Oct 3, 2021
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How the US will search for Russian submarines in the Atlantic

The US Navy is creating a special group of warships to “track Russian submarine activity in the Atlantic”. Why is the United States preoccupied with the problem of Russian submarines right now, how anti-submarine operations were carried out by them in Soviet times – and what oddities does this decision of the Americans contain?

The United States, it seems, is tackling the old – creating a permanent anti-submarine grouping of surface forces in the Atlantic. Our submariners have already encountered such things during the Cold War. Frankly speaking, the acquaintance was not very pleasant. But the current situation is significantly different from the past.

Recall: the Greyhound task force is being created, consisting of the destroyers Donald Cook and Thomas Hudner, and from 2022 – Sullivans, and even later – Cole (Cole) and Gravely. The task force will be based at US Navy bases Mayport in Florida and Norfolk in Virginia. Achievement of combat readiness – June 2022. Reportedly, US Navy Atlantic Surface Commander Brendan MacLaine said the group is “designed to provide the fleet with predictable, permanently available and fully certified warships” ready to “perform the full range of tasks, including tracking Russian submarine activity in the Atlantic and defending the sea”. In other words, this is a direct signal: the United States is creating a special group in the Atlantic specifically to combat Russian submarines.

Why would they do this if nothing like this has happened in recent years? First, a little history.

Soviet submarine offensive and the American response

For many years, the content of the Cold War at sea in a significant part boiled down to the following – our submarines with ballistic missiles were on duty not too far from the American coast, in readiness to deliver a nuclear strike against the United States, and the Americans tried to attach either a nuclear submarine or a surface combatant to each of them. group, so that, if it comes to war, not to allow the launch. In this, the Americans were greatly helped by the SOSUS (Sound Surveillance) hydrophone system, which was capable of detecting our submarines of those years from a long distance. According to the system, patrol aircraft were sent to search, which first found the boat, and then pointed at it or their hunter boat for covert tracking with a record of the so-called. sonar portrait, or surface ships.

In the 1980s, during the last exacerbation of the Cold War, Americans began to play tough. They not only watched our submarines from their ships, but “drove” them with active sendings of sonars and simulators of depth charges (the latter – near the territorial waters of the United States).

Just one example. In March 1985, the Project 667AU submarine of the Pacific Fleet K-258 with ballistic missiles entered combat service. The old D-5 missile system on this boat had a short range; the boat went to combat services closer to the American coast. Further according to the scheme – SOSUS, patrol aircraft, other forces … but this time the other forces turned out to be two search and strike groups of four ships in each. And the Americans gave our, as they say, to the fullest – they drove the boat from Hawaii to the Aleutian ridge, constantly imitating attacks on it, lashing the hull with active “sendings” of their sonars. Despite the use of hydroacoustic countermeasures, the boat did not manage to break away. It all ended only when the Americans, as they say, played enough.

Naturally, in the course of a real war, the boat would have been destroyed. Something like this it looked, and something like this, apparently, they want to show us now. But, nevertheless, the event has an oddity.

Intended questions

The Soviet Navy had a lot of boats, which required the United States to take serious measures to counter them, even in spite of American technical superiority. The situation in Russia today is radically different. On the one hand, submarines with ballistic missiles today do not go to the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean – there is no need, and the missiles with which the old submarines of the 667BDRM project are armed, and the Bulava from the Boreys are taken by the United States even from the pier, especially from the coastal areas.

Multipurpose submarines remain. But here Russia has some problems – there are only a few boats left, and because of problems with their repair on the go, only a few. By the end of this decade, the Northern Fleet will have, at best, six submarines – the upgraded Leopard of Project 971 (the only submarine of the project that has received full repair and modernization), the Severodvinsk of Project 885 Yasen and the four Yasenei-M.

This does not in any way pose a threat to the entire Western world. But there are two nuances. First, common sense may return to the navy’s shipbuilding policy. Then the Navy, on the contrary, will turn into a mortal threat by the same 2030 – if the current erroneous approaches are abandoned, it will not be difficult to build up military power, there are all the possibilities for this.

But even if this does not happen, then there is the China factor. The Chinese, with some probability, can launch in the submarine shipbuilding the same “conveyor” that they launched in the surface. And then the Americans, with their problems in shipbuilding, will find that, generally speaking, they do not have enough ships for both Russia and China. And so little forces will be left on the Atlantic that even the modest submarine forces of the Northern Fleet will be a significant threat to them.

All these calculations will, apparently, be correct for the end of the current decade. And this is where the oddity arises – if both the theoretical revival of the domestic submarine and the Chinese threat compensating for our weakness are the end of the decade, then why are the Americans starting all this now? Are they so worried about several running nuclear-powered ships of the Russian Northern Fleet? The most likely answer is that this is most likely done for training purposes, to practice the necessary tactical techniques in conditions of a lack of forces.


A future war is clearly felt in the world. But peacetime fleets are bureaucratic, and it is often opportunists rather than warriors who make their careers there. In the US Navy, here, too, to put it mildly, not without problems. As an illustration of the problem, it is worth mentioning the example of Michael Abrashoff, the former commander of the Arlie Burke-class destroyer Benfold. Abrashoff in his book “This is my ship” gives an example of anti-submarine exercises, in which his destroyer and two other ships were supposed to participate, and the enemy was an American nuclear submarine.

Quote: “… we were tasked with locating the US Navy submarine, which was playing the role of the enemy, and hide from it. The submarine’s task was to locate and sink the ship on which the commander was. Commander Gary was in charge of this training session, which was determined by his superiority in rank, but three days before the exercise, the plan of action was not yet communicated to all of us.

I summoned the sailors serving the sonar to my captain’s cabin, as well as the appropriate officers … To everyone’s surprise (and mine too), they came up with a cunning plan that I had never seen before. We left it to the discretion of the superiors, but both the commander and commander Gary rejected it …

… Traditions and outdated orders have won. As a result, the boat destroyed all three ships, and her crew did not even sweat! “

Abrashoff was a good commander, at one point the best in the surface forces of the US Navy, and his ship turned out to be one of the most combat-ready. He was able to quickly raise both the morale and training of the crew. But he was “eaten”, he did not become an admiral, and moreover, he then had to leave the Navy. In the pre-war period, however, such excesses are unacceptable – it is the military commanders who are needed, and they must be willing and able to fight.

In October 2019, the Aggressor Squadron (AGGRON), a training unit with a bear and a dragon on the emblem, appeared in the submarine forces of the Navy, which is supposed to train submarine crews on how the Russians and the Chinese are fighting. Now, apparently, it was the turn of the surface forces. This small formation of destroyers in the Atlantic will most likely be a training one, designed to practice new methods of anti-submarine warfare in conditions close to real ones – a huge theater of military operations, a lack of forces and, although rare, but real Russian submarines. It should be noted that the Americans will hide especially secret “preparations” for enemy submarines, practicing them on their submarines.

Now it is possible in advance, in peacetime, to work out the optimal ways of solving combat missions in the future, interaction in ship groups, tactical schemes for a small detachment of warships operating with minimal support, and there will be time to implement all the developments in the governing documents, bring them to all the ships of the Navy and then work out in the exercises with the entire fleet. It will also be possible to test various promising techniques in practice. Just another step in preparing for a future war. Apparently, from next year they will begin intensive training.

This is not good for the Russian Navy, to be honest, nothing. Modern hydroacoustic complexes operating in low-frequency ranges with active hydroacoustic “illumination” and an antenna towed behind the ship, no matter whether the submarine is noisy or not, it will still be detected. And the width of the strip in which a group of several destroyers can detect a submarine is hundreds of kilometers. In addition, they will be able to direct their own at the discovered our submarines. Seeing how others are preparing for war, the RF Armed Forces should objectively and impartially look at how we are preparing for it.

Alexander Timokhin

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