Bumps in the Atlantic

NOW that the public is aware that Soviet and US submarines, battleships, and aircraft carriers are constantly bumping into each other on maneuvers out in the middle of all that ocean, it may be time to think a little more about the world's sense of defense.

In the recent case of a Soviet submarine banging into the American aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, or vice versa, the reassuring statement was made that if this had been a wartime situation, the submarine would never have gotten near the US battle group.

Everyone feel relieved? Of course, it's nice to be reminded now and then we are not in a wartime situation.

If the fleet at Pearl Harbor had been in a wartime situation back in December 1941, probably no Japanese bombers would have gotten inside the US defense perimeter either. Explanations like this do have their place.

It is just that the uninformed man in the street can hardly tell a ''wartime situation'' anymore. At least not without a score card. And it suggests, ever so slightly, that the military minds in the Pentagon can't tell the difference, either.

One thing does seem obvious. The Kitty Hawk, with all personnel, could have been blown higher than an orbiting space station, wartime or no wartime.

It has been reported that only one of the Navy's 14 aircraft carriers has any underwater detection sonar. Since it isn't necessary on 13 of the carriers, some confused civilian is going to wonder why it is so necessary on just one.

The US blames the Soviet submarine for the recent collision. It's nice to settle that point. Still, there is just that little nagging uncertainty. Ordinary citizens know there is something terribly stupid involved here. But being so unmilitary they don't know what it is.

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