the amphibious cavalry gap

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Trembly, J. J. & Thompson, James E. - [Analog Feb 74] - The Amphibious Cavalry Gap (v1.0) [html].htmlThe Amphibious Cavalry Gap

J.J. TREMBLY (Special Adviser, Naval Research and Development Commission on New Weapons Systems)



Military intelligence estimates of the enemys strength and plans require two ingredients. One is logic. The other

Intelligence reports coming out of Soviet Central Asia and Siberia indicate that the Soviets have undertaken an extensive horse-breeding program1. The number of horses in the USSR increased fifteen percent2 or forty-two percent3 in the period 1968-71. These figures indicate that the Soviet planners have assigned horse-breeding a high priority.


The question now arises: What place does this crash program occupy in Soviet strategic thinking? Here we can only speculate; but, in the light of the Soviet Unions known expansionist aims, it behooves us to consider the possibility that they intend to use those horses against us.

Horses have not been used extensively in warfare since the outbreak of World War Two, when the Polish cavalry proved highly ineffective against German armor4. This has led to a consensus of military thoughtthat is, of Western military thoughtthat cavalry is obsolete. But can we afford to call cavalry obsolete when the enemy has not? The Soviet rulers are not talking about cavalry being obsolete; instead, as we have seen, they are breeding more horses.

Someone may object that Soviet cavalry cannot pose a threat to the United States, because the two nations have no common land boundary, but are separated by water; and it has been found that cavalry is effective only on land5. Cavalry could, however, be used against the United States by the USSR (or vice versa) if the horses and their riders were transported to the scene of combat by sea or air. If the horses are transported by air, this gives no obvious advantage to one side or the other, as all points on the Earths surface are equally accessible by air; but if we think in terms of the horses being transported by sea, an ominous conclusion emerges. Let us list the most important cities in the two nations. In our case, this will consist of our national capital plus the four most populous cities; in theirs, of the five most populous, as their capital (Moscow) is also the most populous city6:

USSRUSAMoscowWashingtonLeningradNew YorkKievChicagoTashkentLos AngelesKharkovPhiladelphia

When we look at the location of these cities on the map, we find that only one of the key Soviet citiesLeningradis located on the sea, while four of. the five key American cities are located on the seacoast or very near itNew York, Philadelphia, Washington and Los Angeles. (And even Chicago might be accessible by sea, via the St. Lawrence seaway.) Therefore, we are at least four times as vulnerable to amphibious attack as the USSR. When one considers that they also have more horses than we do, the seriousness of the amphibious cavalry gap becomes apparent.

If the horses are to be transported by sea, it must be either by surface ship or by submarine. We can, I think, rule out the use of surface ships, for submarines have the advantage of concealability; if the horses were transported on the decks of surface ships, they could be detected by our sky-spies. So if the Soviets are planning a sneak amphibious cavalry attack on the US, they will almost certainly use submarines, and will be building a larger submarine fleet. This, we find, is precisely what they are doing. The Soviet Union now has 401 submarines to only 152 for the United States7.

Is there any hope of overcoming the disparity between our military capacity and that of the Soviets caused by our greater vulnerability? In my opinion, there is such a hope; but it can only be achieved by the creation of a greater total striking force proportionate to the enemys greater( invulnerability, that -. is, four times as many horses, four times as many trained cavalrymen, and four times as many cavalry transport submarines. In the field of submarines alone, this means that, as the Soviets have 401 usable submarines, we need 1,604. Given that our present submarine strength is only 152, we need 1,452 more submarines, to be fitted for cavalry transport, for an adequate defense.

It is urgently necessary that we begin at once to close this gap. The Defense Department should immediately make known the seriousness of the threat, and demand that Congress vote the necessary funds.

Some persons have suggested that a weapons system of the type described poses no real threat; but an experienced submarine commander has assured the author that a cavalry-carrying submarine would be, in his words, a real stinker.


1. See DoD Report #BX818RL. Livestock Populations in Soviet Virgin Lands, Washington, DC, 1971.

2. Estimate by CIA.

3. Estimate by US Army Intelligence.

4. Guderian, Gen. Heinz: Panzer Leader, trans. C. Fitzgibbon. New York: Dutton & Co., 1952, pp. 65-84.

5. See, for example, Exodus 14:26-30.

6. According to population statistics from the 1972 World Almanac.

7. Janes Fighting Ships, 1971-72 ed.