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Progress toward ushering in the era of an atomic-powered U. S. Fleet has been disturbingly slow. It appears that the revolutionary potential of this historic breakthrough in propulsion is not adequately recognized. Although it is generally acknowledged that nuclear power is “preferable” in surface ships, a need exists for more widespread awareness of the truly immense superiority inherent Record books have been filled with incredible feats by nuclear-powered submarines since the commissioning of the USS Nautilus in 1954, but the more cautious program for surface ships requires attention.
It is an accepted fact that cost considerations are a principal impediment to rapid exploitation of nuclear propulsion. Although it is undeniable that the procurement of a given ship will be more costly today if she is powered by a nuclear reactor, the issue is not so simple as to be judged on the initial cost basis alone. In terms of cost effectiveness, the comparison of a nuclear and a conventional ship is exceedingly complex. Many elusive factors bear strongly on the diagnosis, especially in the domain of military performance where elements are difficult to isolate and quantify.
A significant element of cost that has been essentially ignored when making comparisons is the black oil sustenance for conventional ships. In pricing nuclear ships, the cost of cores for the reactors is invariably included, but no comparable expense is charged against oil-fired ships for the equivalent seven-year, or more, fuel supply. Not only must the basic cost of fuel be recognized, but also the multiple ramifications of procuring, storing, transporting, and delivering the substance must be considered. One fleet tanker presently costs approximately 20 million dollars, and to that must be added the operating cost in manpower, support facilities, and direct funds. Not to be overlooked is the eternal escort requirement for the black oil queens in wartime. The sinking of either tankers or escorts represents a serious financial blow as well as a potentially disastrous military loss.
The cleanliness of a nuclear-powered ship is an impressive feature which may seem scantily related to cost, but it actually represents an attractive opportunity for savings. The conventional ship periodically showers herself with stack gases and soot, which in combination with moisture becomes a highly corrosive mixture that damages paint, fabric mooring lines, topside electronic equipment, and aircraft. A constant and expensive cleaning program can reduce the harmful effects, but it cannot permanently ever eliminate them.
Obsolescence is another point on which cost comparisons are subject to a dramatic reversal. Accelerated world-wide emphasis on nuclear propulsion in the coming decade could toll the early demise of many conventionally powered warships. Removing even a few years from the planned 20-to-30-year life of such ships would radically alter long-term cost calculations. Hence, the cheaper cost of building a conventional ship now may well prove to be no bargain at all.
An analysis of costs also must reflect that, in 1960, the cost of a nuclear-powered ship was considered to be roughly 50 per cent greater than for the same ship with a conventional power plant; but, by 1962, the additional cost was 30 per cent. In 1963 the differential had been reduced to 20 per cent. The office of the Chief of Naval Operations has stated that the prognosis of developments for further reducing this cost ratio is very encouraging.
Impressive strides in technology have doubled the power output of a given size reactor, while at the same time extending its core life from three years to seven or more years. Four reactors can now be installed in an aircraft carrier to provide as much power as the eight that propel the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65). Two may soon be able to replace four. Only one reactor is required to replace the two in the USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25).
A striking example of cost reduction is in nuclear chemistry. A few years ago, zirconium, a primary ingredient in current reactor fuel, was available only in limited quantities and cost about $500 per pound. Today it is produced by the ton in reactor- grade purity for ten dollars per pound.
The day is not far off when nuclear fuel may be cheaper than petroleum. Not only will the downward trend of nuclear cost continue, but oil prices can be expected to rise with increased demand and decreased reserves. The much decried population explosion, graphically illustrated by the fact that one of every 20 persons who ever lived is
reactor will one day be perfected. Its
alive today, testifies to increased consumption. A new source of energy, then, will have to be developed.
Both decreased costs and greatly increased efhciency in nuclear applications are foretold by developments now under study. Whereas oil-fired boiler plants have reached a technological plateau, exciting vistas are newly open- lng for nuclear power. Breakthroughs in shielding, basic nuclear fuels, and controllant techniques are on the horizon.
Uranium hexafluoride offers the possibility
furnishing nuclear fuel in a gaseous form. Successful production of this fuel will reduce reactor replenishment to a mere exchanging °f gas bottles. The use of gas controllants is also being investigated as a replacement for oe complex and lengthy mechanical rods, oscrt ion and withdrawal of control rods, to alternate a nuclear pile from critical to non- oritical, entails a number of engineering prob- ems. By using gas controllants to nullify the excessive length of mechanical rods, a more uniform power profile will be obtained. The consequence of this will be a smaller reactor, ess shielding, and higher power output.
farther in the future, but in sight, are even rncre promising developments. No doubt a lydrogen fuej requirements are provided by le atmosphere in unlimited quantities; comparatively little waste will result, and the re- aetor will be inherently safe. In another vein, le direct conversion of nuclear power to eetricity holds great promise for entirely lrn,nating the weighty and expensive steam cycle in ship propulsion.
Combinations, permutations, and unreamed continuations of these nuclear propulsion developments are in store. They all P°mt to a downward trend in nuclear costs, and to the extinction of fossil-fed power plants.
uis rising curve of advancement cannot be sustained, however, unless more nuclear Power plants are actually installed in ships.
Clentific progress can show the way, but the Proven capacity of American industry must ,lso be harnessed to the task. Mass production as largely accounted for modern affluence, and the principle is doubtlessly applicable to nuclear installations.
An extensive, detailed study by the Navy <:Partment has produced some tangible
figures for an accurate cost comparison. Considering all facets of initial construction, support, and operating costs, a nuclear task force was calculated to represent a 3 per cent greater annual cost than its conventional counterpart. As for combat capability, the study concluded that the nuclear force has an effectiveness ratio of 1.21 to 1 over the conventional force. It results then, that five nuclear elements can replace six non-nuclear ones, at an annual savings of between 200 and 250 million dollars. The apparently fatal weakness of this precept is the requirement for a large initial outlay of funds.
Dynamic forces, then, exist to allay the much expressed fear of nuclear power being “too expensive.” In analyzing over-all costs, careful scrutiny of the many ramifications of atomic propulsion is required. Also, the excellent prospects for significant reductions in future costs must be respected.
In the final analysis, the true measure of cost is not in dollars, but in relative effectiveness. The initial cost gap is closing, and even now military advantage justifies the additional costs of nuclear propulsion.
Under present conditions, mobility of naval forces is ruthlessly dependent on readily available fuel supplies. Even in peacetime, naval strength cannot persist without reliance upon a world-wide fuel distribution system. The unhampered operations of black oil support elements offer us challenge enough, and the complications introduced by wartime conditions multiply the problems. Although fuel is but one of the logistic fetters on a naval commander, it is the most critical one. It is the material most rapidly exhausted, particularly in smaller ships; and, in a conventionally powered Fleet, the lack of it renders all else impotent.
To appreciate the full impact of having a loaded oiler alongside at a pre-planned time and place, one must consider a vast complex of supporting arrangements. In simplified scenario, the elements are: availability of petroleum stocks, storage facilities, tankers, escorts, and finally protection for both oilers and combatants during the compromising circumstances of replenishment.
Even when logisticians have delivered the fuel, capricious weather can bring the well- laid scheme to nought. In the early days of World War II, a carrier force was compelled to transit the submarine-infested North Atlantic unescorted. Sea conditions on that occasion rendered fuel transfer impossible, as demonstrated by damage to ships in the effort; hence the destroyers were forced to turn back.
With the conduct of the conventionally powered Fleet’s every operation utterly contingent on fuel supply, an enemy encounters a grand opportunity to immobilize an entire naval force by concentrated attack on the relatively vulnerable fuel train. If shrewd enough, he need never engage the full military strength of opposing warships. In World War I, the Russians made use of such tactics against Turkey. Deprived of coal supplies during the blockade of Istanbul, the Turkish fleet was immobilized.
The degree of limitation imposed by fuel availability varies with ship types, and likewise the impact of nuclear propulsion will vary. In all warships, the increased endurance at sustained high speed is clearly significant, but destroyer types will enjoy the most remarkable emancipation from fuel support. Not until entire task forces are nuclear- powered, however, can the full potential of logistic freedom be realized. The presence of conventionally powered ships in a nuclear force will dilute, not defeat, the capabilities of the task force.
Logistic problems other than fuel supply will be diminished by nuclear power. Advance base planning is a case in point. To be sure, the use of advance bases will not be obviated, but their selection will be immensely simplified. No longer will the existence or practicable construction of extensive petroleum facilities dictate the choice of a base site. For example, a base in the Azores cannot now support conventional forces without augmented fuel supplies elsewhere, because of limited storage. Advanced support from that base, however, would be adequate for a nuclear-powered task force operating off the Iberian Peninsula. In brief, the ubiquitous consideration of logistics touches on the whole spectrum of naval warfare. Freedom from the fetters of a fuel train is the essence from which most of the military advantage of nuclear power springs.
Mobility has always been the hallmark of naval warfare, dominating both strategy and tactics. The expedients of speed, readiness, dispersion, and flexibility all stem from the basic quality of mobility. By radically decreasing logistic restraints, nuclear power will reinforce the mobility of naval forces in a manner that offers stimulating possibilities for new operating parameters. Historian Anthony E. Sokol has termed it, “ ... an unrivalled opportunity to outmaneuver and outwit our adversaries.”
Of foremost importance is the prospect that strategy and tactics will no longer be dictated by the oiler. That venerable queen has heretofore constituted the de facto “capital ship” of the Fleet, being the one type without which none of the others could operate. But at last naval science is on the threshold of disputing the formula of “mobility equals tanker availability.”
The strategic impact of nuclear propulsion has been most strikingly apparent in leet Ballistic Missile submarines, but that application is not within the purview of this dissertation. In surface ships, magnified capacity to respond quickly to enemy thrusts in widely scattered portions of the globe is a Potent tool for strategic planners. Released rom ties to bases and fuel support, nuclear orcef can proceed on short notice, steam at sustained high speed, and arrive in a state of readiness to deliver any level of force com- ruensurate with the threat.
3 his capability is not new to naval forces, jUt ’ts employment is significantly enhanced. Just as geography influences strategy, the speed and mobility of nuclear-powered wars ips will compress the time and distance uetors with which planners must deal. Unprecedented flexibility will exist for devising e employment of naval forces. Remote areas " ere logistic support is limited or nonexistent provide the most poignant examples. Indian Ocean area and thousands of 1 es °f coastline along the Eurasian conti' nt might be cited. Reaction time could on “Ccasmn spell the difference between a sit> a000” and a “Korea.” Nuclear propul- ■ °n can provide that critical margin, clea ^^"heralded yet notable gain from nu- propulsion is the increased readiness . 1Vlng from greater reliability of engineering iliartS ‘^*mP^er design of turbines and aux- th > ^ machinery has been feasible, since high r nia efficiency is not such a controlling ^actor as it is with oil-fired boilers. Indeed, jsme quality by ultra-conservative design of°r!e vaiues which the premium price
, ,lc nuclear power plant buys, uinerability will be discussed further in a is ■ r sense’ hut the strategic consideration an *ent ^or aircrai’; carriers in particular, sl^ CxaSgerated notion of the vulnerability of . Ps ls Prevalent. In fact, these floating for-
JessSCS 3re ^Ut *mPreSnable to anything Ss than nuclear weapons. Attack aircraft ^arriers reach their zenith as the most flexible °Wn means of projecting power to deter, confine, or subdue limited war. In that en- Vlronrnent, the threat of nuclear attack is not a istic, barring an extreme disruption of the international balance of power. The nibbling ctics of Communism in the protracted conflict have made it clear that this eventuality will occur only as a desperation measure. As Robert Strausz-Hupe has said: “The Communists, in keeping with the traditional strategy of revolutionary movements, will undoubtedly seek to avoid a direct military encounter with an adversary possessing retaliatory power ...”
Tactical considerations might be envisaged as beginning where the commander encounters, or eludes, the enemy. In response to this, the contribution of nuclear propulsion to tactics is essentially in the realm of providing a more versatile and technologically superior weapons system.
The capability of virtually unlimited steaming at high speeds is significant in a number of ways. To mention a few: hostile areas can be transited rapidly; submarine contacts can be avoided; fast retirement from an area of air threat will be facilitated; and the disadvantages of following longer routes to avoid enemy held passages will be minimized. Ocean surveillance by enemy satellites is still another threat that nuclear-powered ships can more readily counter. Unfettered speed will permit capitalizing on darkness and cloud cover for swift, long-distance moves to escape detection.
The ageless element of surprise will be proportionally augmented. Telltale oilers will be eliminated, and high-speed run-in to objective areas will decrease the probability of being detected. Once in action, increased staying power is available to a nuclear- powered element of the Fleet; or the alternative exists for rapid retirement to strike another blow from a distant point. The same operation by a conventional force would entail delays for refueling, less flexibility in courses of action, and extreme vulnerability while on a constrained path alongside oilers. Most importantly, success of the latter’s mission would ultimately depend upon preservation of the oiler.
Survivability in the event of battle damage is also an attribute of excellence in nuclear- powered ships. The absence of smoke stacks allows such ships more effectively to set a gas- tight envelope against bacterial, chemical, or radiological hazards. Even against conventional weapons, the ingress of bomb fragments and smoke through air intakes is prevented. Further, the perennial danger of firefighting water entering the intakes and causing engineering or personnel casualties is eliminated.
Lessened peril from weather factors might also be deemed a survivability asset to nuclear- powered ships. Fuel restriction would not deter circuitous routing for storm evasion; and similarly, there would not exist the danger of encountering low fuel states in sea conditions which might preclude replenishment operations. No longer would aggressiveness need to be tempered by recollections of such events as the tragic loss of three U. S. destroyers in the Philippine Sea in 1944. Low on fuel and unballasted, these ships capsized when a typhoon struck.
Obviating smoke stacks makes it possible to design topside structure to optimum advantage, especially on an aircraft carrier. Stackless construction permits the use of a large, fixed-array antenna which has significantly higher scanning rates, extended detection ranges, and minimized susceptibility to jamming. According to Admiral Arleigh Burke: “It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of the increased combat capabilities this radar will give. It may not be too much to say that this advantage alone is sufficient justification for the nuclear-powered carrier.”
In support of the foregoing electronic feature, a nuclear reactor constitutes an immense power reservoir able to provide electricity, without compromising the fuel supply of a ship. At the same time, the ever-increasing shipboard electrical demands such as those made by sonar, NTDS, communications, catapults, and new weapon systems can be readily accommodated.
Maneuverability is a tactical bonus which has pleased the commanding officers of nuclear-powered ships. The power level in a reactor can be raised at an astonishing rate: from one watt to 1,500,000 kilowatts, for example, in one-tenth of a second. To complement this quality, reliability and maintainability of the simplified steam cycle in nuclear installations have been conclusively proven. In addition to providing virtually instant power demand for rapid acceleration to full speed, sudden power changes can be made at any time. The ship can stop or back quickly, and never must a delay exist for lighting off boilers or graduation of superheat. This caliber of performance is not a laboratory engineer’s prognosis; it has been repeatedly and impressively demonstrated at sea by the Enterprise, Long Beach, and Bainbridge.
In terms of “striking power” a clearly definable margin of superiority for nuclear propulsion is revealed in the capabilities of the Enterprise. After matching the aircraft complement of the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) or the Forrestal-class carriers, the Enterprise can then embark an additional squadron of 12 light jet attack aircraft, or the equivalent in other aircraft types. If the Enterprise embarks a squadron of the new VAL(A-7) aircraft, for example, the additional combat force available is impressive. For a one-day air strike mission, the total fire-power of a single carrier could easily be augmented by 300,000 extra pounds of conventional ordnance. This estimate is based on the fairly conservative figure of only 30 sorties per squadron, and for a maximum effort it could well be exceeded. If considered from the viewpoint of nuclear warfare, the added squadron represents the capacity to target special weapons initially on eight to ten additional sites. The case for a single day has been stated, but for sustained operations the increment of increased striking power multiplies rapidly.
This bonus of offensive might is further enhanced by the premium of increased below-
decks space in the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Not requiring vast tankage for her own fuel supply, she can carry 50 per cent more aircraft fuel and ordnance—clearly a better place for those consumables than in a vulnerable service ship.
Although professional military judgment is no longer revered to the extent that it once was, it is interesting to note that practically the entire hierarchy of present and recently past leadership in the Navy has given unequivocal support to the nuclear-propulsion program. Vice Admiral John T. Hayward,
• S. Navy, extolled the tactical superiority e recognized while commanding the nuclear task group during the Cuban crisis and on t eployment to the Mediterranean Sea. But at 1 le same time he added that he was, “ . . .
eeply disturbed that we are not exploiting to VAT fU^est t'le technological advantage ...”
. lt: i eclual enthusiasm, former Secretary of the Navy Fred T. Korth gave a ringing en- c orsement to nuclear propulsion, and indicated in his parting words that “ . . . our country cannot afford to be without it.” In re erring to nuclear-powered destroyers in antisubmarine tactics, Vice Admiral John S.
ach, U. S. Navy, evaluated their potential as *en times” that of conventional ships.
he combat advantages of nuclear ships mentioned herein do not pretend to exhaust t e realm of possibilities. Indeed, the unique potential of nuclear power at sea proclaims t e opening of new strategic and tactical dimensions as experience develops. Previous technological innovations have frequently Jecn accompanied by unexpected by-products. For instance, catapults were introduced only to accommodate a few more airplanes on a crowded flight deck. Their usage, however, fed to the capability of operating new aircraft of size, weight, and performance previously undreamed of. Such ancillary features likewise ensued after development of the angled deck and optical landing aids for aircraft carriers.
Tactics have traditionally lagged behind innovations, and it can reasonably be anticipated that important new concepts will follow a development so revolutionary as nuclear Propulsion.
appeal for nuclear propulsion. Icebreakers, with operations jeopardized by a threat of fuel exhaustion, are a cogent example. The fear of being trapped in ice decreases the length of seasons for polar expeditions, and often dictates abandoning a scientific effort. Since the Arctic constitutes a vulnerable flank to North America, and the natural resource potential of the Antarctic has attracted world interest, the potential of nuclear propulsion has strategic application in this area.
In the broad sense of sea power, the subject of merchant shipping clearly falls into the category of strategic considerations, but its special nature merits separate treatment. The peacetime U. S. Merchant Marine seems always to be the neglected child of American defense planners. Lip service is paid to the
The world’s first nuclear-powered merchant ship, NS Savannah, launched in July 1959, gave the United States a technological headstart which, unhappily, it seems to be frittering away.
Ships which must operate in remote areas for extended periods present a particular
essential nature of the merchant fleet in mobilization requirements, but the U. S. position in world shipping continues its downhill skid. Less than ten per cent of our ocean commerce today is carried in U. S.-flag ships, and more than 90 per cent of those ships are 15 years old or older.
When Rear Admiral Alfred T. Mahan stated that, “ ... it is the wish of every nation that this shipping business be done in its own vessels,” our nation was at one of the cyclic low ebbs in Merchant Marine status. We have been doomed to repeat this lapse of merchant ship capacity after every major war, despite near catastrophe for that cause as recently as World War II. Unfortunately, the need for national self-sufficiency in ocean transport becomes obvious only in time of emergency.
Reliance on foreign shipping in any case is patently undesirable, but when the challenger for maritime hegemony is the acknowledged enemy, the prospects become frightening. The Soviet Union has openly launched a concerted drive for a high place in world shipping, and has enjoyed enviable success. Not only are her ships newer, but the continued rate of growth is sustained, while our fleet shrinks.*
The moribund posture of American merchant shipping can be explained by an essentially simple phenomenon—cost. In essence this phenomenon has two principal components—initial cost and operating cost. A large merchantman can be built in a foreign yard for about 60 per cent of the cost in the United States; U. S. labor costs for a ship’s crew exceed those of foreign competitors by $350,000 to $400,000 per year. The coldly factual nature of this situation has been a source of despair in all efforts to rejuvenate the U. S. merchant fleet. Competitive shipbuilding seems impossible, and the labor problem is apparently not susceptible to solution. It remains then to break the horns of the dilemma by seeking a solution through other means.
The problem has been recognized and the challenge is clear, but there is a dearth of suggestions for a solution. Nuclear power may well provide the long sought approach by which America can excel in the maritime
* See Frank A. Ncmec, “The Soviet Maritime Establishment,” U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, December 1964, p. 26.
A graduate of Auburn University in 1952, Lieutenant Commander Hayes served in the USS John R. Craig (DD- 885) from May until December of 1952. He underwent flight training from January
1953 to April 1954 and served in Fighter Squadron 143 from
1954 to 1957. He was a flight instructor at NAS, Pensacola
from December 1957 to June 1960. He then attended the U. S. Naval Postgraduate School until June 1961. He was on the Staff of Carrier Air Group One from July 1961 until July 1963, and attended the Naval War College from August 1963 until June 1964. He is now assigned to Light Photo Squadron 62, NAS, Cecil Field, Florida.
rivalry. At present we have a technological lead upon which to capitalize, but little advantage is being taken. Indeed, the NS Savannah was the world’s first nuclear-powered merchant ship, and was constructed to prove the feasibility of applying atomic power to commercial shipping. Although it was never contemplated that she would be competitive either in building or in operating costs, experience gained from that vessel was expected to aid in closing the economic gap. Non-engineering problems, primarily in the field of labor, have hamstrung the Savannah, however. She has only recently realized her heritage from the original Savannah, which opened the era of oceangoing steamships with her voyage across the Atlantic in 1819.
Although the feasibility of atomic power for merchantmen is no longer questioned, the problem remains to prove profitability. One U. S. Atomic Energy Commission study on the subject concluded that, “. . . the major question facing us is not if nuclear power will be used in the maritime field; but when, where, and how it will have a competitive advantage over conventional power.” The Maritime Administration was optimistic concerning the competitiveness of nuclear merchant ships in the 1965-1970 period, but current progress does not support that hope.
Because of high capital outlay, profit from nuclear transportation must be based on a long-term consideration. Initial costs will decrease, as discussed previously, but in order to make a start, the nuclear program must be
sold” to ship operators. Mental inertia is a factor here, and again the historical precedents for propulsion innovations apply. In dollars per cargo-ton transported, the sailing vessel undoubtedly is the cheapest form of ■water transport ever devised. True in itself, that statement, of course, ignores speed, range, capacity, and timing. As surely as steam displaced sails, ocean transportation will in the uture benefit by progressing from oil to nuclear propulsion.
Superliners such as the SS United States and e Queen Mary are a particularly attractive Potential for nuclear application. Running continuously at high speeds, this type of ship consumes enormous quantities of fuel and consequently is limited to relatively short pUns such as the one from New York to ngland. With nuclear propulsion these ships could go anywhere, carry more cargo, and Provide greater competition to air travel.
eneral cargo ships are another candidate or nuclear propulsion. These ships must be ly competitive; thus they encounter the requirement to follow diligently planned 1 meraries allowing them to avoid high fuel- cost ports. Freedom from oil would provide ern with an unprecedented flexibility for world.wide operations.
he higher sustained speed capability of a ^ ear-powered cargo carrier readily suggests a greater profit return. For example, consider a tanker of 60,000 deadweight tons p|a inS runs between New York and the Slan Gulf. Its conventionally powered competitor would give up approximately six Per cent of its payload to make room for its luel. Consequently, during a year’s nd-trip runs the nuclear-powered tanker °uld earn a sizable differential, j (her aspects of atomic power merit at s a mention. Faster ships mean a require- of 1 °r fewer ships, and the great reservoir t-he^°Wer *n a reactor would also allow for increased automation of cargo handling, uclear power for commercial ocean trans- has the potential for broad impact on e United States’ future economy. Advances, as have been mentioned, are basically e capability of higher cargo-to-fuel ratios, greater speeds, and extended flexibility of °Perations. Block obsolescence of the existing merchant fleet and the growing maritime
challenge by the Communists make rebuilding of the U. S. Merchant Marine a strategic necessity. There is an outstanding opportunity to gain a technological lead by incorporating nuclear propulsion, in the merchant fleet. And the immense shipping subsidies presently paid by the United States might well be diverted to the initial sponsoring of nuclear power for merchant ships.
It is well to review Admiral Mahan’s appraisal of merchant fleets in his succinct definition of sea power:
... sea power in the broad sense . . . includes not only the military strength afloat, that rules the sea or any part of it by force of arms, but also the peaceful commerce and shipping from which alone a military fleet naturally and healthfully springs, and on which it securely rests.
The broad impact and wide application of nuclear propulsion on sea power, then, leaves no doubt whatever as to its transcendent importance.
Cost considerations no longer constitute a valid objection to nuclear-powered warships, for their superior cost-effectiveness will withstand any test.
The cost of modern warships is huge, and as a consequence the Navy may progressively be forced to operate with lesser numbers. If this proves true, the adjustment to meeting world-wide commitments with a smaller fleet will be enormously facilitated by nuclear power.
From a purely military view, nuclear power fortifies the essential concepts of offensive naval strategy by fulfilling the demand for maximization of mobility. It capitalizes on the premium of quick reaction time for strategic readiness, and it expands on tactical supremacy for defeat of an enemy. Its combat advantages are indisputable.
The opportunity to restore vitality to the U. S. Merchant Marine by an injection of fission is too momentous to be forfeited. Neglect in this area will surely see other countries take the lead, placing the United States in its familiar position of coming from behind, at tremendous cost. And certainly not of minor importance is the prestige of being first in this field, as befits the stature of a great maritime nation.
Shortsightedness must give way to the view that ships are built for the future, and fossil-fired boilers will not compete in that future. Admiral Mahan stated in 1890 that “ . . . a peaceful, gain-loving nation is not farsighted, and farsightedness is needed for adequate military preparation ...” It was true then, and is no less true now. America is at the crossroads of a preparedness decision, and failure to choose the right path could place sea power in a precarious position.
As a first step in marshalling support for nuclear propulsion, the Navy must consolidate its ranks in stating a clear-cut position on the subject. Apologies for the high cost of reactor power should be dropped and replaced by a firm contention that nuclear power is in fact the less expensive way to insure freedom of the seas.
A forceful and persuasive statement concerning the superiority of nuclear-powered ships should be brought to the attention of all officers; this should be done not only to disseminate the facts, but also to make known the views of naval leadership.
To capitalize on the technological gains which have already been made and to prevent dissipation of the industrial and scientific talent that has been assembled, more nuclear- powered surface ships must be constructed. The Navy should pursue relentlessly a program to include nuclear propulsion in all major warships. Moreover, the Navy should lend solid support and encouragement to all efforts by the Coast Guard and Maritime Administration which are aimed at progress in nuclear propulsion. These efforts will advance the state of the art, augment further reduction in reactor costs, and strengthen sea power generally.
The military potential of nuclear-powered ships should continue to be demonstrated aggressively by employing existing nuclear- powered forces in a manner which will illustrate their unique potential. The recently concluded voyage of Task Force One— Enterprise, Long Beach, and Bainbridge—was a lusty offspring of the wedding of diplomacy and deterrent. Such dynamic exploits should be publicized widely, with a minimum of cloaking for security reasons.
Discussion has centered on the momentous prospects for nuclear propulsion, but only as the means to an end. Justification for this innovation is the fundamental necessity for America’s pre-eminence in sea power. Lest sea power be doubted as the sine qua non of national strategy, Sir Walter Raleigh’s immortal dictum is commended for reflection:
Whoever commands the sea commands the trade.
Whoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world,
And consequently the world itself.