Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Pointy Heads vs. Submariners

Robert Hamilton of The New London Day has another informative article out today (registration required after one day) about various rumblings among Washington-anchored Navy types discussing the possible advantages of switching U.S. submarine production to non-nuclear designs. These groups include the "Office of Force Transformation" and the "Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments". The CSBA 325 page draft report is available from a link on their home page. Here are some excerpts:

"The Office of Force Transformation study, spearheaded by its former director, retired Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, has recommended replacing the nuclear submarines in strike groups with conventional AIP boats...
"The study said the Navy could buy four AIP boats for every nuclear submarine it replaced, though some EB sources have said that estimate is extremely optimistic.
"In addition, one Navy source said, AIP submarines would only make sense if they were forward-based, with a submarine tender for maintenance and repair, which would add significantly to the operating costs. Conventional submarines are slower and rely on a logistics train for fuel, and could not sprint across the Atlantic or Pacific and arrive ready to fight the way a nuclear submarine can, he said.
"One congressional source noted that the Cebrowski study is focused almost exclusively on wartime missions, while the submarine's greatest value is the intelligence it collects during peacetime, information that often allows the United States to avoid conflicts.
He said the surface and aviation communities would just as strongly dismiss any proposal to replace nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with conventional ships. “I'd be very surprised if this develops serious legs, because the submarine community, to a man, will be dead set against it,” the source said."

As I mentioned earlier, I also doubt that the postulated non-nuclear submarine would be that much cheaper than the nuclear boats, due to the costs associated with combat systems and SUBSAFE issues that we would be unlikely to shortchange. To be honest, I'm not really sure I see what we'd need with a coastal defense-type boat, except as a good training platform (and we can lease European boats for that). As long as we have a national strategy of forward engagement, we'll need to keep building the big nuke boats. It's the same thing as making the M1 tank so good; they cost a lot more than their competition, but the kill ratio has been much greater than the cost differential ratio in our last two land wars. No matter what anyone else says, this lowly retired O-4 still believes that in modern submarine combat, this axiom still applies: Speed is Life...

Staying at PD...

Update 2208 02 March: To see which direction the Brits are going, check out this entry over at Unconsidered Trifles. The main article in WillyShake's discussion can be found here.


Blogger ninme said...

Hmm. Interesting, but somebody's gotta learn to distill all this to a "heap big submarine, chiefie" level.

3/02/2005 11:02 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

OK... Air-independent propulsion (fancy diesel boats) may be cheaper than nuclear boats, and may be quieter in some situations, but they're much slower, have much less on-station time, and can't carry as much weaponry as nuke boats. Plus, and most importantly, the size of a submariner's willie is directly proportional to the top speed of his submarine. After all, what's the U.S. military budget good for, if not to provide really cool equipment for us to tool around in and blow stuff up with...

3/02/2005 11:13 PM

Blogger ninme said...


It's all clear, now.

You should rewrite all your posts in this nice, simple, Freudian way.

3/02/2005 11:15 PM

Anonymous former NavET said...

Yes I also become nostalgic for the romantic times of sail, re-deploy the USS Constitution. Wind power is the way to go, after all Submarines do have a sail or is that a fairwater or conning tower (different discussion). Maybe a cutting edge solar power propulsion system would work?

Forgive me I forgot, submarines are supposed to stay “SUBMERGED” for stealth, those sneaky bastards.
...Sarcasm off ;-)

Former NavET

3/03/2005 7:07 AM


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