The co-authors have served as RN Captains and they take the reader through the career of Capt Conley from conventional open cycle diesel electric submarines to his transition to the true submarine in the form of the nuclear powered vessel that is able to remain submerged for very long periods. This is a very important book because it discloses information not previously in the public domain, charting the use of nuclear submarines through the Cold War. This is a gripping story, told well and evocatively. It takes the reader into the heart of one of the most potent weapons systems ever built and provides an exciting feeling of being there with the crews.
NAME: Cold War Command, The Dramatic Story of a Nuclear Submariner
AUTHOR: Richard Woodman, Dan Conley
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Underwater warfare, submarines, submariners, nuclear power, closed cycle engines, nuclear weapons, sonar, radar, Cold War, Soviet Navy, US Navy, SSBM, Polaris, Trident, conventional submarines, tactics, deployment, hunter killer submarines, covert operations
DESCRIPTION: The co-authors have served as RN Captains and they take the reader through the career of Capt Conley from conventional open cycle diesel electric submarines to his transition to the true submarine in the form of the nuclear powered vessel that is able to remain submerged for very long periods. This is a very important book because it discloses information not previously in the public domain, charting the use of nuclear submarines through the Cold War. This is a gripping story, told well and evocatively. It takes the reader into the heart of one of the most potent weapons systems ever built and provides an exciting feeling of being there with the crews.
The RAF was created in 1918 to provide a strategic deterrent. Through to the early 1950s, that was an incomplete deterrent because it was based on conventional bombs. During WWII, aerial bombardment became unbearable as the round-the-clock operations by British and US bombers against German urban areas was able to create terrible fire storms and massive destruction, but at high risk to the bomber crews who could not operate when the weather closed in. That all changed when the first nuclear weapons were dropped on the Japanese Home Islands. Initially, the RAF did not have access to atom bombs but a rapid development program was to provide Britain with its own atom and hydrogen bombs, and the V-bombers that could deliver them to targets in Russia. Manned aircraft were then augmented with stand-off nuclear weapons that improved the probability of penetrating heavily defended targets and, for at least some bombers, to attempt a return to hopefully some surviving airfields. It appeared to provided a complete justification for maintaining an independent RAF as the primary British military aviation force and to continue the inter-Service battles where the RAF tried to become the only British military aviation service.
While conventional mass bombing developed during WWII, to the point were it held some strategic capability, submarines were still only submersibles that spent as much time on the surface as under it. The major submarine service was the German U-Boat Service that like the British and American bomber services came close to deciding the outcome of the war but never quite closed the loop and suffered appalling losses. Just as the Allies took the next decisive step in the air with the nuclear bomb, the German Navy came close to developing true submarines. The experimental Walter boats used closed cycle engines and the diesel electric boats dramatically increased battery capacity and were able to recharge their batteries at periscope depth by using a snorkel mast to bring air into the boat and evacuate the products of combustion. From 1945, the British, American and Russian navies desperately tried to exploit these German developments to produce effective true submarine forces, but it was to be the nuclear power that made the nuclear weapons devastating that was to provide the close cycle engines that offered virtually unlimited underwater operation of true submarines. Once that was married to ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads, the RAF’s reason for existence disappeared.
During the Cold War the major protagonists depended heavily on contact in the air and at sea. On several occasions, the conflict came close to an exchange of fire. Russian aircraft regularly probed NATO airspace and were met by defence interceptors that turned them back, but provided much information in the process. NATO aircraft operated on SIGINT missions above the Arctic Circle, shadowed by Russian fighters that hoped they might stray inside Russian airspace and provide an excuse to shoot them down. Similar confrontations and shadowing took place underwater as NATO and Russian submarines played a potentially deadly game of cat and mouse
One of the high stakes games was to locate the other side’s nuclear missile submarines on patrol. The moment this proved practical, the deterrent value of submarine-launched missiles would have ended.
The Royal Navy took over responsibility for nuclear deterrence from the RAF and it was a missed opportunity to close down the RAF now that its primary mission was ended. It would have protected the RN from ruthless cuts by successive administrations that sought to confine the RN to convoy escort in the North Atlantic and remove all FAA aircraft and carriers. As is was, some brilliant work by the then Controller for the Navy and a small group of senior officers who smuggled the Invincible Class mini-carriers through under the guise of “anti-submarine cruisers” and prepared to add the amazing Sea Harrier fast jet to their air groups. However that was to prove a temporary triumph with the Coalition Government in 2010 taking decisions to scrap all the Invincible Class carriers and their Sea Harriers. As the RAF was never very interested in maritime patrol or army co-operation, the Coalition was able to get away with scrapping new Nimrod patrol aircraft and all of the RAF Harrier force because the RAF wanted to keep all of its Typhoon fighters.
The one area where the RN has been reasonably secure is in its nuclear submarine fleet of attack and missile submarines. This book tells the story of the submarine force through the Cold War and is a book that should be widely read.