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Norman Polmar is the Co-Author of Cold War Submarines: The Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet
Submarines (2004).

Editor’s Note: The article in question appeared in January 2010 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW.
Admiral Jerry Holland’s enthusiasm for nuclear-propelled submarines, which I share, is well known. But his arguments for them could have more impact if he could bring more factual to his writings. Some of the more apparent errors and arguable statements in his recent “Reflections on the Cold War at
Sea” are:

p. 93 “The P3 [sic] a much more capable aircraft began to replace the P2 in the deployed sites in 1958.” The P-3 Orion became operational in August 1962. p. 94 “After 1969 all Soviet new construction was devoted to submarine and anti-submarine programs.” This was certainly not correct: The large aircraft carriers of the TBILISI/ADMIRAL
KUZENTSOV class and the nuclear-propelled carriers of the UL’Y ANOVSK class were begun after 1969; these were the largest ships to be built in the Soviet Union and were certainly not ASW ships. Similarly the SLAV A-class cruisers, SOVREMENNYY-class destroyers, and several other warship classes begun after 1969 were neither submarines nor ASW ships.

p. 94 “Where the Kresta I has bristled with surface-to-surface missiles, the smaller Kresta 11 …. ” The Kresta II was slightly larger that her predecessor-7, 700 tons with an overall length of 520 feet compared to the Kresta I’s 7,500 tons and 510 feet.

p. 94 “In 1970 and 1975 the Soviets ran major military exercises that included maritime scenarios. The last and largest in 1975, OKEAN 11, included deployments of some 200 ships and submarines.” Okean 1970 consisted of more than 200 ships and submarines, while Okean 1975 (the correct designation) had about 120 ships and submarines, according to U.S. and Soviet publications.

p. 94 “Thereafter [after 1975], out of area deployments declined markedly so that the presence of Soviet surface warships other than submarines [sic] was a relatively rare incident.” Soviet out-of-area ship days actually increased in the 1980s, and beginning in the late 1970s, the regular cruiser and destroyer deployments were joined by the four KIEV-class aircraft carriers, at the time the largest warships constructed in the Soviet Union. Thus Soviet deployments continued in numbers with a significant increase in surface warship capabilities. p. 95 “From 1954 through 1958 the Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke …. ” Admiral Burke became the CNO in August 1955.

p. 96 “but soon [Soviet SSBNs] … so resembled the American George Washington Class SSBN that some accused the Soviets of scaling up the Revell plastic models of the American ships.” This is “urban myth”-the Revell GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN 598)kit, issued in 1959, showed a submarine with only eight missile tubes; by the time the corrected model was sold in 1961 the Project 667Nankee design had been completed. But the U.S. and Soviet submarines differ considerably: the Yankee SSBN has twin reactors, twin screws, and a very different internal arrangement (such as the 16 missile tubes being placed in two compartments); the Yankee had a greater diving depth and, significantly, could launch missiles at a faster rate, from a greater depth, at higher speeds than could Polaris SSBNs.

p. 97 “Eventually the Soviets replaced all their Yankees with Deltas.” This is a strange statement; it is similar to saying that the U.S. Navy replaced all of its Polaris-Poseidon submarines with Trident submarines. Such replacements are a natural progression, but when the Cold War ended in 1991 the Soviet Navy still had about 15 Yankee SSBNs as well as the more than 40 Delta SSBNs in their inventory of more than 70 ballistic missile submarines.

p. 99 “Hence the suspicion that [spy ship] PUEBLO’s seizure was instigated by the Soviets in order to get their hands on a coding machine.” Available Soviet and U.S. documents reveal that the Soviets were greatly surprised by the North Korean seizure of the PUEBLO. Indeed, the Soviets would not want to provide a precedent or rationale for U.S. interference with their large fleet of intelligence collection ships (AGls in NATO parlance).

p. 101 “At the end of the Cold War, there seemed to be no question about whether the correlation of forces at sea favored the United States or the Soviets.” On the basis of lengthy discussions with Soviet naval officers and senior submarine designers both here in the United States and in Russia (seven visits to Russia from 1991 to 1998), I can reliably state that Admiral Holland’s view of the correlation of forces was not shared by the majority of his Soviet contemporaries.

One hopes that part 2 of his article will be more factual and hence credible.

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