All through the cold war, there was a high-stakes game of cat and mouse in play. Nuclear powers like the United States and the Soviet Union would conceal submarines armed with nuclear missiles underwater. The common wisdom was that the United States had many high tech gizmos to assist track enemy submarines, but that the Soviet Union was method behind in this area.

There is something fascinating about submarines. Like an old sailing ship, submarines are often out of touch with their command bases and the captain is the last authority. Like a space ship, the submarine needs to endure in a hostile environment. I guess in all 3 cases, the crew doesn’t simply use technology, they depend on it.

Although the submarine has some non-military uses, there are probably more military subs than any other type. A sub is as close to a masking gadget as any real-life military car has ever had. Before modern innovation provided methods to find submarines utilizing sonar or magnetic abnormalities, a completely submerged submarine was successfully undetectable.

There was a great deal of speculation that the Soviet Union did not have adequate innovation to use sonar the method the US did. Nevertheless, in many cases, they had just developed different kinds of detection– much of which the West had actually discarded as impractical.

Modern Submersibles

Strangely enough, people have been attempting to determine how to run underwater given that the time of Alexander the Great. The first submarine that has functions comparable to a modern sub was the Catalan Ictineo II. It ran on a steam engine when on the surface area, but submerged used chemicals to fire the boiler. The chain reaction not just developed heat for the steam engine that turned the screw however also launched oxygen for the team. A couple of German submarines used a comparable system called the Walter turbine.

Things advanced from there (you’ll find lots of historical detail in the video above). The biggest issue was constantly how to power the craft when submerged. Prior to atomic energy, the majority of subs ran on diesel on the surface and had batteries to power it underwater. A snorkel would enable the engine to run while staying mainly immersed, but once the ship sank completely underneath the waves, it had to use batteries which do not last long– particularly 1940- period batteries.

Method and Nuclear

A submarine on the surface area isn’t in a particularly safe place, World War II-era subs spent a lot of time on the surface, allowing them to make better speed. If a sub team believed it might come across the opponent, the vessel would immerse, at least to snorkel depth, to try to prevent detection.

Approaching an enemy convoy immersed, it would try to sink as numerous ships as possible utilizing torpedos or whatever weapons it had. It had to work fast, though, since shooting usually distributes your position and the inescapable counterattack would be speedy. The Navy offered a lot of thought of how to find and attack submarines, as you can see in the video below.

In modern times, however, submarines might utilize a various type of power: nuclear power. In that case, the sub can stay immersed for a long time. This has caused military subs having 2 primary classifications: attack subs and missile subs, often called boomers.

The concept behind a missile sub is to have it leave port with a stockpile of nuclear rockets. Normally, the sub will do some crazy maneuvers to attempt to shake any opponent ships following it. Then it will go deep and wait. The concept is that if an enemy tries to assault initially, it might eliminate ground-based missile launchers. They can’t strike a submarine unless they understand where it is, so the submarine fleet could retaliate no matter how effective a first strike was. Under the teaching of equally guaranteed destruction, this would prevent either side from thinking a descent on is their best option.

In Practice

The United States relied on advanced sonar, radar, and infrared detection to discover subs. Some of the sensors are on ships, subs, or aircrafts.

All of these have some restrictions. The SOSUS (sound security) line deployed ultrasensitive hydrophones on the ocean floor at essential locations to determine and locate submarines. Utilizing state-of-the-art signal processing and microphones, the US might reasonably track the reasonably loud subs.

Nevertheless, nuclear boomers posed some special challenges. They can sit silently on the bottom for a long time. They can assault without approaching the opponent. A single submarine can release well over 100 warheads, each with massive damaging power.

The CIA pointed all of this out way back in1973 Even though the Soviets had some unique innovation, the CIA considered that the “… abilities for antisubmarine warfare fall far except the minimum requirements …” That is to say the United States boomers had absolutely nothing to fear from the Soviets. The video listed below reveals some of the methods the US situated submarines.


On page 14 of the CIA report, there is an evaluation of Soviet detection capabilities. There are several pages in that area totally edited, so you can just question what exists that is still secret.

The report details Soviet sonar and magnetic detection capability, however they were not extremely impressed with the equipment or how the Soviets used them.

Since the Soviets lacked an extensive undersea detection system like SOSUS, their best choice– according to the CIA– was to find a submarine and follow it. This is called “tracking.”

Annex A

The real intriguing bits of the report start on Page 63 where Annex A starts. This annex examines approaches the Soviets utilize to detect subs. The truth that the Soviets didn’t have something comparable to SOSUS the CIA attributes to their absence of access to deep ocean and a deficiency in cable innovation. In addition, the report cites a lack of signal processing ability and the primary usage of stiff hydrophones. That, United States subs were substantially quieter than Soviet subs of the time. Even SOSUS could not dependably discover United States subs, so for the USSR to develop an useful capability like SOSUS, they would need to do a better task of it than the United States had.

Maybe the Soviets understood that, too. Rather of trying to invest more cash to develop better active and passive FINDER, they relied on other ways to track subs. There was interest in detecting 5 Hz noise created by a sub’s wake. They also depend on magnetic detection utilizing similar innovation to the United States. There was also work to utilize radar to discover things as subtle as a submarine’s disturbance of the water on the surface above it.

Of course, the subs most valuable to track have reactors. The CIA didn’t rule out the Soviets using such a system even though there was no proof that they had.

They also might spot a submarine’s wake optically or acoustically– perhaps useful if a Soviet sub was routing another sub. There are likewise techniques utilizing chemical residue from a sub’s hull or using infrared.

Wake detection is how the K-147 probably followed the United States sub.

Mutually Assured Rockets

The boomer subs were a key part of cold war method. The United States had the Ohio class submarine and its Trident rocket with eight 100 kiloton warheads. The Soviets had the substantial Akula with its larger R-39 rockets. The Akula– referred to as the Tropical storm class in the West– was the biggest sub ever and could hold up to ten 100-200 kiloton devices (see the video below).

The sub was known to be pretty noisy, however, so SOSUS apparently understood where they were all the time.

Cold War

We do not miss the cold war. Even though none of it is secret practically 50 years later on, if you ever needed to identify submarines, this file would provide you a lot of concepts on areas to research.

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Marco Bitran
Husband and father of two children under age 5, Marco also enjoys walks in nature, squash, running road races, and photography. He regularly contributes significant time and resources to the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the MSPCA and other animal rights organizations, and the Bitran Charitable Foundation. Marco has also volunteered and consulted for public housing support organizations such as the Somerville Homeless Coalition, created by the local community’s grassroots response to the social crisis of homelessness.