STRATEGIC ANTISUBMARINE WARFARE AND NAVAL STRATEGY
by Tom Stefanick, Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies, 1987, Lexington Books, D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington, MA.
This book by Tom Stefanick is probably the best thing to date on this subject and is a very valuable reference work for those who need to understand the value and risks of strategic ASW. including our political decision makers who should find this book of considerable value in making determinations on such concepts as “zones or peace”, SSBN sanctuaries, war termination, stability of sea-based strategic systems, potentials for escalation to nuclear war even the relation or strategic ASW to the present INF Treaty.
It should be made clear, if any real doubt exists, that strategic ASW implies antisubmarine warfare against strategic submarines, i.e. those submarines which could be used to deliver weapons against homeland objectives of the enemy. Although Stefanick focusses on ballistic missile submarines — SSBNs — much of his rationale might apply to attack submarines using 1600-mile land-attack cruise missiles against targets in an enemy’s homeland.
The first half of the book is devoted to generalizations about strategic ASW and where it leads. The reader may, at times, see big question marks relative to the technology supporting these generalities made by Stefanick. But the second half of the book — eight appendices — are available to resolve the major technological questions.
Stefanick’s bibliography for his technological explanations appears to be well chosen andcarefully sifted. His references for his philosophical conclusions are also impressive, so nuch so that his book should be a primary reference book for those who would want to understand and write about submarine ASW matters.
There are areas of Strategic ASW technology which are not well covered such as: the survivability of SSBNs from various types of weapon attack; the character of weapons likely to be used; the impact of the SSN’s land attack, nuclear-warhead cruise missile on the strategic ASW problem; the use of nuclear warhead torpedoes; countermeasuring of ASW weapons; and the effect of drag reduction on submarine characteristics.
Stefanick’s strategic ASW subject, however, is so well researched and thougt out that the few unresolved questions arising from a few under-developed areas should not seriously affect the conclusions which Stefanick has derived.
He sees strategic ASW as a practical strategy for the u.s. — to tie down a considerable portion of the Soviet’s sea assets, for damage limiting if war eventually went to strategic nuclear exchange, to free ASW forces from the constraints of having to clearly identify SSBNs from other submarines, to deter strategic war and to provide a form of leverage by making the Soviets go defensive. But he feels that: the u.s. should place little reliance on strategic ASW as a means for war termination; that strategic ASW during a conventional war does not make Soviet use of nuclear weapons more likely; that treating Soviet SSBN patrol areas as sanctuaries would not de-crease the risk of escalation; that there are very large uncertainties in ·predicting the results of undersea combat between submarine fleets; and that the cost of strategic ASW is greater than the cost of countermeasures.
At the beginning of his book Stefanick makes it clear that the strategic ASW for the U.S. and the Soviets is not a “mirror image.” The U.S. assumes that our very quiet SSBNs can best be operated independently in the vast reaches of the oceans, wherever, and their main protection is their covertness and considerable mobility to avoid enemy ASW threats — and lately to have a weapons capability to counter the enemy if attacked. On the other hand, the Soviets are believed to accept the likely detectability of their SSBNs by enemy ASW forces, particularly SSNs, and hence use a “bastion” concept for employment of their SSBNs in limited havens, close to their homeland — even bastions which are under the Arctic ice. Additionally, it is recognized that the Soviet SSBNs will require the protection of other ASW units — submarines, mines, surface ships, aircraft, even satellites — to ensure their survival in war. This is felt to give certain advantages to the u.s. from their strategic ASW efforts in that Soviet SSNs would be tied down in the SSBN protection role along with other assets thus reducing the threat to U.S. aircraft carriers and the Allies’ sea lines of communications. Also, the Soviet SSBNs would be confined to small areas which could be swept rapidly — while Soviet SSBN mobility would be of little value in avoiding SSNs. But at the same time, the Soviet’s paramount emphasis on SSBN protection, Stefanick feels, makes the u.s. interest in strategic ASW perhaps of more risk to U.S. submarines than what might be gained by a deliberate offensive against Soviet SSBNs in their bastions. He sees their SSBNs escorted to their bastions by warships using active sonar. Then he sees a use of diesel-electric submarines, mines, non-acoustic as well as acoustic sensors. and other active acoustic platforms as forming a formidable barrier against U.S. SSNs penetrating into the bastions. Once inside, he feels, our SSNs wold be subject to counteractions which might even result in mutual destruction — i.e. the target or escorts going active when a torpedo was fired; a different submarine than the target firing a countering torpedo; nuclear-arhead torpedoes used to counter our SSNs; etc. The latter’s possibility Stefanick sees as good. He notes that there are strong tactical arguments for the Soviets using tactical nuclear weapons against u.s. SSNs in Soviet waters.
Stefanick’s appendices abound with facts which, for the submarine buff who is not involved in day-to-day submarine operations, give one a feeling of uncovering important clues to a better understanding of the submarine’s problems:
- a submarine should stay below 100 meters to avoid tell-tale bioluminescence in the oceans, triggered by the submarine’s passage;
- magnetic detection/signal strength decreases with the cube of the range; a hundredfold increase in sensitivity provides less than a fivefold increase in range and current ranges are in the order of a few thousand feet;
- using the capacity of modern storage batteries on German submarines, a calculation can be made which indicates that the Soviet’s TANGO class submarine is likely to have 2.7×107 watt-hours stored in its batteries, giving it 160 hours at 5 knots or about 800 nautical miles of fully submerged travel;
- a wide aperture array sonar performs best with broadband noise, thus accepting a lower signal-to-noise ratio than for narrow-band noise and hence has a lower detection range but more rapid localization rate;
- Seasat A with a synthetic aperture radar for ocean surveillance, flies 432 nm above the earth, orbits the earth in 100 minutes, has a search-width of 54 miles and moves 25° of longitude further along on each successive pass;
- etc. (the above are merely to whet your appetite for this book).
Steranick reaches many reasonable conclusions rrom his examination of the technology, poiicy and strategy inherent to strategic ASW. For examples:
- the u.s. advantage in passive acoustic detec-tion of Soviet submarines is eroding because or: Soviet quieting measures; the spatial and temporal variability in the ocean which impose rundamental limits on signal proces-sing and array gain; and the decreasing dir-rerence between signals and ambient noise;
- attacks on Soviet SSBNs are not likely to cause a Soviet launching of strategic missiles against the u.s.;
- Soviet nuclear attacks against u.s. carriers as a response to a loss or their SSBNs also appears to be unlikely;
- a u.s. commitment to treating Soviet SSBN patrol areas as sanctuaries would yield tactical advantages to the Soviet Navy;
- in the absence or a u.s. strategic threat, the Soviet’s SSN rorce would have greater flexibility in how they might be used in a conflict; etc.
In effect, this book by Stefanick should be considered a first-line submarine textbook and be made available to all submarine wardroom officers as well as those outside of the submarine service who are highly interested in submarine matters.
W. J. Rube
The Dolphin Scholarship continues to grow and support increasing numbers of deserving dependents of submariners. This year the amount of our grants and the number of students was raised due to the outstanding support of the contributors. During the school year 1988-89 Dolphin Scholar-ships of $1,750 will be awarded to 90 students.
This success was made possible by the hard work and generosity of the various area submarine officers wives clubs, plus the corporate donors such as Rockwell International, Vector Research and General Dynamics as well as specific memorials and annual calendar sales.
Students should be advised that if they were not selected for their freshman year, they can reapply each subsequent year. Many recipients are not chosen until their second, third or fourth years. It is important to note also that even if the sponsor has been separated from the Navy for many years, his or her dependents continue to be eligible it the sponsor has served five years or more as a qualified submariner or has been attached to a support facility for six or more years.
This year the Dolphin Scholarship Foundation selected 25 new recipients and since 1961 has awarded grants to 367 individual students.
The Dolphin Scholarship Foundation ladies sold merchandise at the Naval Submarine League Symposium on 8-9 June. Over $5,000 of sales were recorded.
For further information, write to:
Dolphin Scholarship Foundation
405 Dillingham Blvd.
Norfolk Naval Station
Norfolk, VA 23511
The Naval Submarine League has obtained autographed copies of the original NAUTILUS painting by the late Fred Freeman which appeared on the cover of the December 1952 Colliers magazine. Copies are available for $5.00 each plus $2.00 postage. Hr. Fred Freeman is noted for his original art work and illustrations in the USNI book “Submarine Operations in WW II.”
NSL jacket patches are also available at $5.00 each, and NSL Twister ball point pens at #1.00 each. Call Pat Lewis for more information. (703) 256-0891.