Now that u.s. submarines are being equipped with TOMAHAWK cruise missiles, a new capability and therefore responsibility devolves upon the Submarine Force. Host of the thinking about use of such missiles has included use of nuclear warheads in a theater bombardment role, with conventional warheads used against ships at sea.
The greatest concentrations of ships — even in the middle of a war — are apt to be found in port. Moreover, most porta are poorly defended against a missile like TOMAHAWK, while most ships in port are in reduced states of readiness. It seems only sensible then to plan now for saturation non-nuclear attacks against those ships which may be in the main naval and commercial ports of the enemy.
If security of intent and submarine movements be maintained, surprise might be achieved — while Russian sea forces are intent upon tracking Carrier Battle Groups in far-removed areas. Saturation might be enhanced by combining submarine attacks with an attack by B-52s launching Air Launched Cruise Missiles at port targets.
In the Falkland Islands War, the Royal Navy nuclear submarines would have been orders of magnitude more effective if equipped to attack the Argentine warships in their port areas.
Recent developments of standoff air-tosurface missiles for use against tanks which do not necessitate a lock-on under pilot control, lend credence to the concept that a TOMAHAWK with the proper homing system could attack individually targetted ships in a port area. Should this prove impractical, provision of satellite relay of terminal homing commands to the missile and feedback from the missile might be provided. Should satellites prove too vulnerable, provision of a high altitude drone aircraft, launched from a forward positioned submarine, might suffice.
To increase the volume of fire, the conversion of a Polaris submarine to carry hundreds of TOMAHAWKS, rather than a few dozen, would make sense.
Strategically, the need for missile attack against ships in port is driven by the continued Russian buildup of conventional forces — as though nuclear deterrence was an accepted condition. Should this be the case, the speed with which u.s. forces could annihilate Russian sea forces will be critical to the even more critical battles being fought on land. In an age where through modern reconnaissance two large navies know where each unit of the other is at least part of the time, naval war is being converted from the opportunistic winning of sea encounters to the almost perted-out process of destruction of ships wherever they may be. Speed of the process will be the critical factor. Naval war must be won in months instead of years everything else will happen too fast. The implications of this are profound in terms of weapons, tactics, weapon supplies and defensive planning.
In a previous SUBMARINE REVIEW I recommended development of fleets of very large aircraft carrying large numbers of RPVs and missiles, as a way to fight and win this new kind of naval war. Pending such a development, it is inevitable that too few carrier battle groups will have too many missions and that submarines must take on the fight as described here. Should war break out along a central front, it follows that u.s. strategy should provide for attacking peripheral interests of the enemy in order to stress his overall system. All enemy holdings in South East Asia and North East Asia should, for example, be wiped out.
It is predictable that submarine launched cruise missiles will place u.s. and allied port facilities in jeopardy as well as ships in port and at sea. The loss of industrial products on the scale experienced in World War II would bankrupt the world. The war must thus be won fast; and by the U.S.
R. B. Laning