I was emailed this article from the Asia Times entitled “Submarines: Obsolete symbols of national pride” by Eric Koo Peng Kuan. Man, it’s about the stupidest article I’ve seen in a while. I don’t normally indulge, but a fisking is definitely in order.
The submarine – that vessel and its crews romanticized in the films Run Silent, Run Deep and Das Boot (The Boat) – faces the very real danger, a technological depth-charge, of becoming obsolete and totally redundant in modern navies. Probably, it already is obsolete, more a relic of national pride and prestige than an actually effective weapon or weapons platform.
So at least he’s heard of WWII submarine movies. Gosh am I impressed. Ooh, and technological depth charge. Such cleverness. Do you mean a barrel of sodium that is harmless a couple of hundred feet away?
Probably is one of those argument-free placeholders that allows all sorts of foolery. Probably this guy Eric Koo Peng Kuan has terminal acne and malodorous back hair. I know because there is a movie somewhere about it. See? Works for everything.
These U-boats, however, would be virtually useless in the narrow and shallow Taiwan Strait, detected by ships and aircraft with high-technology and then destroyed. And they are virtually useless elsewhere, with scant exceptions.
Well, this certainly is free of anything resembling real world analysis and warfighting experience. “Detected by ships and aircraft with high-technology”? Does he expect someone to rush from a fishing boat, open a box of Acme(tm) High Technology (Buy it! It’s unspecified!) and instantly find all the hidden U-boats? Can we use that same box of Acme(tm) for, oh, I don’t know, snipers? How about which scratch ticket at the liquor store has the $500 prize?
Feh. This oh-so-militarily-educated writer needs to spend a day on a P-3 or a frigate.
And U-boats? When does this guy in Asia expect the Germans to be zipping around Taiwan? Or is his complete knowledge of submarine warfare from Das Boot?
Has he even heard of ISR? Battlespace prep? Any of the other things subs do?
During the Cold War, submarines could also equipped with cruise missiles or ballistic missiles that could be armed with nuclear, chemical or biological warheads in order to enhance their lethality. Submarines thus became mobile launching pads for ballistic missiles at sea. However, surface ships also have missile-launching capabilities, and in fact, have proved to be much more militarily effective and cheaper than submarines.
It’s also cheaper to not put propulsion in a ship and tow it where you want it. But we don’t do that all the time because it would be stupid. Almost as stupid as putting an easily visible Tomahawk shooter near a coast and prealerting who you want to shoot at. Near about as stupid as putting a ballistic nuclear missile in a place at sea where someone else knows where it is and can strike it first with a car bomb from the next pier over.
Oh, wait. I’m just barely getting started, because the stupidity is just FLOWING from this guy’s poison pen.
The invention of radar, however, and subsequently satellite surveillance technology from the United States, meant that the advantages of being submerged were negated totally. Surface ships are easily able to detect submarines if they are equipped with such technology, which is not excessively expensive and is cost-effective.
Easily. Easily. Like, since when, Sailor Boy? I took a thirty eight year old boat’s conn and bested some of the world’s best sub hunters, boyo. Underwater is a trump card and works just fine. What in the world were you thinking when you mentioned radar? You know, like the kind with radio waves? The kind that don’t penetrate water? Or a satellite–with what? That box of Acme(tm)?
Show. me. the. money. Whoops, ain’t none.
Why is this guy even writing in the past tense here? What possible garbage did he dredge up and assume was the Way Things Were? Doesn’t he know the difference between a contractor’s blue sky briefing slide about what Might Could Be given ten years and a lot of money to the contractor and what is?
The ability to travel underwater thus becomes a naval liability, as nautical design meant that submarines might not be heavily armed, nor as heavy, as surface warships. With the invention of depth charges, and then anti-submarine torpedoes, surface warships have become more than a match for submarines simply by having superior firepower, and the option of calling in air support to bomb the menacing submarine.
Heavily Armed: Quick. Name the most heavily armed weapons system on the planet.
Well, then, that Kuan statement was a little wrong, wasn’t it?
As Heavy. Frankly, I’d prefer lighter to heavier with the same capability, but I’ll humor you. Virginia is what, eight thousand tons? What’s the DWT of your country’s flagships, there, Mr. Singapore Sailor Expert?
Depth Charges. Again with the depth charges. Read any Jane’s Fighting Ships past 1963, have you?
The Option Of Calling In Air Support. Sure, if you know where the submarine is. Which you won’t, because Acme(tm) hasn’t made your seas transparent yet despite decades of saying it’s just around the corner. And, what say you the submarine doesn’t ALSO have that option?
Submarines are sometimes used in reconnaissance roles of locating enemy ships, but aircraft and surface ships are better and more effective choices. In the case of the US Navy, with its satellite technology, US submarines have become redundant and unnecessary for this task.
–Aircraft: See EP-3, downed, Hainan Island. Also see behavior, enemy, changed, one each.
–Surface Ships: See exercise, cancelled. Also see USS Liberty, etc, etc.
–Satellite: See low-power line of sight direct communications systems. See also Stalinism, public communications in countries with.
Sounds like our friend has also become redundant and unneccessary, as this article has become auto-fisking. But to belabor the point:
Thus, the only combat role left to the submarine is that of harassing defenseless civilian ships and naval support vessels. However, international maritime laws governing the conduct of naval warfare prohibits hitting certain ships, such as hospital ships, supply ships bearing humanitarian aid, as well as ships from countries neutral in a conflict. The international outrage and diplomatic repercussions of states violating this rule far outweigh the strategic advantages of attacking such surface ships.
See Lusitania, World War One, those little black flags British boats fly when they sink things, and anyone with submarine experience or a history book.
How did this ever get printed?
Maybe because it’s an anti-American newspaper with a loose concept of truth?
I’m getting tired of typing. Here’s the, um, writer:
Eric Koo Peng Kuan is a freelance writer who holds a master’s degree in strategic studies from the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies (IDSS) in Singapore.
I can’t find any contact information to discuss this egregious pile of steaming scholarship. Argh.
Look, if you just hate subs, there are other ways to do it. You just have to have some basis in reality.
Arguing Against Submarines For The Beginner
- They’re wicked expensive.
- They have risk. Bad things can happen on a sub.
- They don’t sit off a coast and look cool and some people think that means a lot.
- They don’t carry a lot of airplanes, usually.
- They’re wicked expensive.
- The technological base must be extremely robust and able to handle the work, especially if you’re doing the fuel cell thing or the nuclear thing to your engines.
- You can’t hide and yell at the same time–there are tradeoffs for stealth, communications, and speed.
- You can’t run forever without an SSN–there is a tradeoff between speed and endurance, and snorkeling removes some stealth.
- Oh, and did I mention the cost?
Intermediate Anti-Sub Arguments go into things like missions and comparative capabilities. You know, the heavy stuff.
Advanced might even talk about the product cycle of Dreadnaught and how that may be analogous to submarines, but that would take some serious study to avoid being laughed at.
Our friend here with the master’s needs to get out of Blockbuster and go read some books and talk to people who go to sea for a living before he blathers foolishly in some newspaper.