Tuesday, May 04, 2010


The unofficial motto of the submarine service is "There are only two sorts of ships. Submarines and targets."  It tells the same dangerous truth as the old Royal Navy opinion of submarines, alleged to Admiral of the Fleet (then Rear-Admiral) Sir Arthur Wilson VC etc, etc, who otherwise had an exceptional career, that they were:

underhand, unfair and damned un-English

In his 'honour', a British submarine will fly the Jolly Roger if it sinks an enemy warship on a patrol, last performed by HMS Conqueror - the US Navy have a similar tradition involving tying a broom to a periscope.

Neil Craig has a post up about submarines and carrier battle groups.  It misses the fundamental point about temperature-based warfare - you don't give people the chance to practice.  Letting the Song-class get inside the screen was a bad thing because the officers who were involved in that exercise may well be the officers commanding the PLA submarines which are 'protecting' Taiwan from the evil invading 鬼佬 hordes come the mainland 'assistance' of their cousins to true democracy :)

I am reminded of the possibly apocryphal story of the British O Boat (very junior) captain, commanded to lose graciously in the Thursday War - the RN being run, then as now, by ex-frigate commanders.  He refused the unfair blue water battle and just sat his boat on the bottom, outside Portland Harbour and, once the important people had sailed past, came quietly to periscope depth and launched his green grenades (being a submarine way of saying "I think I've just sunk you", as opposed to red grenades, which sort of say "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, I think I've just sunk myself!").

Carriers, like ballistic missile submarines, are the "Uncle Target" of the naval world.  Except you might not, quite, start a nuclear war if you attack a carrier.  Any submarine commander worth his ego would carry out a practice attack on a carrier if he didn't have a diplomat ready to throttle him,

I remember listening to the panic when the Yanks lost track of an Oscar class submarine in the North Atlantic, while a carrier battle group was heading east from Norfolk.  It wasn't that it was a time of tension - there was no direct threat.  The concern was that if a Soviet (yes, that long ago) submarine crew were able to practice getting within the effective range of their "Shipwreck" / "Granit" missiles to the carrier - call it 500km, then they would be able to improve their doctrine for getting there in time of war.  Yes, these games were played - land, sea and air.

1 comment:

neil craig said...

I interpret the Chinese decision to let the US know they could do this in a more generous way. They are warning the US that they can do this rather than & that these seas are now their's. If they had hostile intentions you are correct that they would not let us know in advance. That suggests that the Chinese see the surest way to rise to global dominance (& indeed dominance of the solar system) to be by peaceful economic means rather than military & I think that assessment is correct.

Military action might shock our own nomenklatura into seeking to match China's growth, as i am certain we could do if we tried, but they are mired in promotong economic destruction & state parasitism. I believe Wellington said "it is bad manners to interrupt your opponent when he is making a mistake".

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