The Readiness of Soviet Naval Forces
Interagency Intclliurncc MeaMratldl
CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE AS SANITIZED
THE READINESS OF SOVIET NAVAL FORCES
This Interagency Intelligence Memorandum was commissioned by thc Director of Central Intelligence in responseequest by the Secretary of Defense for an in-depth analysis of the readiness of the Soviet Navy- In some respects, thc memorandum breaks new analytical Rround inumber of subjective issues, such as the quality of personnel and thc effectiveness of training, which do not lend themselves readily to analysis by traditional methods. There is no specific information cutoff date in this memorandum; information through the end9 has been used in most cases.
The memorandum was produced under the auspices of theOfficer for General Purpose Forces. It was draftedNational Foreign Assessment Center, CIA.
with contributions by the Office of Naval Intelligence, theAgency, and the National Security Agency. Thewas prepared under the chairmanshipNational Intelligence Officer for General Purpose Forces.was coordinated with the intelligence components of theState and Defense and within the National ForeignCIA.
In ihc pastears, the Soviet Navy has acquired an impressive inventory of modem materiel as il has evolvedoastal defense forcoavy with global rrussions. Modern surface ships, submarines, and aircraft have significantly increased its capabilities over this period. Nevertheless, we have found personnel and materiel deficiencies that impair its readiness toajor war with NATO.'
The readiness policies of the Soviet Navyubstantial impact on its ability toajor war. and for NATO's warning of war:
The Soviet Navy is operationally postured tohort, intense war. and its potential for "first salvo" operations in waters near the Soviet Union has been maximized at the expense of its capabilities for sustained operations
The Soviet Navy, consistent with the readiness policies of tbe General Staff,period of tension"ajor conflict in which it would raise the readiness of its forces. Without such warning, thc Soviet Navy would be ill prepared toajor war. Extensive and extraordinary predeployment and other preparations of Soviet naval units would probably provide NATOide range of indications that tbe USSR was preparing for war.
Ceography will continue toajor factor In Soviet naval operations. Forces at sea in lhe Atlantic, Pacific, and Modi terra ncan risk isolation, and those in some home fleets risk being bottled up, causing the Soviets to emphasizeand early alert.
This assessment presents four perspectives on Soviet naval readiness:
An analysis of the determinants of readiness
An examination of the readiness of principal ship types
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A discussion of the readiness of the forces to accomplish the maior missions of the Navy in wartime.
The outlook for naval readiness through.
We have treated readinessunction of the aoaUabititu of ships and naval aircraft to conduct combat operations under varying stages of alert and of what the Soviets term combataggregate of crew proficiency, adequacy of materiel, and quality of support (including maintenance, other aspects of sustainability, and command, control, communications, and intelligence).
The Soviet Navy's approach to readiness, consistent with that of other Soviet armed forces, stresses conservation of resources to generate maximum force for the initial phase of operationseneral war. Normally, aboutercent of major surface combatants and submarines arc immediately available!
I summarizes ourf availability, showing the number ofsubmarines and surface combatants that could be prepared for operations within specified periods after receiving an alert notice. We believe that this sample is representative of the normal peacetime availability of Soviet naval units.
We can assess with confidence the performance potential of Soviet naval ships or aircraft on the basis of what we know of their design. But
whether the potential of that naval materiel would actually be realized in wartime depends upon:
Reliability and maintainability of lhc equipment.
Command, control, communications, and intelligence.
Our judgments concerning these must necessarily be less sure, depending as they do on more diffuse and ambiguous evidence. To assess available evidence on the subject, wc pursued an analytical examination of the above determinants. We alsoelphi survey' of selected Intelligence Community analysis in order toifferent perspective.
In lhe survey we systematically polled analytical opinion on how effective Soviet naval units would be in executing specific wartime missions, givenays* alert of impending combat. There was consensus that thc Soviet naval units available for use in the early stagesar could develop aboutercent of their potential, pcriormancc being adversely affected chiefly by lack of training and operational experience, other personnel shortcomings, and equipment deficiencies. Whatever the merits of the Delphi survey, we placed greater weight on our more rigorous analytical assessment whichetailed inquiry into the determinants of readiness summarized below.
Pertonncl Readiness. Serious personnel problems have attracted the attention of both the naval and the national leadership The Navyarge professional officer corpsmall cadreercent of personnel) of warrant officers and extended-duly servicemen (volunteers who rcenlist beyond the required three-yearut depends on conscription for aboutercent of its manpower. Thc conscript reenlistmcnt rate islessercent and perhaps as lowr 2the continuous influx of inexperienced personneleavy burden on thc Navy's training programs. Because so few conscripts rcenlist. there ishortage of experienced and skilled enlisted personnel for lower level supervisory and technical positions Soviet naval conscripts aboard ship serve three years, as opposed to two years for those serving ashore
We have observed marked command concern about drunkenness, poor discipline, and olher evidence of low morale, particularly at the
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many Soviel naval bases located in remote and inhospitable areas. Many of these problems would disappear in wartime, but they probably would impact negatively on Soviet naval wartime performance,because of the loss of peacetime training opportunities. Some in the Intelligence Communityifferent perspective, however. They* believe that the Navy has achieved its peacetime training goals, and that Soviet naval performance in peacetime demonstrates no appreciable impairments traceable to poor morale.
Although the Soviet Navy is accorded high priority for quality recruits, its increasingly complex equipment puts ever higher demands on its training system. Training for all enlisted ranks Is over/specialized and often unrealistic. Individuals are typically trained to perform one task in one set of circumstances; there is little opportunity for an individual to perform any specialty but his own; and there is little incentive to exceed "book" capabilities or applications. Soviet training evidently often fails to inculcate among officers and seamen alike independent thinking and tactical flexibility. Although naval leaders stress the requirement that officers develop initiative, flexibility, and resourcefulness, thc development of these qualities is often impeded in practice. For example, exercises at sea are usually stereotyped crew drills in which command initiative is neither encouraged nor necessary.
Major exercises at fleet or combined-arms levels, on the other hand, recently have tended toward more complex and realistichese exercises remain, however, relatively infrequent, and most crews have not been so trained.
There is disagreement In the Community over the impact of these personnel shortcomings. Somebelieve that personnel shortcomings will exacerbate equipment deficiencies, reducing the Navy's ability to respond to the unexpected and to perform even its initial wartime tasks. The holders of this view further believe that the Soviet Navy is not
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manned or trained toengthy war, and that personnel shortcomings seriously degrade Soviet capabilities for prolonged combat. Others' believe that Soviet naval personnel are adequately trained to perform the Navy's wartime tasks, regardless of the length of the war, and, moreover, that commanding officers and crews have demonstrated the ability to react quickly and effectively to unexpected, rapidly unfolding situations.
Soviet officers and sailors, when deployed away from home waters, do not conduct high levels of extensive underway training regarded as essential for readiness in most NATO navies. However, there is disagreement over how much underway training is conducted in home waters, where the vast majority of naval units are at any one time. One view' is that the Soviets do not conduct underway training in home waters sufficient to assure wartime readiness. The holders of this view believe that the Soviet limitations on peacetime equipment use, when considerednit-by-unit basis, apply to naval units in home waters. Others* believe that the evidenceudgment that in-area underway training is extensive and adequate to provide both the readiness and the level of "combat effectiveness" the Soviets require.
Materiel Reliability and Maintainability. Materiel reliability and maintainabilityariety of factors. Including design, materials and method of manufacture, and tbe efficiency of personnel who maintain and operate the equipment. Soviet equipmentbreakdown of materiel indue in many instances not only to bad design or manufacture, but also to inadequate, incorrect, or nonexistent performance of required maintenance. Although standards as high as those applied in the most efficient Western naval units are maintained aboard some Soviet ships, substandard units appear to be more common and probably remain in worse conditionoreover, we know that Soviet naval officers oftenshortcomings in materiel readiness. On the one hand, Soviet naval weapon system design stresses simplicity, speed, redundancy, and the achievement of maximum firepower. On the other hand, we know that throughout the Soviet Navy there are equipment deficiencies that in some cases critically handicap successful mission performance.
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Thc Sovicl Navy's policies on maintenance and training do little to redress difficulties occasioned by human interface with materiel: sirtoe the Soviets construe readiness of materiel to mean "new" or "freshlyhey limit operations at sea. Ships of the Soviet fleet normally spend much of their time in port, many undergoing major maintenance.
Most major maintenance is shore based, and complicated underway repair aboard ship generally is not done in the Soviet Navy. Hence, this maintenance system would function best at the outsetajor war, but would probably impose significant operational limitations in the event of protracted conflict.
Sustainabilitv. The Soviet Navy is not well designed to support its fleets in an extended conflict. Its ability to sustain combat operations distant from its shore bases is limited, even for relatively close maritime theaters such as thc Norwegian Sea. Most participants In this study believe that the Soviet Navy's sustainabilitv probably is adequate for most of the tasks for which the Navy is designed. One participant" believes, however, that sustainabilitv coulderious problem for Soviet naval forces evenhort war. All agree that limitations in sustainability would, however,ey vulnerability in an extended conflict.
While Soviet doctrine holds that protracted warfare is possible, the Soviets cvidontly have notong campaign at sea as likely. They have provided few naval ships for afloat logistic support beyond those required for peacetime operations. For example, there is little capability for underway replenishment of munitions. Most large Soviet surface combatants have fuel capacity for about seven days, and thereafter would be dependent on support from oilers Soviet long-range submarines can cruise for two months or longer, but would, in combat, probably require munitions resupply much sooner.rotracted campaign become necessary, the Soviet Navy would be dependent on use of merchant ships and improvised logistics The lack of extensive preparations by the Soviet Navy forrotracted war woulderious, and potentially critical, liability if the war should extend beyond the relatively short period for which the Navy is optimally designed."
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Command, Control,nd Intelligence. Soviet naval doctrine for these functions, as well as the equipment and organizational structures supporting them, appears gencrallv to enhance the readiness of tbe Navy to carry out its mission. This would be particularly true in the case
eriod of threat (international tension)ew daysew weeks, leadingonventional war, followedudden, massive nuclear strike against the NATO navies.i"
_jThe Soviet Navy's channels of communication from fleet headquarters to operational forces in wartime probably could be kept open. However, the Soviet Navy's stereotyped peacetime exercises and command rigidity would no doubt create wartime command and control problemsactical level: commanders are not often exercised In coping with the unexpected-ar were to begin suddenly, supporting command and control structures would be severely strained and could suffer breakdowns.
One part of the Soviet command structure that could be the key to Soviet performancear is tho afloat officer-in-tactical-commandhe on-scene commander whose judgment could be critical in any combat operation.
There is disagreement within thc Intelligence Community over thc degree of freedom of authority allowed tbe OTC in actual practice by higher headquarters. According to onehe afloat Soviet OTC has limited authority to begin with, and he tends to lose rather than gain tactical command and control responsibilities as an operation unfolds.
elieve that thereuge body of evidence that todicatcs^ Soviet Navy OTCsreat deal more authority and responsibility than indicated above, and that tbe Soviet command and control system is very flexible. They believe that the position on thc OTC's lack of freedom fails to take into account the magnitude of coordination required toaval combat operation and of the fact that certain control functions can be performed only by the oit-srcne, afloat OTC.
Submarine Force. The Soviets consider their large submarine force their prime naval arm. Their nuclear-powered ballistic missile
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submarines (SSBNs) are the Navy's contribution to thc Soviets' overall strategic strikethey are supported and protected by other submarines. In addition, the submarine forceole in nearly all Jother navalwarfarenticarrier warfare, protection of amphibious operations and supply tines,iction of enemy supply lines, and similar functions- Several limitations impair thc readiness of the submarine force:
Most Soviet submarines areistinct disadvantage relative to most of their Western counterparts.
Long-range submarine-launched cruise missiles need external targeting assistance.
Submarine-mounted ASW sensors have substantially less range than those of their Western opponents, and thc submarines in some areas are vulnerable to detection by the US SOS US (broad-area sound surveillance system).
Soviet nuclear submarine propulsion systems have serious design faults, including relatively short reactor core life and high noise
Geographic constraints force submarines to undertake long transits to or from some wartime stations, or vulnerable transits through narrow passages.
On the otber hand.
The Soviets have the largest submarine force in the world.
Tlie performance characteristics of some types of units make them formidable threats: for example, the high speed of Soviet submarines, particularlylasses, the apparent deep-diving reach oflass, and the relatively quiet submerged operations (on battery power) oflass.lass diesel units.
Some submarine weapon systems, such as thcrntiship missiles, arc without peer in terms of range and destructive power.
Soviet nuclear submarine propulsion systemsigh shaft horsepower, allowing higher speed with less volume.
Surface Force. The surface fleet, which includesctive major combatants (halfons) andundred amphibious ships, is thc most visible arm of the Soviet Navy, and carries the peacetime burden of Soviet "show the flag" operations throughout the world. The surface navy contributes directly to all wartime naval tasks except strategic strike. Certain weaknesses, however, impair the readiness of the surface fleet:
Soviets' design philosophy, operational practices, and maintenance system severely limit ability to perforinat sea, impairing the availability of in-port units as well as the serviceability of deployed units.
tactical air support is limited.
Thc fleet cannot be defendedubstantial hostile air threat when operating beyond Soviet coastal waters.
ASW sensors are poor, rendering surface units vulnerable to submarine attack and limiting offensive ASW and the ability to protect Soviet SSBNs.
Most surface force exercises arc "canned" and simplistic.
Design and training inadequacies render surface warships especially vulnerable to battle damage.
Few units carry reloads of cruise missiles, their most effective weapon systems, and tbe fleet has inadequately provided and trained for at-sea ordnance replenishment.
On the other hand. Soviet surface units demonstrate the following strengths:
Thev have good speed, good sea-keeping abilities, and reliable engineering systems.
They are equippedumber of potentially effective weapon systems, such as antiship cruise missiles and torpedoes, and they often carry redundant weapon systems.
The units are well designed for electronic warfare and for operatingBR (chemical, biological, and radiological) warfare environment
Naval Aviation. The naval air force, withombat aircraft, contributes to all Soviet naval task* Naval air units, in the event of war. are to provide reconnaissance, lo conduct antiship and antisubmarine strikes, lo mine ports and approaches, and to strike land based facilities (such as radarn supportariety of
miliiary objectives. The primary readiness problem* of Sovicl naval aviation are:
-fMaintenance practices, which reduce capability to sustain high aircraft availability for moreew days of combat operations.
Limited flight experience among Soviet naval pilots, who fly annually only about half the training hours of their Western count rr parts.
The age of thebackbone of the naval bomberis no longer competitive with modern air defenses.
ASW sensors inadequate to cope with the quietness of Western submarines
To the credit of the naval nir force;
Naval aircraft maintain high availability.
Some naval aircraft, primarily thend Bear F. have long ranges, enabling them to cover sea transit lanes far from the Soviet landmass. and to approach targets indirectly.
Modern anliship cruise missiles (ASCMs) effectively extend the useful life of the Badger Iwmbers.
"Hieodern supersonic strike aircraft with both air-to-surface missile (ASM) and bombing and mineUyingprovides longer range and better performance,upersonic dash capability, than other naval strike aircraft
Design of new aircraft is excellent, emphasizing simplicity and rugged ness.
With the advent of the Kiev-class carrier. Soviet Naval Avialion has become seaborne with fixed-wing aircraft
The Soviet Novy in Wartime
The Soviel Navy, as wc have pointed out, has wartime missions of strategic strike and deterrence, sea control, sea denial, and power protection We have examined these missions as Ihey affect operalions of the Northern. Baltic. Black Sea. and Pacific Fleets, and thai of thc Mediterranean Squadron, as well as thc Navy's usual peacetime posture Jn lhe Indian Ocean. oK Wesl Africa, and in the Caribbean. We find ihai the most iinportanl implications lor readiness are ;is follows
Strategic Strike. The Soviel Navy'sallistic missileils mosl effective arm,ajor part of litearsenal. Sixty-two are modern boats carryingoviet SSBNboth crews andcan achieveforce level the Soviets
desire with two weeks" notice The overall systemsubmarines and missilesestimate to beoercent.
Aboutercent of the modern SSBN force is kept at sea on continuous palrols or en route lo or from such patrols. Thelass units arc capable of striking US targets from home port areas, however, and an increasing number of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with multiple independently targetablc reentry vehicles (MIRVs) are entering the force, permitting the Soviets greater intercontinental strategic firepower without the long transits requiredlass units- Soviet SSBNs. like other Soviet submarines, are relatively noisy and are vulnerable to ASW forces, particularlyong conventional phasear.
Antisubmarine War/are. Soviet ASW operations for sea conlrol or sea denial are severely hampered by lack of sensors capable of detecting most Western submarines. Detection by any Soviet naval uniioreign submarine in the open ocean is unlikely because of the USSR's lackong-range detection system such as the United States' SOSUS. and because of tbe technical limitations of other Soviet sensors and associated equipment In wartime, the most likely cause for Soviet detectionestern submarine would be either chance encounter, or an attack or other operational action by the target submarine that revealed its presence. Once thc presence of an enemy submarine were revealed, the Soviets would then attempt to conduct more refined localization, lhe next phase of ASW.
There Is disagreement over Soviet proficiency in this aspectOnes that tlie limited range and sensitivity ofplus the lack of skillpast
chance encounters, indicate that the Sovietsow level of ability toarget well enough toeasonably accurate targeting solutionelieve that, once the Sovietsarget submarine, ihey haveredible capabilily to localizi: the targets sufficiently to launch their ASW weapons. All agree that the localization phase ol ASWomplicated process tbe success of which
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is dependentumber of environmental factors, on the composition of the prosecuting force, and on the time required for that force toarrive on the sceneetection.argeting solution were achieved, "however, Soviet ASW weapons would be effective.
Anticarrier Warfare. Because of the enormous firepower of large modern attack carriers, their destructionrincipal task of Soviet naval forces assigned sea control or sea denial missions. This is reflected in the continued emphasis on anticarrier warfare (ACW) in the Soviets naval exercises, tactics, and doctrine, and the improvement in some facets of their ACW capabilities. The Soviet Navy hasubstantial capability to counter carriers. The primary difficulty facing Soviet forces is getting within weapons range of the carrier. The principal forces the Soviets intend to use against carriers are missile-carrying Soviet Naval Aviation strike aircraft and cruise-missile-launching surface units or submarines.
Civen the number of available missile-configured Badgers and Backfires, and the newer, long-range ASMs, the SNA strike forceerious threat to surface forces operating within its combat radius. Although the Soviets have no rigid set of tactics for antiship airstrikes, their writings and exercises indicate that, whenever possible, they would mount large-scale atlacks against such important targets as aircraft carriers. The airstrikes would be coordinated, whenever possible, with attacks by submarines and surface ships.
However, from what we have observed of their exercises, identifying the locations of carrier targetsroblem. We believe that aircrewmen generally arc unable to discriminate among individual shipsarget group at the time of missile launch. Only through visual acquisitioneconnaissance or strike aircraft positively identify each shiparget group. Thc effectiveness of antiship strikes by naval aircraft, and other platforms as well, would depend critically on how well the Soviets could solve suchand targeting problems, as well as on the defensive capabilities and actions of lhe opposing force
Soviet cruise missile submarines can be effective against carriers, but generally would require multiple hits toarrier out of action, unless nuclear weapons were used These units would be vulnerable to NATO ASW forces, allhough some carry missiles with rangesautical miles, or more, making ASW defense difficult.
e? The newer Soviet antiship cruise missiles, because of their range, flight profile, warhead size, and sometimes their speed, probably will be
effective, provided the Soviets can solve the problem of targeting carriers. The shorter range submarine-carried systems have the additional advantage of being bunched from submerged submarines These ACSM systems require externally provided targeting information, particularly in situations where over-the-horizon capabilities at long range are involvedf
Amphibioushe Soviets maintain small and geo graphically dispersed amphibious assault and lift forces.ATO-Warsaw Pact war. major landings would likely be spearheaded by these forces, with army units making up the bulk of the followup forces We do nothange occurring in thc basic wartime or peacetime tasks of the USSR's amphibious warfareon the periphery of the land theaters. However, these forces could be effectively employed in areas where modern defenses do not exist or where opposing forces could not be brought to bear in time toifference.
The outlook for Soviet naval readiness thruughs mixed. On the one hand, the Soviets continue to introduce new platforms and weapon systems that will enhance their Navy's wai-fighting capabilities On the other hand, tbc new systems will require more professionalism and flexibility by naval personnel if this equipment is lo be used and maintained al its full potential. Thc factors impairing naval readiness in the USSR are deeply rooted, and the Soviel Navy's state of readinessatter of serious concern to the Soviet leaders. Soviet literatureoncern over the often serious shortcomings in training and maintenance, and new programs aimed at improving personnel and equipment performance are under way.
The Soviets probably believe that these programs will contribute to increasing the readiness of their naval forces Nevertheless, much of what wc observe of their operations and training suggests that the steps they have taken thus fnr have notignificant impact on many longstanding deficiencies.
Some ofelieve thai the overall readiness of the Soviet Navy to carry out ill primary missions is unlikely to improve significantly. Although tbe introduction of new equipment promises gradual improvements in somehe potential value of such equipment is
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II as by more demanding missions. They note that, although moreSdvariced materiel has been steadily introduced over the pastears, thc Soviet Navy'savailability and basic level ofnot improved dramatically. They further note that, although more realistic training has frequently been forecast, it has not appeared to any great extent. There is. therefore, no good reason to believe that the Soviets will radically change their past practices in the near future.
isagree with this conclusion. They believe not only lhat tbc Soviet Navy's missions and tasks wilt continue to grow but that its readiness for, and effectiveness in, an expanded range of missions will also increase gradually andas has been evident over the pastr so years. In that time the quality of the Navy's materiel, maintenance, and personnel has improved, its command and control have been more responsive and survivable. its operational procedures have been tightened, and ils experience in open-ocean operations has risen manyfold, so that today thc Soviet Navy more effectivelyuch wider range of tasks than it did in. Moreover, they believe there is little prospectalt in the trend toward further improvement of the Soviet Navy's overall readiness in. On lire contrary, evidence of (a) further expansion of maintenance and support facilities and capabilities, (b) advances in surveillance systems and greater redundancy and hardening of command, control, and communications systems, and (c) increasingly realistic training and high levels of out -of-area operations allontinuing improvement in the professionalism, maturity, andof tbe Soviet Navy.
For the foreseeable future, there is little if any evidence to suggest that Soviet naval readiness practices will undergo appreciable change. Therefore, any improvement in naval readiness is likely to occur principally as the result of the introduction of new classes of ships and aircraft and accompanying improvements in sensor and weapons technology and capability. The ability ol lheo absorb this new equipment and maintain itigh level of efficiency is problemalic.il. but on balance we believe they should be able to achieve about the same degree ol availability with the new generations of wanhips as ihey Iiave wiih those now in service.
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SpeetfitaHo. the ho/den of (All Mm belttoe that lhe peiumnet prebUmr identified In ihu memorandum, which ait noi onlou* to iht Sextet Nauy. are not to ptnorttr that then rignlfxantly Impair Ui combat oipahdlltti. They further belleoe thai iht imparl of other itadinm itlaied piobltmi. iiroh ai ruaainaUlttp and material letiebttttp andeaorto dependent, and. In general, tneieaiea ai wartime eperanomi become farther removed from the Soviet bate aieei tailor mt.it proliacttd. Then arret thai lhe Septet iVaw hoi ptgniftcanl itthnttalnASW ttarch. ana BU dtfeme. and itadattd tactical air lhal could degiedt tti abthlp lo perform tome of IU minimi Th* Seidell, however, aie await of their defutenati and. Wth Iht tiaptlon of ASW eiea
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lafflcttil tlydtlttenon, le itneuilg Inhibit i'i performance in wailtmi The Socieli tteeily recognize their
technical Ihntiottoni and ore itrtotng foi tht moil pan to oorrrome ihem Tht aery modem ntwSooiei naval combat lout, will lutein overcome Ihe mataity ef there limitation* and offerreater iopobditt for Soviet naoal combat at euer-iacreeiing ditiante, from the Soattt upply pair.Original document.