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Although there are a number of submarine publications available in book stores for popular and easy reading, there is a remarkable dearth in this country of serious engineeing textbooks that deal with the arcane and little discussed subject of modern submarine design. One of the rare books– and this  by a  layman —  is   Norman   Friedman’s SUBMARINE DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENTpublishedin 1984. On page 8 of this book one notes the following statement with incredulity:

“For u.s. design practice, the standard sources are two technical papers, 1 Recent Submarine Design Practices and Problems’, by Rear Admiral Andrew I. McKee, USN (Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1959) and ‘Naval Architectural Aspects of Submarine Design”, by CAPT 1960. Arentzen, USN (Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1960); no comparable papers have been published in the more than two decades since 1960.”

Can it be true that no engineering papers or books have been published in the u.s.A. concerning the science of modern submarine design for 28 years??? After diligently combing the various SNAME publications, ship design periodicals and nearly all the general books published on submarines in the Western world, one can only come to the conclusion that this is, indeed, true. Why?

There are hundreds of textbooks dealing with modern aircraft design, and many more dealing with various aspects of aircraft such as propellers, jet  engines, material  structures, etc.,  even several on flap design. Of course, these are backed up with , literally, thousands of NASA reports on every little detail that might be involved with even our most recent frontline aircraft. And even in the underwater world, there are seminars given on modern sonar design and the volume of technical papers dealing with underwater sound is considerable.

The irony of this situation can best be illustrated by another quotation, this from Dr. Edward Wenk in the Discussion section following the Arentzen SNAHE paper in 1960:

“While the occulted nature of submarine warfare has earned for that naval arm the piquant caption of ‘silent service’, there Has been a corresponding stillness in the technical literature concerning the design of the submarine itself. The recent paper by A. I McKee and this current paper are thus exceedingly welcome contributions . . .  ”

Dr. Wenk’s “stillness” Has become a stellar vacuum for the last 28 years. Little did be know, at the time, that these papers would not only be the last published in this country, but that they would help start an intense and very serious submarine design publishing effort in another country, Russia.

Six books have  subsequently been published  in Russia from 1964 to 1978. The first : Atomig-Powered Submarine Design by V. M. Bukalov and A. Narusbayev (published in Leningrad in 1964 by the Sudostroyeniye Publishing House) is primarily a summary of Western, i.e ..  U.S. submarine designs with factual details and numbers not found anywhere else. In fact, in the 1960 Arentzen SNAME paper, nearly 1/3 of the 32 odd graphs shown have no finite numbers on the vertical scales. They   are  only shown as  relative quantities.But the Bukalov paper replaces these relative quantities with actual numbers and republishes the same graphs! Amazing.

One year later Moscow’s Military Publishing House of the Ministry of Defense published N. N. Yefim’ yev’s Fundamentals of SUbmarine Tbeory. Is it possible that there is competition in Russian sub design? This effort was followed by Bukalov and Narusbayev, again, with Design of Nuclear submarines published in Leningrad in 1968.

Then in 1973, The Submarine Structure by S. N. Prasolov and M. B. Amitin was put out by the same Moscow Military Publishing House. Four years later another Mosoow agency, Voyenizdat, came out with Yu. I . Bol 1 shakov’s Basic Theory of Submarines . Not to be outdone by the capital city, Leningrad ‘ s Sudostroyeniye Publishers countered with Design of Manned  SUbmersibles   by  A. N. Dimitriyev  in  1978.

This might not seem so abnormal if this proliferation of titles was in the free West, but it all happened in pre-Gorbachev Russia with not one single title published in the United States, Even the Chinese are sufficiently interested in the art and science of underwater vehicles to have done a book: the very good Fundamental Knowledge submarines by S.  Zhong   published  in Beijing  in 1985 West Germany’s Ulrich Gabler published his excellent work, Submarine Design about this same time, although it is primarily concerned with smaller diesel submarines.

The new NAUTILUS memorial in Groton is a very worthwhile addition to help build public knowledge of the submarine threat to our nation and to help encourage young people to not only serve in our submarine Navy but also to contribute new ideas to constantly improve our submarine defenses. There is a library in this new facility, but none of the above publications are in this library.

In perusing and digesting the above publications, it becomes very apparent that Russians, in particular, are really enthusiastic about their submarine work and want very much to improve the state of the art. Much of their early published work is concerned with the details of western submarines; nonetheless, they have subsequently come forth with many different classes of attack submarines since the mid 1960’s when our last design, the 688 class, was determined, Their later texts show much originality or design, far beyond anything attempted in this country. Ironically, there is considerable open discussion on sonar techniques in the u.s., and this technology along with serious quieting efforts has been our greatest advantage over the Russians for 30 years. But the Russian subs are becoming more quiet also while they are learning many things from the use and operation of their many new sub classes. Meanwhile our latest SSN design, in service, is nearly 20 years old and cannot match the speed or depth capability of the latest Russian boats. There is also good reason to suspect that our single-hull subs are not as survivable — fighting hurt — as the double-hull Russian designs. It is apparent that the Russians have performed some serious tests on underwater survivability. (Certainly, they have had enough practice with all the operational accidents that we have observed over the years.) How can our submarine designers be so sure about survivability?

It may not be obvious to some, but all of our first-line Air Force and even u.s. Navy aircraft have been designed by many competitive quasi private industrial firms in this country. However, none of today’s submarine designs have been created in the hot crucible of competitive effort, and we know that competition makes better products. In 1961, when this author was retained by the Electric Boat Company to wind-tunnel test a SKIPJACK-class control plane, there were only three or four engineers in this great company’s Hydrodynamics design department! At that same time there were literally hundreds of aeronautical engineers at any one of our 20-odd aircraft companies. The Navy’s BUSHIPS at that time did virtually all the design of every sub, and the sub builders were left with only the construction and mechanical design of any given sub class.

  1. Meanwhile, the Russians had at least five shipyard’s design teams competing fiercely with their varied and numerous sub classes.
  2. Just because our subs are quieter and better manned does not mean that we shall forever have an overwhelming superiority over the numerous Russian.
  3. What if Russian boats can take a MK48 hit and still fight back?
  4. What if Russian boats can neutralize or destroy our torpedoes, and get off several of their own which we cannot avoid?
  5. What if we have a melee situation with “other” enemy submarines and our quiet but unwieldy boats cannot maneuver against this threat?

It is axiomatic that the free, untrammelled brains of American engineers have been the driving force behind our military superiority since the end of World War II. But this freedom of inquiry was stifled in the arcane secret world of sub design nearly 30 years ago. The gr~ t torpedo fiasco– TINOSA’s “bitting torpedoes which didn’t explode” — of our Pacific sub fleet against the Japanese should be sufficient example today to alert all of us against repeating the same mistake with our attack submarines today. And e en when our torpedoes would explode sometimes the results were unexpectedly embarrassing — as with : LANG’s circular torpedo sinking. The Air force say Navy Air were caught off base with the surprising emergence of the MIG-15 in Korea, and the unexpected success of the SA-2 in Vietnam. but they have changed their equipment and tactics very effectively as proven in various skirmishes — witness Syria and Libya — in the last 10 years where the latest Russian equipment has been destroyed decisively.

There is no doubt that our 637 and 688 subs have been able to regularly ambush the underwater Russian with their superior underwater stealth. There is strong evidence that this is still the case today. But underwater combat with sonar only is not the same as with live exploding weapons. What unexpected technical surprise lies in wait for our submariners when live torpedoes are fired in place of sonar pings?

Surely the Navy could encourage one or more of its prolific technical writers to publish an original U.S. work on modern submarine design. If our secrecy constrained bureaucracy just cannot bear the idea, then have them do a book of Russian sub    design. We  are  fortunate  to have  the Naval Institute’s Proceedings monthly journal and the NSL quarterly as the only u.s. publications that maintain a dialog on submarine matters. But as noted in the October 1982 issue of the former:

“Morskoy Sbornik is a monthly naval journal published in the Soviet Union in Russian . . . .  Moreover. Morskoy Sbornik can be an excellent source of unclassified data on numerous u.s. and other Western naval systems. In terms of accuracy and detail. some of the articles in Morskoy Sbornik are among the best to be found on Western systems in the open literature.”

This writer is embarrassed to have to refer to Russian texts to answer most questions concern-ing modern theory of underwater design and technology. And some of these texts offer better clarity of sub theory than the above SNAME papers. Surely this sad state of affairs should not be allowed to continue.

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