Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Toward a Submarine Christened "USS Terror"

Three warships of the United States Navy wore the name USS Terror. The last one earned four battle stars for service in World War II. Once the only U.S. ship built exclusively for laying mines, she was decommissioned by 1956.

Which class of ship now deserves the name USS Terror in the struggle with terrorist upstarts, of course, remains to be seen. Given the world-class fighting reputations of our United States Marines and Navy SEALs, however, and their growing appreciation for submarine stealth, the name should probably be reserved for an awesome platform.

The last, purpose-built cruise missile submarine was USS Halibut (SSGN-587). When cruise missiles were superseded as strategic weapons by ICBMs, Halibut was redesignated an attack submarine for her last 15 years. How times have reversed!

Although a very creditable submarine in her own right, the fish name Halibut is more likely to make terrorists smirk than to cause agita. Terror, on the otherhand, strikes a rather fitting, asymmetric awe even in limited, terrorist vocabularies. While terrorists have only a prayer of ever touching one, SOF teams or cruise missiles can strike them with deadly surprise and precision, almost at will and even from an easterly direction


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