We appear to be employing brute force methods in the design of our new submarines to make minor improvements while scarcely looking around to see if the nature of naval warfare has changed. Signs of this are increases in submarine size and cost. These tend to reduce our submarine operational effectiveness by putting too many eggs in a very limited number of baskets. More importantly, we seem to be paying little attention to the rapid changes occurring in the nature of warfare — and the possible new submarine roles and missions indicated. And, there is little evidence that we are employing available new technologies to produce major advances in submarine design and employment strategies. Briefly, we appear to be in a rut where bigger is considered better with little regard for war-fighting effectiveness.
Just as the invention of firearms led to the replacement of the longbow and the crossbow, so the development of land and carrier based military aircraft made the battleship obsolete. now the carrier battle group is being made obsolete by a combination or nuclear submarines employing long range nuclear or conventional tipped smart missiles;3 surveillance, radar and eliot satellites; and C I networks. Effective warfare within and from the sea should now be conducted by submarines of advanced design based on recent new technology. The design of new nuclear submarines must be res-ponsive to their employment on innovative missions using new strategies — as a replacement for air-craft carriers in sea warfare.
While there is no claim to being able to see the future with 20/20 vision, it seems certain that future submarine missions and strategies must support the nature of future warfare and not that of World War II.
Today, research and development advances at lightening speed. Therefore, we must take positive steps to prepare for future war in a more aggressive and intelligent manner than has been done in the past. In short, the effectiveness of our future submarine designs and strategy depend upon how well we can define the future.
The range of sea warfare for the coming decade may extend from “conventional” to “limited”, and on to “all-out nuclear” war. For conventional and limited nuclear warfare there is a real problem in preparing scenarios. They tend to escalate into all-out nuclear war when the losing opponent possesses a significant nuclear delivery capability.
Recent and most commonly used scenarios usually define the enemy as the USSR. That has been the most likely scenario . But for the 1990’s or early 2000’s, war with other nations without the financial burden of maintaining huge conventional forces may find the answer in exerting military power through the use of nuclear weapons. The list of nations with nuclear weapon capability is growing year by year. As nuclear weapons get smaller, lighter, and of longer lethal range, new delivery concepts are proliferating. These include unsophisticated methods such as nuclear mines planted by merchant ships and submarines. A single scenario of future warfare is certainly inadequate. Only after a number of scenarios of future wars have been defined can we answer questions as to the warfare roles that submarines will assume — and from them determine new missions and submarine performance requirements .
There is a tendency to believe that military strategies and missions are correctly defined prior to the advent of war. That has been rarely true. By and large, military strategists have not been very capable of visualizing and forecasting future warfare strategies and requirements. Instead, they prepare to refight the last war rather than prepare for the next. The problem caused by lack of foresight is revealed only after war begins. That lesson has not been well learned. Twenty years after the German subs’ WW I success against shipping, Japanese strategists made a most serious blunder. Japan was a country with very limited natural resources and heavily dependent upon imports. Early in World War II Japanese strategists somehow lost sight of the vulnerability of their extended overseas shipping. As their ships became strung out over the vast Pacific, losses to our submarines mounted. Japan soon lost the ability to support her outlying possessions, and to import vital goods to the homeland.
Another major failure to correctly visualize the nature of future warfare also occurred early in World War II. Allied military leaders refused to admit that battleships were vulnerable to air attack. The British fell into this trap and lost the battleships PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE to Japanese aircraft . off the Malay coast just two days after the Pacific war began. The U.S. had already lost their battleships at Pearl Harbor to the unexpected shallow-diving Japanese aircraft-delivered torpedoes.
Innovation based on new concepts and advanced technology has always been a major contributor to success in war. The Germans introduction of radio-guided bombs at Bari, Italy on 2 December 1943 found the Allies’ off-loading 30 support ships unprepared for this technological innovation and 16 ships were sunk. Nine more were badly damaged in the worst catastrophe since Pearl Harbor. Luckily, a means to jam the bomber’s guidance frequencies was quickly brought into action — preventing future disasters. Innovations in naval warfare have had important effects on world history since ancient days. Roman naval strategy employed at Mylae in 260 B.C. is a prime example. After defeat by a fleet of the great Mediterranean naval power, Carthage, in 264 B.C., the Romans developed a strategy to allow their famed legionnaires to be used at sea. They equipped eaoh galley with a long wide gangway to which was affixed a huge iron spike at the outer end. Roman galleys closed the Carthaginian galleys and dropped these gangways onto them. When a spike pierced an enemy deck, it held it fast. Roman legionnaires then swarmed aboard and massacred their enemies. The naval power of Carthage was destroyed. Rome then controlled the Mediterranean to change the entire course of European history.
The development of new concepts and strategies is a most difficult job. Machiavelli wrote about innovation:
“Nothing is more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order. This lukewarmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the law in their favour, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have bad actual experience of it.” (From “The Prince”, 1513).
In brief, the imagination and foresight of military planners is apt to be poor and their opposition to a new order strong. In this environment the ability to institute new methods of submarine warfare and new submarine system designs will be difficult. Nonetheless, the results of well thought out innovations have often been decisive in war.
There is no doubt that Soviet innovative thinking has brought about the wide variety or recently built Soviet submarines. They range from midget bottom crawlers to the undersea mammoth TYPHOON of 25,000 to 40,000 tons. How will TYPHOON be used, and where? This giant was not built as a lark.
Since the u.s. public has no intention of starting a major war, we must stay prepared and advertise our intent to counter any major attack with nuclear retaliation. We cannot deter war by threatening would-be adversaries with bows and arrows. We must be ready and armed for nuclear war — until the millenium when all nations outlaw it.
Despite difficulties in predicting the future, we must apply a massive effort in that direction. The conduct or future submarine warfare depends largely on three things; revised submarine warfare roles, advanced technology applied to submarine system design, and new methods of employing our submarines. Importantly, we are weakest today in defining the roles and related mission requirements for our future military submarines.
We must loosen the shackles constraining naval thinking and construct widely different “what-if” warfare scenarios. Then, with further analysis we must define submarine missions and related performance requirements to win these scenario wars. At the same time we must apply new technology to the design or propulsion, structure, weaponry, communications, etc.
- New and improved missions and capabilities? How about:
- Anti-submarine warfare in the open sea.
- Tactical land attack with medium range ballistic missiles.
- Destruction or key enemy land and sea based facilities/ships which support nucclear weapon delivery and C3 I capabilities by means of special Spetsnaz type combat teams.
- Nuclear-mine laying.
You may want to add to this list.
It is time to be unconventional in thought; to come up with radical ideas. An example that is intriguing would be an advanced form of antisubmarine warfare. Using extremely low frequency electromagnetic transmissions to communicate during high speed submerged maneuvers by very small knot fighter-submarines, they could use coordinated fighter aircraft-like tactics against enemy submarines. Impossible? Porpoises seem to indulge in formation maneuvers without much trouble. Of course, we will need a new power plant, improved underwater optical imagery and some special but simple underwater rockets for such fighters. Those matters are challenges for our laboratories and industry.How about a mother sub, wire-guiding several small one-man fighter subs into close combat with a big enemy sub? How about a submerged aircraft carrier battle group? Or, how about sweeping up Soviet acoustic nets outside ports, bases and choke points? If you don’t like these ideas, formulate a few of your own. We need some free thinkers with a Jules Verne’s type of imagination.
“Calling Jules Verne. Where are you Jules Verne?”