Have had a few heated arguments lately, the sole result being that a few people have concluded that I’m “slightly potty,” as the English say. But I know, as sure as I’m here today, that in the course of time I will be proved right. What I say (and it gets these Navy people all steamed up) is that this war is spelling the beginning of the end, if, not the final end, of seapower. The future holds only airpower and military power.
The very essence of seapower (two-dimensional movement of floating forts, whose maneuvers are restricted only by land) is itself inferior to the essence of air power (three-dimensional movement of airborne forts, whose maneuvers are unrestricted). Heavy ships could never hope to go much faster than 60 mph at the most, but airplanes are rapidly approaching almost 10 times that speed. Cost for cost, and time for time (of construction), one ship 30 to 40,000 pounds equals 200 to 300 heavy bombers. The destructive power and all around usefulness of those 200 bombers is infinitely greater than that of one battleship — so why build battleships?
This war has given countless examples of the helplessness of ships to air attack — even such ships as HMS Prince of Wales, which was built to withstand air attack. I’ll admit that future ships will be built stronger — yet, but aircraft have not even begun to reach the zenith of their destructive power, while ships are rapidly nearing the limit in armor plate and speed. The navy of the future will be small and inconsequential, consisting mainly of anti-submarine craft.
They say what about bad weather — are not ships just as helpless and bad weather as aircraft? And as for heavy fog and overcast, radar equipment has made the thickest of clouds transparent.
Cruising range — ah, there they think they have us, but I can only point to the rapid strides being made by science in atomic power adapted to engines. The day is not so far ahead when engines (aircraft and otherwise) will be constructed with their life’s power built into them. Self-sufficient engines capable of 1000 hours of continuous operation are not vacuous dreams, but coming realities. When that time arrives, airplanes will be capable of continuous, nonstop, 40 day, 300,000 mile trips. Why bother with creeping, fuel-wasting ships?
For a more concrete example in only the past year we’ve only to look to the German capture of Crete by air force and airborne troops against the British army and navy in their full might. (As the Germans possessed air superiority we can neglect the RAF.)