The utilization of our reserve submarine officers and enlisted men has been marginal . The number of submarine-related reserve billets are quite limited, with many that are available having only a remote association with the submarine community, and as easily filled by non-submarine trained personnel as by submariners.
While surface reserve forces continue to go to sea on ships and many of the air reserve forces maintain their flying status, the reserve submariners are left stranded ashore. This is a significant loss of valuable talent, training and tax dollars previously invested in these individuals. It also accounts for why many ex-submariners do not affiliate with the reserves. Reserve submariners need to periodically go to sea in submarines.
There is no question that it would be impractical and a great burden on the active duty nuclear submarine crews to incorporate reservists in their operations. What is needed are additional submarine assets . Conventional submarines assigned specifically to units for a reserve for training and drilling could fill this gap.
These submarines could be operated quite economically and would not need any elaborate electronic equipment. The installed equipment for example could be LORAN or OMEGA units, NAVSAT receivers and ship to shore communications gear. Other electronics could be scavenged from ships being decommissioned. Since the purpose would primarily be for training and short duration operations close to homeport, they would not require large storage spaces. Two operational torpedo tubes would be sufficient with an onboard storage capacity for six or eight exercise torpedoes. An after torpedo room would be a nice extra in that it would allow experimentation and development of tactics against enemy submarines operating in groups. The torpedoes utilized could be basic straight runners. Fire control need only consist of a DRT plotter, speed strips and human computer power through a small desktop computer with appropriate software gainfully employed. The only areas where additional money might be used is in sound silencing and sonar equipment.
One of the greatest burdens to the active duty nuclear submarine force is acting as targets for the other branches of the Navy. While surface ships and aircraft practice their ASW tactics the nuclear submarines are at times forced to travel prearranged courses and depths thus providing little training opportunities for themselves and certainly having a negative effect on the the crew’s morale. The creation of a reserve conventional submarine contingent could provide additional vehicles to offer the same excellent ASW training opportunities while freeing the nuclear forces for more important missions. Additionally, reserve submarines could provide nuclear submariners with the opportunity to prac-tice their trade of ASW, and particularly to practice with a conventional submarine, of which the Soviets have a great many for use in war. U.S. reserve submarines could also provide an excellent platform from which swimmer delivery exercises could be performed.
Research and development sometimes rinds itself restricted to the availability of platforms. A reserve submarine contingent would provide unlimited availability and at probably a much lower unit cost. Research and development need not only concentrate on hardware. A lot of work can be done in the area of tactics. Torpedo evasion and minelaying are just a couple of areas that need increased attention. The knowledge gained through the reserve force could then be passed on to our nuclear counterparts.
These reserve submarines might also provide needed work for some or our dormant shipyards. The tooling up to build a few reserve units could prove extremely beneficial should this nation find itself in a protracted armed conflict in the future. Additionally, should these reserve submarines prove to be capable vessels they might become an export item. Naturally some modifications would be necessary such as fitting them with additional torpedo tubes.
The idea of developing a new class of submarine for the reserve force has great potential. But we should not forget the number or diesel submarines currently in mothballs — which fitted with innovative features could lead to a new class of reserve submarine. The activated diesel submarines could thus serve the purpose of test bed to determine the usefulness of conventional submarines without the expense of new construction.
A threat to our surface ships and submarines is an enemy submarine lying in wait in shallow water at the entrance to our various ports.The reserve submarine fleet could provide a very important service, destroying such enemy threats . This is the main reason for ensuring proper sound silencing and equipping them with state of the art sonar gear. They might also be employed for mine-sweeping as well as minelaying in our coastal waters. In peacetime they could be effectively utilized to safeguard incoming and outgoing naval traffic.
The purpose of developing a reserve submarine force is not to serve the same functions as our nuclear force. It is to free the nuclear submarines from the mundane tasks they are currently assigned and provide them with more time to devote to the tasks they are uniquely capable of handling. In doing this we should improve retention or our submarine reservists. Addition-ally, our reserve submariners would do what they have been trained to do. Should armed conflict ever become a reality the reservists could more easily augment the crews of our nuclear force by being kept current on tactics and doctrine. How-ever, the coastal protection roles they would be playing might probably make them far too important to sacrifice to the nuclear submarine fleet.