|MadSci Network: Engineering|
Being a Naval officer myself I can tell you that this kind of question can easily be the start of disagreements, long discussions and numerous “sea stories” amongst sailors. So a few facts first. 1.We have different classes of naval vessels for different tasks. Most are able to do more than one task but usually at a reduced capability in either quality or quantity. 2. No country has any better way of moving the sheer enormous amount of cargo, military or civilian, that a surface ship provides. You can move much smaller amounts more quickly with aircraft but there is still a big difference. Submarines do not load, unload, or move large amounts of anything very well at all. 3. Naval vessels do not usually act alone but as part of a larger formation. A carrier is the center of the largest of these formations, the carrier air group. This is a three dimensional structure made of the carrier, it’s picket or patrol ships, aircraft, and submarines. It may have a radius of 300miles or more. 4. Submarines are the primary exception to the above. They can and do patrol alone. They cannot however deliver huge volumes of personnel or material. They can effectively deliver smart ordnance in such forms as cruise missiles but short of nuclear weapons do not have the volume of fire power available to larger surface ships. 5. If it has to surface to carry out the mission then the submarine becomes a surface ship itself at that point as well. 6. No naval vessel is cheap but submarines are very expensive. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions but I will offer my opinion. As much as I enjoyed submarines there will be a need for naval surface ships both for coastal and blue water purposes for some time to come. Articles like the one on page 56 of the March 2006 issue of “Popular Science” about the deployment of remotely controlled aircraft from submarines might appear at first glance to take us closer to what your question implies but for the reasons listed above I suspect will expand the capability of submarines but not eliminate the need for surface ships. And last but not least let’s hope a time will come not too far from now where we can find better and more peaceful things altogether to do with these amazing machines and the people who operate them.
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