Recent articles in the PROCEEDINGS and else-where have emphasized the remarkable quieting of nuclear submarines as they tend to make less noise than sea background even at considerable speed. The effects on our vast investment in detection systems promise to be profound within one or two development cycles.
The use of active sonar, so important in past wars, can be inhibited by the long ranges at which the pings can be detected. If this inhibition is sufficiently great, it will probably prove necessary to resort to high power jamming to reduce the advantage submarines have in passive detection of surface ships.
Various efforts directed towards non-acoustic methods of detection at a distance have so far failed to show promise of reliable results. The rapid increase in submarine offensive power against surface ships, aircraft, and shore installations means that we may be approaching a crisis in the security of the Western Alliance. It is imperative that we study most carefully alternatives to our present approaches.
One useful method of detection and destruction of submarines is the mine field in which detection is short ranged and uses a variety of influence devices. Mine fields are expensive and most can be swept but at great cost; they are immovable and difficult to inactivate when their usefulness ends. Minefields are detectable and can often be avoided. They are usually cost effective in terms of personnel required to lay, but very costly in personnel to counter.
As illusive as submarines are becoming, man has for centuries been catching underwater things much more illusive — things which are non-magnetic, having no need to approach the surface and travelling at a great variety of depths and speeds. We NET fish.
In the mid-fifties, off the coast of New Jersey, a trawler captain was one morning steadily working his net toward the south when suddenly found his trawler headed north at over 20 knots — and STERN FIRST. Just before his stern went under, his net broke clear and his alarmed report reached the Coast Guard. Similarly, among its many firsts, the NAUTILUS (SSN 571) had been victim of the first netting of an SSN while on a record setting speed run from Key West to New London. As I remember, the incredulous CAPT Wilkinson lavishly entertained the trawler skipper to steady his nerves.
About a year later in SEAWOLF (SSN 575) in the North Atlantic, I was headed south at moderate speed and made sonar contact on a trawler headed north. Periscope observation confirmed sonar’s classification. We were about a mile off the trawler’s track and 5 miles ahead. I could see shapes hanging from his mast and wished I were’nt so ignorant of their meaning. Intuition made me reverse course to parallel his and conduct a further sonar search of the area. So I eased over for a closer look and found a duplicate of the first trawler and on the same course. Closer observation of the second seemed to show that the two were towing between them a net about 5 MILES LONG in which SEAWOLF had almost been caught.
I’ve often wondered how many SSN’s have been netted over the last 30 years.
Though at the time I recommended that a handbook on the fishing industry be prepared for SSN CO’s, I didn’t insist on a study and don’t know whether anyone else has felt that such information is necessary.
Instead of thinking about how an SSN’s CO can avoid being caught in fishing nets, let’s think about how to use nets to catch and even possibly destroy SSNs. First, each nation of our alliance has hundreds of surface craft and expert crews to haul nets through the sea — both high seas and inshore. In most areas, there are fish traps which are essentially fixed unmanned nets. The great human effort which has been expended in netting fish has produced a great variety of nets and tows. There should be general theories of netting interrelating such variables as materials, mesh-size, strength, density, hydraulic resistance, length, depth control, cost, efficiency, speed of tow, vibration effects and recovery.
It seems logical that as a start toward developing this technique for ASW, a group of officers, analysts and engineers should cover the above and then proceed into the following areas:
- fixed vs mobile nets
- surface towed vs submarine towed nets
- submarine covertly moored fixed nets
- air dropped moored and fixed nets
- ouble net-towing vessels
- inshore vs deep sea netting
- using meshes large enough to pass whales but not SSNs
- RPV towed nets
- communicating detections to A/C, satellites, other SSNs
- bow to prevent an SSN backout or other es-cape measure
- how to engulf SSN and engage its screws
- how to drag a high speed SSN down to crush depth
Once such studies have been done there should be information on which a strategic plan could be developed toward which research and development programs can be mounted and funding acquired.
It seems to me that the NAVY and possibly DARPA should now proceed briskly on this concept. The U.S. Na\y Submarine Force should keep close track of developments and think of how to cope with similar approaches on the potential enemy’s side.