 50 per trip.
This limitation might be reduced if we could carry the mines outside the submarine. To avoid the need for special designing an attack submarine, we envisioned detachable racks hung from each side of the submarine in which about 500 mines could be carried — to be launched by gravity. Torpedoes could still be carried inside. Tbe racks could be detached by explosive bolts on completion of a mine plant and a normal patrol be conducted. Design of the racks to withstand hydraulic forces seemed to be much easier for boats which would make an entire mission submerged — either snorkeling or on nuclear power.
Buoyancy considerations meant that whatever was detachable outside the submarine must provide its own neutral buoyancy until released. This could be achieved by use of tanks of positively buoyant fluid both integral to the racks and to each weapon to be released. To release either would require opening a latching mechanism then opening the top of the fluid tank. Gravity would do the rest. The bouyant fluid, an alcohol tor example, would provide the best environment for the weapon in transit.
Pleased by a concept that could provide covertly laid mine fields of much greater effective width per mine and with numbers of mines about 20 times as great per mission — while being usable in deeper waters making them more difficult to sweep by the use of the usual counters — we moved on to strategic considerations. But perhaps we should have done this first.
Reading about past mining efforts showed that a real weakness had often been early discovery ot the mine field by the enemy. The result had been a race of clearing versus laying — instead of the paralyzing effect of saturation. To achieve saturation seemed to require dormancy of the mine field until there had been a sufficient build-up of laid mines. Modern electronics could supply the answer in the form of a listening device on each dormant mine which might be activated by a coded sonar signal which might be repeated from mine to neighboring mine. Thus, once the field had been laid, an aircraft or submarine could be sent out to lay sonobuoys which transmitted coded activation signals — the submarine’s sonobuoys projected to the field by an RPV. The result would be the activation of the field in an exponential way at about the speed of sound. This kind of electronic capability offered the fUrther possibilities of temporary inactivation by IFF for own forces, or for the permanent inactivation of the mine field at the end of hostilities.
At this point, we were satisfied that we knew where mine warfare should go, and were convinced that such systems could have a profound, even victory determining, effect. Imagine bow an enemy would feel, for example, to discover his fleet bottled up on the first day of hostilities. On the other hand, suppose we round ourselves so bottled up!
These ideas were sent on their way to some form of bureaucratic swamp out or which, many years later, came the CAPTOR mine, incorporating, perhaps, some ot our concepts.
Thoughts about exterior carriage or mines led us to consider this application to torpedoes. Why should a fleet-sized submarine be limited to 20 to 30 torpedoes? Or why should a submarine have to be large enough to carry torpedoes inside? The CNO, Admiral Arleigh Burke, was distressed that our largest nuclear attack submarines carried a payload less than that or the B-36 and seemed open to our ideas for carrying more weapons per submarine. In the process or a series or meetings with BuOrd people on these possibilities, we were put in touch with Tom Robertson ot Vitro Labs. His response to some or our ideas, and many more of his own, was called the HI-DENT torpedo. It was a truly streamlined torpedo, more dense than water, with small wings, would be exterior-oarried in light, pressure-equalized tanks containing the right quantity of buoyant fluid, to be released at the same time as the HI-DENT, in a gravity powered, quiet launch — by the hundreds — and from droppable racks.
Does any of this make sense for today•s environment of possible antisubmarine melees, an enemy with 3 times as many attack submarines. his probable great use of shallow waters and his construction of •bard-to-sink” submarines? At least, if the future calls for smaller submarines or tor the use of more numerous weapons, these old ideas might prove useful as •new ideas.”
CAPT R. B. Laning, USN(Ret.)