APL Colloquium

July 17, 2020

Colloquium Topic: Surprise! Western Intelligence and Warning Failures

During the 45 years of the Cold War the United States periodically was “surprised” by the Soviet Union and, on occasion, other nations; these “surprises” were both technological and operational.  For example:

  • Although the United States detected the intermediate-range ballistic missile that the Soviets brought into Cuba in 1962, no nuclear warheads were detected.  However, the Soviets had brought in 128 nuclear tactical and strategic missile warheads, plus six nuclear aircraft bombs.
  • In January 1960, U.S. intelligence estimated that the Soviet Union would begin construction of nuclear submarines in the near future; in fact, the first Soviet nuclear-propelled submarine, the K-3 began trials in July 1958.

The presentation will address—briefly—the numerous operational and technological surprises during the Cold War, followed by an emphasis on Soviet submarine design, development, and construction.

Colloquium Speaker: Norman Polmar

Norman Polmar is an analyst, author, and consultant, specializing in naval, aviation, and technology subjects. He has directed studies related to the Soviet/Russian navies for various government organizations and has been a consultant or advisor on related issues to three U.S. Senators, the Speaker of the House, the Deputy Counselor to the President, and three Secretaries of the Navy. He has visited the Soviet Union/Russia several times as a guest of the Navy commander-in-chief, the submarine design bureaus, and the Institute of U.S. Studies.

Mr. Polmar has written or coauthored more than 50 published books and numerous articles on naval, aviation, and intelligence subjects. Mr. Polmar’s only novel, Ship of Gold (1987), a collaboration with the late Thomas B. Allen, is being made into a feature-length motion picture. His book Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129 (2010), written in collaboration with documentary film producer Michael White, revealed for the first time the details of the sinking of a Soviet ballistic missile submarine in the Pacific in 1968, and the subsequent efforts by the Central Intelligence Agency to raise the submarine—under the highly publicized “cover” of a Howard Hughes seafloor mining operation.

Among his many awards and honors, Mr. Polmar was the Naval Institute Press Author of the Year in 2011 and received the Naval Historical Foundation Commodore Dudley Knox award for lifetime achievements in 2019.