Anti-Submarine Warfare (Part-1) : Introduction


You’ve heard the expression “Looking for a needle in a haystack”. But what if you were actually looking for a needle , in a thousand haystacks , with the needle trying to escape from you or prick you every time you come close to detecting it?

Now replace the needle with a submarine and the haystacks with saltwater. This is Anti-Submarine warfare. The most challenging and dangerous part of naval warfare. Partly, because you use only your ears and not your eyes.

The potential of the submarine was greatly ignored in warfare after its invention. It was revolutionized by the German U-Boats during WW1 and WW2 . This was the first time that submarines were used in hundreds to target naval and merchant shipping. This created a need to greatly improve techniques used in detecting and destroying submarines. Submarines became faster , quieter and deadlier with every passing decade. Tactics against submarines had to be rapidly changed to suit the emerging threat of the ‘Nuclear Submarine’.

The nuclear submarine was a revolution in underwater warfare. Navies now had a warship that could stay underwater for months at a time without needing to surface to refuel . They were faster than the conventional Diesel-Electric subs. They could even dive twice as deep as the ‘diesels’. That created a problem for ASW planners.

Earlier a submarine could be counted upon to surface once every few days to recharge its batteries and expose itself to the enemy. Now, they could hide for an extremely long time. The faster speed paved the way for better weapons to be used against them.

The primary weapons used against a submarine are depth charges and torpedoes. Depth charges slowly went out of style and became obsolete as submarines and torpedoes improved. Earlier a torpedo didn’t have guidance . Now they have guidance and can guide themselves.

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Sailors throwing depth charges overboard to hunt submarines 


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A torpedo


The primary sensor used to detect a submarine is the Sonar. It uses the reflection of sound waves to detect the presence of objects underwater. It also has seen substantial improvement over the decades.

I will be talking about all these systems in detail in the future articles. Stay tuned.

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