SUBMARINE TECHNOLOGY FOR THE 21st CENTURY
By Stan Zimmerman
Arlington, VA: Pasha Publications Inc., 1990
pp 175, Price: $250.00
reviewed by kn Cox and Tom Maloney
Stan Zimmerman, editor of Nayy News and Undersea Technolou, in the promotional material for Submarine Technolou for the 21st Century opens with the intriguing question: “As we move into the Twenty-First Century what will be the fate of navies around the world?” He opines that submarines are one of the least expensive vessels to manufacture, man and maintain, and that an increasing number of countries are developing manufacturing capabilities for submarines. He contends that his 175 page soft-cover book examines the technological advances, looks at what is under development in laboratories around the world, and projects what submarines will be able to do in the next century. In the boolc, it is claimed that one will learn: who is developing which new technology; how can each new technology be used to improve a submarine’s performance; where can one look to get involved in this technological revolution; what are the submarines of the Twenty-First Century likely to look like; and what is happening in foreign markets, who is building submarines, what technologies are they developing and how can one get involved outside the U.S. market. How well this book accomplishes these objectives is the purpose of this review.
In the Forward, the tone is set by statements to the effect that the flowering of American submarine technology in the period between 1955 and 1965 created a plateau the Navy bas rested on ever since. Zimmerman cites an unidentified source who believes that the loss of the USS TIIRESHER in 1963 was responsible for “bringing innovation to a virtual standstil~ restoring to primacy the submariner’s traditional sense of caution.” and concludes that the “pace of submarine development in this century has been … glacial in its pace. (sic)” While this lead-in is thought-provoking, nowhere in this compendium is that opening thesis confirmed.
For whatever reason, perhaps its journalistic heritage, the book evidences a clear anti-nuclear propulsion bias. Statements such as “‘The basic power plant in today’s American nuclear submarine is no different than the system used aboard the first mass-produced class, the SKATE” demonstrate either a lack of technical depth, or very liberal literary license. The discussion of thermodynamic efficiency and reactor delta-Tin Chapter Two is so badly in error as to reveal a complete lack of technical understanding and competent editing. While the presentation of the evolution and status of air-independent propulsion (AlP), lumped in with superconductivity and magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), are interesting, they do not support the conclusion that we are standing at the brink of a propulsion revolution and that “AlP by itself holds the promise of becoming a cheap equalizer to today’s nuclear attack submarines with their noisy pumps and props.”
The author states “Evidence is growing the Soviets have fielded an MHD drive for their hunter-killer nuclear subs, and that it is mounted on a teardrop-shaped pod atop the vertical rudder,” such evidence apparently from Captain John Moore RN(Ret.), unnamed U.S. naval officers and other sources. Doubters are dismissed with rather shallow rebuttals. All credible engineering analysis and other information known to the reviewers conclusively substantiates that the pod seen on some Soviet SSNs does not contain MHD propulsion, as stated by the Soviets themselves.
In Chapter Three, Submarine Hulls. Their Desi&n and Materials. the author makes the statement that “Submariners sometimes refer to their vessels as ‘sewerpipe,’ a euphemism for life inside a steel cylinder.” This derisive term is long out of vogue and detracts from what is purported to be a serious technical document. Nevertheless, the collection of information on materials is one of the better sections of the book and represents a concerted effort to assemble in one place much of the material on the subject available in the unclassified literature. The description on “Managing the Envelope Through Automation,” although plagued with technical errors, is provocative reading.
Still in Chapter Three, the author’s unquestioning endorsement of projects not conceived, or as yet not supported by the U.S. Navy, is exemplified in the discussion of Deep Fli&ht – “a pair of mini-submarines expected to be the world’s first undersea fliers.” These untried vehicles are extolled as offering the potential “to make a radical change in the direction of undersea warfare” and, with other similarly technically immature innovations, “to transform the realm of underwater combal” Perhaps so, but to these readers, the author’s enthusiasm for such projects does not appear to stem from technical considerations.
The lengthy treatment of anechoic or acoustic tiles seems to be embedded with disparaging remarks on the U.S. Navy’s tardy and reluctant action “to install some kind of coating on STURGEON class submarines.” In stating that “the initial Improved 688-class sub, the SAN JUAN, is the fllSt U.S. submarine to be equipped with tiles: and “The United States only recently began applying tiles to its submarines,” the author is clearly unaware that a very effective, and clearly visible, bull treatment has been installed on a number of U.S. SSNs, starting in the early 1980s. This modification bas been most costeffective, yielding a large dB per dollar improvement; regrettably, the rate of installation was limited by funding cuts.
The chapter on submarine-launched weapons offers nothing startling. It indicates a lack of understanding of certain fundamental characteristics of submarine torpedoes and replays the now familiar litany of the World War Two torpedo problems. The chapt~r offers an unfounded statement on why the Mark 8 torpedo was employed by the British in the Falklands/ Malvinas Islands campaign by HMS CONQUEROR and provides a shopping list of torpedoes and cruise missiles easily available elsewhere. However, the points made about the possibilities of submarines being equipped with anti-aircraft missiles are worthy of further consideration.
The penultimate chapter on The Information Contest, or as it is called in the book, the Rule of the One-Eyed Man, covers perhaps the most important topic that an insight on the 21st Century should address, that of sensors and combat systems. Unfortunately, either for lack of information or space, the book gives short shrift to this area rather than a serious treatment of the subject. Again, errors of fact abound. It is stated, for example, that “no U.S. attack submarine at present uses a selfnoise monitoring system” and it is implied that such a system could be purchased from the French.
In the wrap-up chapter, Zimmerman forecasts that the proliferation of advanced submarine-launched weapons, the advent of affordable air-independent propulsion, the spread of stealth technologies and the swift advances in electronic combat equipment all foreshadow more capable and less expensive combat submarines in the future. More capable, yes; less expensive, no, if the Royal Navy’s UPHOLDER Class SSK is any harbinger of what might be expected in a high-tech nonnuclear attack submarine.
While various forms of AlP have been experimented with by various nations since the end of the Second World War, it would seem that fiscal reality is slowing what only last year appeared to be a whirl-wind drive toward those systems. One only has to consider the increasing average age of post-1960 conventional submarines in Third World inventories to realize that, while the desire exists, the hard currency for new, hightech submarines is lacking, as is a clear consensus on the efficacy and practicality of AlP. The decision of the Australians to forego the option of the Sterling Engine for their COLLINS class SSKs being built by the Swedes is a case in point.
If this book had been subjected to a rigorous technical scrub and editing, many of the numerous factual errors could have been avoided. Statements such as the description of “tonals” being the minute variations between the blades on a submarine propeller which allow sonarmen to distinguish between individual submarines of the same class should not have survived even a cursory review. However, more damaging to the book’s credibility than simple errors of fact are comments such as “When individual platforms cost between $300 million and $2 billion, a submarine’s survival is almost as important to the national treasury as it is to the crew.” This and other similar remarks have no place in a publication titled Submarine Technoloc. It is regrettable that Mr. Zimmerman has chosen not to engage in an open technical discussion of the very complex and unforgiving choices faced by the submarine designers, but instead, has relied heavily on anecdotal information, unsubstantiated assertions and sarcasm.
In summary, does Submarine Technolo~ for the 21st Century live up to its billing? Yes, but only in the most superficial way. The book suffers from the absence of a solid base of technical understanding, as well as the lack of a bibliography, an incomplete index and the use of “sources” rather than references. This is not technology. Much of the material is readily available in recent defense magazine articles, symposia proceedings and promotional literature; however, the compilation in one location is useful to those attempting to gain a familiarity with emerging submarine technology and seeking a reference book. For the serious technologist, at $250 per copy, the book is overpriced for its inherent value.
by Paul R. Schratz
The University Press of Kentucky 1988
reviewed by Daniel A. Curran
Paut Schratz, the person, is the main subject of Submarine Commander. After years of reading Captain Schratz’s columns and articles on national policy and international affairs in the Proceedings, the Naval Academy Shipmate and in other publications, it is a pleasure to team something about the man in an entertaining book about his submarine adventures.
The book provides more than just good reading. Three sections in the book are pertinent today: A ruLE’s problems with sea mines in the Japanese, Korean and Chinese waters; the immediate post-war period in occupied Japan; and the submarine operations in the Korean conflict for which PICKEREL and her crew earned the Submarine Combat insignia.
The problems ATULE faced against the Japanese antisubmarine mines and later PICKEREL against the North Korean mines are sobering when one considers the type of underwater weapons a nuclear submarine might face today. The sections on demilitarized Japan, including the shore duty and the transport of the Japanese submarine 1-203 (SASORI) from Japan to Hawaii, provide insight into the problems facing the inspection teams in post-Desert Storm Iraq. PICKEREL’s Korean War adventures are very close to the situations in which a submarine might find itself in a modem low intensity situation.
Sea mines, those inexpensive, easily deployed weapons that wait, have received renewed prominence in Desert Storm where both PRINCETON and TRIPOli, multimillion dollar ships, were put out of action by simple deviaes costina thousands of dollars. (Or perhaps hundreds’!) In the previous Gulf crisis SAMUEL B. ROBERTS struck a moored mine. In these two military actions three ships were damaged by mines and one ship, STARK, was hit by a missile. Billions have been and are being spent for anti-missile defense while substantially less is being invested in minehunting.
The post-World War II period in Japan is another interesting section. What to keep and what to dismantle and destroy was a situation the Allies faced in both Germany and Japan. One wonders if some of the Japanese submarine technology might have been adaptable to our submarines as the snorkel and some of the torpedo ideas were adopted from German technology. The history of demilitarizing Japan and Germany could be the subject of a book in itself now that many of the records have been declassified.
The Korean War, the forgotten war in U.S. history, provided some more influences than those mentioned by Captain Schratz at the end of the boolc. As the United States reexamines its global commitments today, historians should look back at the activities of submarines like PICKEREL, LIONFISH and others and the types of missions assigned to them in the light of modem threats and technology.
Paul Schratz’s narrative covers the time period from the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor when he was serving in USS WICHITA at Iceland, through duty in USS MACKERAL in the Atlantic just after the start of the war, and 7 war patrols in USS SCORPION, STERLET and ATULE, to the end of the Korean War as Commanding Officer in USS PICKEREL; with a brief respite reactivating BURRFISH. Besides Schratz’s personal story, the book gives another good view of the history of U.S. submarines from the beginning of World War ll up to the start of the nuclear submarine era as seen by an operational sailor. Certainly the submerged trip of 21 days and 5,200 miles from Hong Kong to Honolulu by PICKEREL was a prelude of things to come with NAUTILUS, SKATE, SEADRAGON, TRITON and others.
Submarine Commander belongs on our bookshelves because Paul R. Schratz is an entertaining writer and because he gives us some lessons to be learned in modem submarine warfare.