How America Plans To Sink Russian Submarines – Part II

ERRATUM:  I am modifying this post to fix a factual error, pointed out to me by one of my commenters.  What I translated as “ultra-sound” is actually its opposite:  “infra-sound”.  Infra-sound waves are very long in shape and have a frequency below 20 Hz, which is just below the human audible range.  Ultra-sound, the kind of technology which is used, e.g., to scan babies in the womb, has much shorter waves and uses a frequency that is higher than human hearing, approximately 20 kiloHerz.  Based on this, I  edited my post to change “ultra-sound” to “infra-sound” and also removed the reference to medical ultra-sound.

Dear Readers:

Continuing my review of this military/analytical piece by Alexander Timokhin.  Where we left off:  By the 1980’s, the Americans had established their ability to detect Soviet submarines in virtually every water of the world’s ocean.  By placing vast nets of underwater detectors.  Some of this American activity could be justified from a defensive position, i.e., protecting their own shores, etc.  But they also combined this with the typically American penchant of believing that the entire world belongs to them.  A humorous remark:  The American system is called SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System), which in Russian is transliterated as СОСУС, which sounds rather naughty, since the Russian root /sos-/ means “to suck”.

Anyhow, it got to the point where the Soviet submarine fleet was completely blocked from entering the Atlantic Ocean (at least without detection).  The Soviets responded towards the end of the 1980’s with a newer, “quieter” submarine.  And the Americans countered this with hydro-acoustic technology.  [Which, if I am not mistaken, is usually referred to as “sonar”.]

A type of hydro-acoustic antenna.

This method consists of setting off acoustic waves under the water, the same way that whales and dolphins communicate, but using an emitter (излучатель). These waves reflect off the sought object, and then are detected by the hydro-acoustic antenna.  This device works on waves that are very long and have a low frequency; and its range of detection extends to great distances underwater.  This is called infra-sound technology.

Here is another technical term I just learned from reading this article: компактные гибкие протяженные буксируемые антенны (“compact flexible low-towed antennae”), abbreviated in Russian as ГПБА, and these devices are towed behind a ship[Which seems to me inferior than the older in-place “network” method, since it requires an actual towing boat.  Idea!  Why not kill 2 birds with one stone:  Have the same boat also tow water skiers!]  The towed emitter sends its long-wave signals into the water.  The returning reflections disclose not only the depth of the water, but also “draw a picture” of any objects lurking below.  The author assumes that it is precisely this device that is being towed by the NATO ships in the Barents Sea.  Their job is to detect Russian submarines.

Now, if this were a real war and not an exercise, then the NATO ГПБА system, having detected a Russian submarine, would then transmit the coordinates to the nearest NATO nuclear-powered submarine in the area; which would then hunt, attack and destroy the Russian submarine.

High-energy sonar from the 1990’s killed a lot of whales.

Here is another detail:  In the 1990’s these infra-sound transmissions proved to be very harmful to marine life, since they emitted so much energy (which also made them vulnerable to attack by anti-ship rockets).

But now things are different.  The infra-sound has become much quieter, weaker in energy, and yet at the same time gives a much higher resolution and quality.  The emitters can be placed on ships, smaller boats, helicopters and even navigational buoys.  This is really great technology, and so one must imagine that the Russian navy possesses something similar?

Alas, no!

[to be continued]

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4 Responses to How America Plans To Sink Russian Submarines – Part II

  1. Ultrasound is high frequency. Low frequency would be infrasound.


    • yalensis says:

      Oops! Thanks, Matthew, you’re right. These waves are very long, so have low frequency.
      I will correct my post with an errata, but probably will have to wait until tomorrow.


  2. FatMax says:

    Few small comments:

    1. Soviet Navy’s subs were mostly invisible to SOSUS from the moment more advanced boats entered the arena: Akula-class SSNs, Oscar-class SSGNs, Typhoon-class SSBNs and Kilo-class SSKs. It was true in the 80-ties and it’s still true today. Newer Russian subs are even quieter.

    2. Towed sonar arrays are extremely common. It’s not some kind of new technology. Almost every half-decent navy capable of antisub warfare uses them. They are towed behind ASW ships, dipped into the ocean from ASW helicopters and even towed behind subs.
    One of the reasons they are towed behind a sub is because a sub has a huge blindspot right aft of the boat, since the propeller wake messes up the sonar picture.
    Search for “Crazy Ivan” on your fav search engine and be amazed.

    3. One of the reasons this little flotilla is testing this hyped-up tech in the North is because there are almost no thermoclines in colder waters.
    Thermoclines are the reason this new NATO tech is mostly hype: Magic-pixie-dust-sonar(tm) works flawlessly only in cold waters. The moment a sub enters temperate/warm waters, thermoclines will mess up those sonars real good. It’s really hard to get a clear sound image, since sound propagates really weirdly while crossing thermocline barriers.

    4. In case of a war, absolutely no NATO surface ship or ASW airplane will be able to enter Russian Recce-Strike Complex. None. End of story. And NATO is well aware of that. Only subs will be able to hunt other subs in Russia’s waters and near them. The moment Russia’s subs cross “GIUK gap”, the hunt is on. Then it’s high time to see how well does NATO’s sonar tech measure up to Russian “silent running” procedures.

    Let’s hope that moment never comes.


    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, Max! I feel embarrassed that my technical knowledge is so poor, but your comment has helped me as well. This is a learning experience for me.
      Anyhow, I hope you are right and that this war never comes. I feel that the Russian navy will be ready for any attack, regardless, but let us hope it doesn’t come to that, may clearer minds prevail!


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