The number of submarines in the world's navies shrank by nearly half during the 1990s and has continued to decline at a reduced rate. Yet even the existing numbers are often overstated in speeches and articles advocating various programs and systems. Bean counting, or order-of-battle, is a respectable, necessary, and yet often misused function for determining the relative strengths of military forces. A mere listing of unit numbers cannot provide the full measure of a country's overall military capabilities or of the technical capabilities, material condition, or state of operational training of its forces. In discussions of naval forces, fleet strength is nonetheless all too often used as a valid measure of total fleet capability by senior officers, politicians, and defense analysts who should know better.
Counting Sails: The Submarine Census
By A. D. Baker II