Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


Mr. Payne has done a commendable job drawing out several critical points about Western vs. Soviet writings on submarine design. As Mr. Payne sadly discovered, the West, in general, and the United States, in particular, lack a credible body of unclassified and publicly available works on basic and specific submarine design matters.

Today, the U.S. Navy finds itself under fire, both from within and outside its ranks, about submarine developments. Published reports imply that our submarine designers are losing the technology edge to the Soviet Union. In fact, recent public press reports even proclaim that the u.s. is losing the submarine technology edge to other nations, such as France, Japan, Sweden, Canada, and West Germany; nations who are reportedly constructing submarines out of very high-yield strength steels (i.e., Japan and France) and are introducing air-independent propulsion systems (Sweden, Canada, West Germany, and Italy).

As most historians and researchers well understand, information is power. But, when it comes to collecting, collating, organizing, using, and disseminating some 40 plus years worth of both classified and unclassified information on submarine design, the u.s. Navy has done a poor job. The Soviets — the True Believers about the role of submarines in naval strategy — clearly understand that information is power .

There are several striking things about the relative openness of the Soviet submarine design publication “machine”:

  • Most Soviet submarine books are authored by actiye duty Soviet nayal officers (few civilians) who hold the rank of Captain 1st Rank or Rear Admiral. These men almost always have the u.s. equivalent of a Ph.D. in naval architecture, systems analysis, or marine engineering. Some of these men often have the equivalent of two Ph.D’s!
  • Soviet naval officers and civilians involved in submarine programs are prolific writers, and obviously have the complete support of their navy when writing their thought provoking articles and books. The volume of Soviet writings on submarine matters clearly indicates a desire to “get the word out” to both Soviet and foreign audiences.
  • Soviet writings indicate an in-depth understanding of Western, Eastern bloc. and Asian submarine design philosophy. One wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the average Soviet submarine designers and submarine officers are better informed about worldwide submarine developments than their Western counterparts. Tbe Soviets do not draw the line on what they report about foreign submarine matters. They report everything that is published in the Western open press on non-Soviet submarine topics, including information that might be considered classified if it had appeared in official government reports. You’ll rarely see a Soviet author refrrring to Western writings about Soviet submarine developments.
  • Soviet submarine writings reflect a great sense of national pride, especially in areas such as general design philosophy, systems analysis approaches to design and construction, hull structures and materials, and weapons attacksurvivability. Soviet submarine design bureaus, along with supporting higher educational institutions, are truly “jewels” in the crown of the Soviet Navy.

It would seem that the u.s. is not going to move forward rapidly on new advanced technology submarine designs until it properly documents the history of u.s. submarine designs and operations. Today’s and tomorrow’s U.S. submarine designers must understand where the Western submarine design community has been, before they push ahead. In particular, people should understand that many of the ideas being brought forth today were in fact expressed over 25 years ago by a handful of prolific U.S. naval officers and civilian engineers involved in U.S. submarine programs. These men made the extra effort to express, in numerous professional journals and society meetings, their ideas and visions about submarine design matters and the role of the submarine in naval warfare.

The “old-timers” are constantly pointing out how the submarine design community of the 1950s and early-1960s was active, innovative, and more risk oriented. The air was electrified because everyone knew that the nuclear-powered submarine was going to be the capital ship of future navies. There was a sense of working toward some destiny and being part of a team of first-rate researchers and operators. It suffices to say that today the u.s. submarine design community isn’t intellectually bankrupt or devoid of creative and innovative thinkers, but they need the intellectual environment produced by an open forum on contemporary submarine design matters.

J. J. E.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League