Thursday, April 03, 2008

Reminders for Fading, U.S. Submarine Strategists

In the early days of submarining, when five C Boats had barely become capable of escorted navigation beyond U.S. shores, Lieutenant Emory S. Land stated (12 January 1914):

There can be no doubt that for submarine engines none of the types that have been created till now are entirely suitable.

- Building American Submarines, 1914-1940 By Gary E. Weir, Dean C. Allard

Although Land's critical, engine observation was eventually resolved, the submarines fatal weakness (Achilles Heel) merely transitioned, first to snorkels then to nuclear power.

During submarine school we were reminded that despite the awesome power of nuclear subs, there would always be a stubborn Achilles Heel --- the requirement of crews to replenish stores (to eat). Otherwise, subs could be isolated far longer, lurking anywhere. This problem has either been covertly overcome by submarine motherships, or could be when necessary.

Again, however, the nuclear submarines' Achilles Heel paradigm shifts. Mouth of the South, Ted Turner (not a submariner) predicts:

If steps aren't taken to stem global warming, 'We'll be eight degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow,' Turner said during a wide-ranging, hour-long interview with PBS's Charlie Rose that aired Tuesday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 04/03/08.

Another way to interpret the Mouth of the South is merely a variation on what had been stated earlier in submarine school: In the unlikely event Turner's prediction came to pass, submariners would certainly not be replenished -- no more food to eat, no submarines.

Then, Turner goes native with a more dire prediction:

'Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals,' said Turner, 69. 'Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state — like Somalia or Sudan — and living conditions will be intolerable.' ... Right now, the U.S. is spending $500 billion a year on the military, which is more than all 190 countries in the world put together,' he said. Ted Turner: Global warming could lead to cannibalism, [ibid], [emphasis added].

Is Ted Turner the only soul predicting the breakdown of civil order? Today, gloom and doom prophecy is fairly common. M.E. had this to say, about rising temperatures and cannibalism in 2005.

But, others are more serious about the submarine's Achilles Heel, it is an easy budgetary target:

New London, CT -, Apr 3, 2008 - Annual Pig Book Finds Funding For Submarine Helped Boost Pork-Barrel Spending In Connecticut - ... the Pig Book cited the defense budget ... $588 million to accelerate construction of a second Virginia-class submarine.

Washington DC - Asia America Initiative, October 24, 2006 - China In Focus - Number 14 : China Targets America's 'Acupuncture Points' :

The danger of the dollar collapsing is intensified by the mounting US current account deficit, which sky-rocketed to $900 billion at an annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2005. ... We have seen what China can do. How can Russia or Iran, in turn, cause a dollar downfall? ... The two biggest oil and gas producers, in cooperation, say, with Iran, could control oil production and sales to keep the price of oil relatively high, destabilizing the international economy.

This is another awesome prospect from the same fellow:

Aircraft carrier battle groups are the mainstay of US military and protect commerce supremacy which is primarily through ocean-transit. They serve as America’s chief instrument for global power projection and world dominance. In this capability, the US has no equal. At the moment, the US maintains a total of 12 aircraft carrier battle groups. In comparison, China has none. However, China’s strategy in defeating the superior by the inferior is shashaojian or the 'assassin’s mace'. 'Mace' is not only a blinding spray; it is also a meaner and deadlier weapon, a spiked war club of ancienttimes used to knock out an adversary with one blow. The spikes of the modern Chinese mace may well spell the end for aircraft carriers. The first of these spikes consists of medium- and short-range ballistic missiles (modified and improved DF 21s/CSS-5 and DF 15s) with terminally guided maneuverable re-entry vehicles with circular error probability of 10 meters. DF 21s/CSS-5s can hit slow-moving targets at sea up to 2,500km away.

The long and short of the modern, nuclear submarine's Achilles Heel continues to be multi-billion dollar copying cost. Should the U.S. ever follow Ted Turner's opinion on military spending, however, those few of us who understand the submarine's role will not be sleeping as well.



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