Both The Sunday Times and The Telegraph leaked yesterday a "fodder" which sure as hell must create some kind of (British) public reaction for whatever end, presumably increase in financing of armed forces. Among the list of failed technologies "serving" with the Royal Navy both newspapers point out one, which, in their mind, is the most "dramatic"--the fact that, and I quote: The Navy's Type 45 destroyers are so loud they can be heard 100 miles away by Russian submarines, it has emerged (c). My first reaction to all that was....so, what?
Here is a T-Shirt imprint by Royal (Netherlands) Navy, namely its old timer namesake of the class of diesel subs, HNLMS Walrus.
There is a reason this imprint depicts a Dutch Walrus munching on CVN 71 Theodore Roosevelt. This meal for HNLMS Walrus happened at JTFEX 99 naval exercise where Walrus did here dirty deed by breaking through Roosevelt's ASW screen unnoticed and simulated attack on US Navy's most prized possession--Nuclear Aircraft Carrier. This simulated "kill" of US Navy's carriers was not one off. The list of submarines, including Soviet and Russian ones, breaking through ASW screens of Carrier Battle Groups is too numerous to post it here but let us review other situation. The year of 2003, Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Poland's then President Aleksander Kwaśniewski were "fighting" a naval war (exercises) on board of Russian Navy's Missile Cruiser Marshal Ustinov together with nuclear cruiser Peter The Great, who headed KAG (Ships' Strike Group). ASW was an element which was exercised and, should this have been a real war, both Russia's and Poland's Presidents would have been dead. One of Russia's Baltic Fleet's project 877 SSKs broke through Peter The Great's ASW screen unnoticed and "sunk" it. BPK (Large ASW Ship) Admiral Levchenko's (part of a group's ASW screen) salvo of ASW torpedoes at Flaming Datum as well as a salvo of depth charges anti-torpedo screen, all happened post-factum. That is, in real battle Peter The Great would have had several torpedoes making sure that it (she, he??) wouldn't make it back to the base. As some American ASW veteran officer described the essence of Anti Submarine Warfare: it is akin to a guy who was hitting himself on the head with the hammer only to feel relief and better when he stopped doing so. In Soviet (Russian) Navy anti-submariners were looked at as a people who had no life. ASW is HARD!
Here is why my reaction was "So, What?" (accidentally, my most favorite jazz piece of all time from Miles' immortal Kind Of Blue). The tactical truism is: in simplified modern Surface Ship against Submarine tactical setup (engagement), Surface Ship's chances of survival such an engagement are approaching zero. Submarine will "hear" this ship long before this ship will hear this sub. That is why, in layman's lingo, surface ships move often within groups and use all available means, from patrol ASW aviation 'on call", to own ASW helicopters to make sure that they are beyond the salvo ranges by the submarine. Other submarines are also used as ASW assets. It also has to be stated that modern subs (and ships) are not limited to merely acoustic means for detection, tracking and developing firing solution against their "victims". All kinds of means, from MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detectors), to gravity and thermal detection and tracking methods are used. Here, as an example, are the photos of System Of Detection Of Wake (Systema Obnaruzhenya Kilvaternogo Sleda) MHK-200 Toucan--a standard feature of Russian project 971 Shuka and project 945 Barracuda SSNs.
The profile of modern naval battle is extremely complex, and the fact that Russian subs can "hear" Type 45 Destroyer 100 nautical miles away is realistically....drum roll--nothing special. Yes, since the late 19th Century surface ships were using all kinds of means for reducing their physical fields (aka for fanboys as "stealth") from visual, to acoustic, to magnetic, to thermal to radio fields. There is a reason why modern submariners self-assertively state that in naval service there are only two types of ships: submarines and targets. Yes, it sounds arrogant but has a ring of truth to it. Royal Navy, of course, may try to reduce the acoustic signature of its Type 45 destroyers as it probably should be done. But it has to be understood that today, with the revolutionary development of missile technology and surveillance and intelligence means, one will be hard pressed to envision a scenario in which modern sub, carrying modern anti-ship missiles, will be forced to really close the distance for a torpedo attack on the enemy's surface naval ship. I wrote about that in my Damned If You Do series of posts (still not completed). Modern surveillance systems such as Russia's Liana and means integrated into it allow for almost real time theater situational and tactical awareness and with it the ability to provide real time targeting data, including for subs, for a missile salvo from the ranges at which it will be very difficult, if possible at all, for surface ships to do anything against the attacker. But in the end, no matter how good or, as in the case of RN's destroyers, how bad the acoustic signature of a surface ship is, a submarine will "see" it way before a ship can "see" a sub. And that is the naval truism du jour. I wrote this on the run after I read the news. Reality, of course, is much more complex but I will try to return to it soon.