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.