FOR OPEN PUBLICATION
8 APR 1966
DIRECTORATE FOR SECURITY REVIEW (OASD-PA)
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
ADVANTAGES OF NUCLEAR POWER AND ITS
UTILIZATION IN A COMBAT ENVIRONMENT
by Rear Admiral. Henry L. Miller,
U.S. Navy, Commander Carrier Division Three
Since the advent of mechanical propulsion, ships have been freed from the uncertainty of dependence on the wind for motive power, but this advantage has been significantly reduced by the constant requirement for fuel whether it be coal or oil. Today, this inhibiting characteristic has been eliminated by the development of nuclear power.
The advantages of nuclear propulsion for surface ships do not appear dramatic nor spectacular when compared to nuclear powered submarines, for nuclear power gave us the true submersible for the first time in history — a truly dramatic breakthrough in the state of the art. However, once the lines are cast off from dockside and the nuclear powered ship starts to move, the commander realizes immediately that the unlimited, sustained power in the hull of that ship can give us or any other power that develops it, a dynamic revolution in Naval Warfare. It allows a commander to devote his attention and plans, toward effectively executing whatever task he has been assigned, without having to worry every step of the way about his logistic support of black oil.
As you recall, during World War II, we developed replenishment and refueling at sea to a high art. Such achievements greatly reduced our dependence on shore bases, allowed us to keep our combat ships at sea longer, and thus increased our combat effectiveness. Still, the times that fuel oil or the lack of it played a vital role in the success or failure of battles of World War II is astounding. Historians credit the inability to provide adequate fuel oil as being one of the most significant items leading to the downfall of Japan.
Today, nuclear powered task groups, without the constant periodic black oil replenishment, can add to cur combat effective- ness by totally eliminating the black oil need. Nuclear power has and will continue to have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness and capability of the Fleet as a whole.
The ultimate product of nuclear power when equated to a surface warship could probably best be summed up as "a vastly increased response." Whether it be providing greater versatility, flexibility, mobility, reliability or any of the dozens of highly desirable features of a man-of-war, the nuclear propelled man-of-war responds the best. In short, it can do just about everything better, easier, and faster than her conventional brethren. As such, nuclear power becomes of vital significance in the execution of national policy and the application of naval power.
During the past several months, we have had occasion to observe, in combat, the first nuclear task group, including the aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE, CVAN-65, and the frigate USS BAINBRIDGE, DLGN-25, A broad reference has just been made to the influence nuclear power could have on the waging of war. I would now like to draw attention to several advantages of the superiority of the all nuclear powered task group. Then I want to give several specific examples that have been experienced during these past several months of combat and that point up and support the advantages I will now enumerate:
1. Increased tactical flexibility as a result of unlimited endurance at high speed. This permits:
a. Greater use of evasive tracks when approaching the objective area thereby reducing the probability of detection.
b. Longer routes to avoid storms.
c. Capability to operate in bad weather is improved by the elimination of the hazardous and, sometimes, infeasible refueling requirement under these circumstances.
d. The high speed endurance extends the ability to attack along a greater perimeter of coastline.
e. The ability to maintain high sustained speed reduces the vulnerability to submarine and guided-missile attack. High speed is one of the most important measures to employ against submarines and guided-missiles.
2. Reduction of replenishment frequency with a greatly reduced dependence upon all forms of mobile logistic support (not only fuel) — as a result of increased storage space formerly required for fuel oil. ENTERPRISE took on aviation fuel and ammunition about once every few days.
3. Air intakes for boiler operations are eliminated thereby greatly improving the capability to seal the ship against atomic, biological and chemical attack — a quantum jump in ability to survive.
4. Elimination of the undesirable stack gases and smoke which not only make it difficult for the pilots sitting in their planes prior to take-off or during approaches to a landing but also adds considerably to the Navy's maintenance bill due to the corrosive effects of the stack gases on communication and radar antennas and on aircraft.
5. The concern for loss of fuel oil facilities is eliminated. This includes the loss of facilities at the source (in any foreign country) by political action. It also includes the loss of prepositioned fuel depots to the enemy or the loss of the replenishment oilers enroute to refueling rendezvous as a result of enemy action.
6. There is the ability, under severe threat situations, to operate from distant bases completely free from mobile logistic dependency, with the capability of high speed return to such bases for replenishment of aviation fuel and. ammunition.
7. Increased maneuverability resulting from much more rapid acceleration and deceleration.
8. High standards of technical training set in the nuclear propulsion program.
9. A cleaner ship internally and externally saving hundreds of thousands of hours a year in cleaning ship and aircraft.
10. And finally — ships in the 1967 and 68 programs will be with us until the turn of the century. We are buying time if we build nuclear powered ships. We are buying reduced effectiveness if we purchase oil burning warships.
Most of the above comments apply to any nuclear combat ship;, be it carrier, destroyer, or cruiser. I would like to emphasize a few pertinent points, however, with respect to the DLGN BAINBRIDGE.
Several specific examples of her performance on this deployment will be mentioned later. She, of course, derives all the same benefits from nuclear power that the carriers do with the exception of those affecting air operations. But some are particularly applicable to her specialities air defense and anti-submarine warfare.
A. With a nuclear ship, the screen commander has one always ready as a submarine search and attack unit. There is no need to worry about which ship is ready or how long the unit may be away from the screen. Nor is there a need to relieve her with a freshly refueled ship.
B. Independence from an external fuel source enables her to provide uninterrupted screening of aircraft carriers or ether large ships. This is especially applicable during replenishment operations while the force is at a vulnerable slow speed and steady course.
C. There is no need for the carrier to interrupt air operations to refuel her nuclear powered escort because the escort is freed from worries over fuel.
D. She can more readily follow speed changes of the carrier, e.g., faster acceleration and deceleration.
E. And finally, as a picket she can remain on station without oiler need, or destroyer relief in order to retire to refuel. Now, for some examples of how some of these advantages of nuclear propulsion have affected our operations on the current deployment.
First, let me speak of the transit of ENTERPRISE and BAINBRIDGE from Norfolk, Virginia to Subic Bay in the Philippine Islands, a concrete example of not only flexibility but conservation of resources as well.
We were directed to maintain a speed of advance (SOA) of some- thing in excess of 20 knots the entire 16,000 mile trip. This was accomplished with ease; with absolutely no strain. While doing this, flight operations were conducted for a total of nine days and three nights. In addition, a 13 hour search was made in an area of the South Atlantic Ocean as a result of a man falling overboard. Regardless of this high SOA and resultant delays, the entire transit proved to be a routine event with arrival in. WestPac exactly as scheduled and yet with sufficient jet fuel remaining to conduct days of heavy combat operations. The most obvious and immediate gain was the fact that ENTERPRISE commenced combat operations shortly after arrival with an Air Wing in a comparatively high state of readiness. This was demonstrated by the fact that on only her second day of operations, she set a new daily record for combat sorties by any CVA performing in-country support.
In contrast to the ENTERPRISE transit, had any other oil burning CVA such as Forrestal Class attempted to accomplish the same transit in the same time span and conduct similar operations, it would have consumed some several million gallons of fuel enroute. This would have necessitated propositioning oilers along the track in order to prevent the oil burning CVA from running out of fuel. The inconvenience and added expense of maintaining the oilers are, of course, obvious. A conventional frigate the size of BAINBRIDGE would have had to refuel several times along the track at the high sustained speed made by ENTERPRISE and BAINBRIDGE.
This same situation would exist in a tactical environment as well. If for example, FORRESTAL and ENTERPRISE were ordered from the South China Sea to another area at flank speed, to forestall or counter another outbreak of Communist aggression, FORRESTAL, in order to carry out the speed required, would possibly (depending on how far) require refueling before departure and perhaps require it soon after arrival. This would generate a requirement for an oiler to be scheduled to fuel FORRESTAL soon after arrival. If an oiler were not available for this purpose, FORRESTAL would proceed to station at a much slower speed than desired in order to conserve fuel, and upon arrival limit her operations — also to conserve fuel — until an oiler could be positioned.
ENTERPRISE, however, and with BAINBRIDGE as an escort ship, could respond instantly, arriving ready to meet the task without need for fuel and remain on station within the limits of her expenditure of aviation fuel and ordnance. This is much greater than FORRESTAL, as a result of the increased storage space for these items usually required for fuel oil storage, air intakes for boilers, and the huge smoke stacks.
Thus, in comparing the responsiveness and staying power of these two mighty ships, ENTERPRISE would be able to arrive sooner, stay longer, and deliver many more combat sorties than FORRESTAL — this increased effective- ness stemming primarily from the fact that she has nuclear rather than conventional propulsion.
To document this in even more detail, I would like to mention the following:
First is the fact that ENTERPRISE carries one more squadron—an A4C [A-4C] squadron at the present—than any of the other big CVAs. Although ENTERPRISE is slightly larger than FORRESTAL, for example, one of the primary space savers comes as a result of elimination of smoke stacks, air intakes and the many other items normally running up through the ship to provide for the proper functioning of conventional boilers. A quick glance at a side view diagram of ENTERPRISE and any other CVA points up the smaller island structure of ENTERPRISE with a resultant increase in available aircraft parking space. This same condition exists down through the lower decks as well. The end product is more shop space, living space, storerooms, etc., and on the hangar deck, again more aircraft parking and maintenance space.
Commenting further on the storage space, we have now found, even with the high intensity of flight ops, that a longer refueling cycle is completely acceptable with respect to aviation fuel. The only factor affecting this cycle is the pumping rate of the tanker ENTERPRISE refuels from. The advantages to be gained from this longer period between replenishments vs the shorter period include such important items as:
A. Lesser period of higher vulnerability from air, surface, or submarine attacks.
B. Greater periods of time to be performing combat operations.
C. Greater periods of time can be spent at remote distances from the UNREP "lifeline."
D. More crew rest in what is already a greatly overworked environment.
These, and many others have often been enumerated before in discussion of nuclear power but they have been particularly notable during the operating period since 2 December 1965 when ENTERPRISE went on the firing line in the South China Seas.
(Paragraph deleted by the Department of Defense)
A similar situation exists with regard to conventional ordnance stowage, the second item of primary significance in evaluating ENTERPRISE's combat staying power. If, under normal circumstances, a reasonable on-board reserve is maintained, this, with the previously mentioned greater jet fuel, provides a potent and previously unattainable sustained operational capability. And going still further, ENTERPRISE could be sent with full jet fuel and ammunition loads to any ocean area of the world and fight for many days before running out of fuel and ammunition.
We had several specific examples of rapid reaction during the first few days of our combat operations. The first occurred as we were proceeding from Subic Bay to our station off the southeast coast of South Vietnam. We received word of a submarine sighting by an underway replenishment (UNREP) ship some 145 miles from our position. The UNREP ship was without ASW protection so we were directed to detach a ship to provide assistance. BAINBRIDGE was without question, the obvious and, in fact only choice. Within less than 5 hours she had transited the 145 mile distance and was actively performing ASW search in the suspect area. Most probably our earliest concern with BAINBRIDGE would have been several days later when we may have had to send an ammunition ship to replenish ordnance if she had had any extensive ASW engagements. If the ordnance usage were relatively light, our next concern may have been weeks hence when we decided to send along some fresh vegetables.
In contrast, the two conventionally powered destroyers also accompanying us required nearly five hours time to close ENTERPRISE, top off with black oil and then depart to the submarine contact area. By the time they arrived, some 10 to 20 hours had elapsed. Then, of course, the immediate and necessary problem of keeping them in fuel oil began. Regardless of the amount of combat operations they engaged in, an oiler UNREP ship would have been a twice a week necessity. Again, the inconvenience and added expense is obvious.
Some five days later this situation repeated itself when an additional destroyer was required to be moved rapidly from our Task Group north to the Tonkin Gulf area, a distance of about 500 miles. Again, BAINBRIDGE was the logical choice. Twenty hours after she was directed to detach, she arrived on station fully prepared to execute all missions assigned. Not so a conventional destroyer. The average oil burner would probably have required refueling soon after arrival in the Gulf area. Continued frequent refueling would, of course, then have continued as the norm.
ENTERPRISE too was involved in a similar incident shortly after arriving on the line, late one evening, while operating southeast of Saigon, a message was received to the effect that the Cam Ranh Bay airfield was generally unserviceable because of heavy rains. ENTERPRISE's bird farm of about 100 planes was required early the following morning in the Second Corps Northerly area of South Vietnam. Response was instantaneous and because of her capability for sustained high speed, ENTERPRISE was launching support, opera- tions in this northern area in less than 9 hours after the initial alerting message. Conventional ships can, of course, take similar actions. However, they would require redisposition of replenishment ships to supply fuel. The nuclear ships can immediately respond to a request of this type, operate for some days, and then return to their normal stations without affecting replenishment force schedules and positions.
Increased maneuverability was mentioned earlier as a much desired advantage of nuclear power. The examples of this are a daily, in fact more properly, an hourly occurrence. The maneuver- ability, combined with tremendous acceleration and deceleration characteristics, provide the carrier skipper with a truly amazing response — it is an instantaneous response. Getting underway, turning into the wind for launch and recovery, approaches to replenishment ships and general ease of shiphandling are constantly recurring examples of this. And of course, in the ever-present environment of possible enemy offensive surface craft and surface- to-surface missiles, this rapid response could very easily mean the difference between survival and disaster. In routine evolutions, ENTERPRISE has consistently left the destroyers — commonly referred to as the Greyhounds of the seas — in her wake. One conventionally powered DD skipper said he drops behind station some 1,500 yards in, for what is to the Big "E", a routine acceleration from 15 to 25 knots. In a man overboard maneuver if "E" is 12 knots or lower, she stops immediately and goes to full speed astern. This cannot be done in a conventionally powered ship.
This capability for sustained speed and outstanding maneuver- ability provides another especially attractive feature in the South China Sea. Because of underwater geographical conditions, the submarine in this area is essentially required to remain near the ocean surface. ENTERPRISE considerably enhances her own safety by avoiding the submarines with the use of her speed.
An advantage also mentioned earlier was elimination of stack gases and smoke. The point was made of the reduction or elimination of these corrosive effects on the aircraft and the ship, and on ship's components so that many thousands of manhours were saved each year in the process by a vast reduction in cleaning require- ments. Today under our present tempo of operations, this saving in manpower is probably one of the most important items that can be realized. When 16 to 20 hour days are the routine, the ability to make available, additional manpower, even if only to permit the crew to get an additional hour or so of much needed sleep, is of special significance in the ship's overall performance.
An excellent example of corrosion control is available in one of the F4B [F-4B] squadrons presently on board. A year ago, this squadron with essentially the same aircraft were deployed on the USS RANGER, a conventionally powered ship. Any man who was a plane captain on that cruise will attest to the long hours he devoted to sweeping stack gas residue from his airplane in an attempt to maintain seme semblance of cleanliness. The problem of corrosion control became so acute that corrosion-control teams on the F4B had to be increased from four to six men working 12 hours a day plus augmentation with an additional four to six men on non-operating days just to curtail the spread of corrosion. And still within three months after deployment the airplane out of commission time because of the necessity to repair and replace access covers, stabilators and all open seams on the F4B approached the point of being unacceptable. A post deployment inspection revealed that some of the aircraft had reached such an advanced stage of corrosion damage that a major effort had to be expended in this area of repair.
Conversely, in the first three months aboard ENTERPRISE, the F4B [F-4B] corrosion control teams have been maintained at a level of five men. They have noted a marked difference in the corrosion control effort required aboard ENTERPRISE as compared with other carriers. To date none of the covers or doors mentioned previously have had to be replaced. The aircraft are immeasurably easier to keep clean, freeing the plane captain for other important duties, Records indicate that a 15% to 20% reduction in manhours required for corrosion control has been realised during this deployment on ENTERPRISE.
Similarly the Commanding Officer of BAINBRIDGE has completed a survey of his ship which indicates a savings of 440 manhours per week as a result of having no oil burning residue to contend with. This time is, of course, well spent in preventive maintenance and training rather than in cleaning the ship.
One minor but interesting side note that helo pilots have brought to the attention of the Commanding Officer of BAINBRIDGE was the lack of stack gases when inflight refueling. Any aviator who has ever operated off a conventionally powered carrier can attest to the discomfort of random stack gases blowing over the flight deck. To a helo pilot, required to sit directly in the gas for upwards of 10 minutes when refueling, the advantages from BAINBRIDGE's unique situation could be quite helpful.
Another advantage gained directly from the nuclear plant is increased electrical power. The demands for this power are many and varied and increasing almost daily with the introduction of better radars, sonars and missile systems. This electrical power is of course generated by steam power, and is made available through the ship's propulsion plant. It follows that the greater the requirement for electrical power, the greater the fuel consumption and thus a consequent reduction in fuel available for propulsion. For nuclear powered ships this is not a consideration.
One additional word on catapults. As you know, all our carriers now use steam pressure for the firing of catapults. And, of course, as just mentioned, this steam must come from the ship's engineering plant. We found last year in the South China Sea in RANGER during conditions of low wind and high temperatures requiring the ship,to steam at very high speeds during launchings that the rate of buildup of steam in the catapults could become critical. Delays of ten to twenty seconds between launches on the heavy aircraft was not uncommon while waiting for adequate steam pressure to build up. Although this seems minor, when the requirement exists for large launches or for rapid response to a threat to the force, this time can be significant. This slow buildup has not been the case with ENTERPRISE. Regardless of the conditions, steam is available now and in the quantities desired.
These last several paragraphs have cited just a few examples of the many advantages we have already experienced during this "combat cruise." They are realistic and typical. They are the type of items that will continue to occur in increasing frequency as the full operational capability of nuclear power is investigated, exploited and documented.
And now let us examine another facet of nuclear power that takes on considerable importance when the topic of providing for additional nuclear propelled warships is discussed. This facet is cost effectiveness.
By 1963, nuclear propulsion technology had progressed to the point where we were technically capable of constructing a carrier of the same size and operating characteristics as ENTERPRISE but with only four reactors producing the same shaft power as ENTERPRISE'S eight. These reactor cores had about a 7 year life as opposed to the approximately 3 year life of ENTERPRISE'S cores. Since that time, the state of the art has taken another quantum jump and we can now produce a two reactor plant that can drive a ship the size of ENTERPRISE and will require refueling only once in the life of the ship.
A study was made on the total cost of constructing and operating a two reactor nuclear carrier over its lifetime, with its aircraft. The nuclear carrier was compared to the conventional carrier's total cost under the same conditions. The total cost for the nuclear powered carrier came to 2% more than the conventional. With nuclear powered escorts, the all-nuclear task group was calculated to be about 6% more expensive than the conventional carrier group, depending on the specific assumptions for force composition and costs.
(Three paragraphs deleted by the Department of Defense)
The successful operations of ENTERPRISE, BAINBRIDGE, and LONG BEACH have demonstrated the military advantages of nuclear powered surface ships, and have confirmed our ability to build effective and reliable ships of this type. Reactor core improvements in the past 10 to 11 years, as validated by the nuclear submarine program, have increased the life of nuclear cores by a factor of over 3 and at the same time have decreased the cost by a factor of 3 or more, so that today the actual cost per unit of energy is only one tenth what it was 10 years ago, and there is every possibility that we will be able to make further improvements in the unit cost of nuclear energy in the future.
Two final points that have implications far beyond the immediate situation with ENTERPRISE and BAINBRIDGE. First, we have seen an almost complete revolution in undersea warfare with the advent of the nuclear submarine. And all within the last decade. The concept of what arc virtually self-sustained boats in our submarine fleet, combined with the deadly Polaris missile is one of the greatest single military advantages that the United States possesses over any other nation in the world today. We know, however, that the USSR has succeeded in producing nuclear powered submarines and I assume they are progressing rapidly with a submarine compatible missile similar to Polaris. In other words the power advantage in this one vital area is lessening. We have, however, the most powerful surface Navy in the world today. We can retain our current overall naval superiority — and in fact increase it — by a conversion to nuclear powered warships. Nuclear power is such, a significant advance in the state of the art in Naval Warfare that the nation with the first nuclear navy will become the world's leading naval power.
My second point is the significance that the nuclear power program can have on our national industrial potential. Nuclear plants for civilian use are a natural follow-on to nuclear power in naval ships. This advancement in technology, and in fact, creation of a new industry will be a requirement for our future domestic needs. The Atomic Energy Commission has stated as early as 1962 that in 10 years 20% of our new power plants will be nuclear powered. This will continue to spread well beyond the borders of the United States. Every nation will be looking for a nuclear power plant and other products of nuclear power, and will naturally turn to the nation with the best product. A nuclear power industry with a sound base in research, development and production will provide vast benefits to that nation, far beyond all expectations. We have competition. Great Britain, France, Russia, and Germany at this very moment, all are engaged in building nuclear power industries of some kind. France is concentrating her nuclear power in building submarines. Germany on the other hand is pointing her R&D in nuclear power to merchant ships. Great Britain and Russia are interested primarily in putting nuclear power into their navies. The United States, however, has one dramatic and successful advantage — a full decade of experience with at least a partial nuclear Navy and one Merchant Marine ship. This is an advantage we cannot — we must not lose. The freedom and economic well being of our Nation is at stake.
In summary, the evolution of the Navy to a progressive program of nuclear power can revolutionize our naval establishment and naval warfare in a more dramatic manner than that realized by the change from sail to steam or from coal burning to oil burning propulsion plants. The future of the United States Navy is nuclear power. We must not ignore it.