In this new series, I review this military/analytical piece by Alexander Timokhin. The topic is detecting submarines. Timokhin attempts to shed some light on the military stand-off between Russia and America; and also pointing out gaps on the Russian side which need to be fixed, if Russia hopes to survive what seems like almost inevitable war.
The sitrep: Russia’s northern shores are currently teeming with NATO ships. There is no aircraft carrier involved, which is why the presence of all these boats attracted little attention in the media. However, the Russian military is taking the appearance of this escadron quite seriously.
The NATO boats are swimming around on the surface of the Barents Sea, while Russian submarines observe them from below. Recall that the Barents is part of the larger Arctic Ocean, and is shared by Russia and Norway.
The NATO flotilla includes such vessels as the Type-23 Frigate HMS Sutherland of the British navy; the tanker Tidespring also of the British navy; the Destroyer USS Ross of the American navy; and the Frigate Thor Heyerdahl of the Royal Norwegian Navy. These boats are being assisted by the patrol airplane Challenger of the Royal Danish Air Force. The Challenger is a very classy plane, but does not carry weapons. In addition to these objects, Russia has recently learned that the atomic-powered submarine USS Seawolf is also lurking somewhere in these cold dark waters. Probably with Captain Wolf Larsen at the helm! When asked why so many boats, NATO just responds glibly: “It’s a training.”
But what are they really doing out there? Timokhin asks suspiciously. The answer is simple: They are conducting a scouting mission, trying to flush out Russian submarines!
Since Soviet times, the main striking force of the Russian navy = submarines. And for a long time the U.S. has been scheming and trying to figure out how to oppose these submarines in the course of a war. The American armed forces have achieved enormous successes in their methodology, not just of finding hidden submarines, but also have created a very effective world-wide system of defending against them. This system is called SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System). It consists of a network of hydrophones placed in strategic points in the oceans of the world, on the bottom of the ocean, or in various crevices. Russian submarines of the first generation could be detected even at great distances, thousands of kilometers away. This system was later supplemented by other forms of surveillance, for example, satellites that can detect the underwater wake of an atom-powered submarine.
By the end of the Cold War, the Americans had laid whole fields of huge antennae in all regions of the World’s Ocean. The first networks of hydrophones were placed, obviously, along America’s own shores; and also in the Caribbean Sea. Another network stretched from Greenland to Britain. Still another bisected the Pacific Ocean, making it impossible for Soviet submarines to swim towards Hawaii undetected.
Still later, networks of detectors were installed in the Norwegian and Japanese Seas — by this point the USSR, and then Russia, was squeezed in from all sides, and their submarines could no longer operate with any degree of freedom. At the end of the 1980’s the British, using a huge 12-meter underwater robot named Theseus, installed sonar nets in the Nares Strait and Canadian archipelago. In this manner, the Soviet fleet became completely isolated from the Atlantic Ocean.
However, in the 1980s the Soviet Union began to developer “quieter” submarines. And then the Americans started to counter that with better hydro-acoustic technology.
[to be continued]