When the Glomar Explorer cover was blown--and it was learned that this supposed Howard Hughes-sponsored ship was not intended to perform deep-sea mining, but to recover a sunken Soviet submarine--there were hints of other covert goings-on at sea. Now Burns, a former Navy officer, adds substance in a dryly detailed but extensive study of ""the wet Cold War."" Burns, an executive involved in government submarine weaponry procurement, is clearly taken by the sophistication of undersea technology--and impressive it is, particularly in communications and surveillance. Much of the effort, Burns indicates, is to design new systems that help avoid detection by the enemy. As the U.S. or the Soviet Union comes up with a new sonar or X-ray device, the other must find an alternative. Back and forth it goes, adding billions to both countries' defense budgets and all too frequently producing methods or equipment obsolete before they are even used. Chapter by chapter Burns chronicles the nation's experiences with--most prominently--the Thresher, a prototype nuclear submarine whose mission was ""locating and destroying other submarines--no matter how deep or fast or quiet they were running"" (which was lost somewhere off Cape Cod, presumably killing the 128 men aboard), and the Trident, an expensive and controversial, but still-promising, submarine twice the size of any other. The bottom line, Burns contends, is maintaining superiority at sea, and with it the U.S. right to share the riches the sea has to offer. A thorough chronology and detailed comparison of U.S. and Soviet naval strength enhance the research value of the book.