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SSN-688 Los Angeles-class

The LOS ANGELES class SSN specifically included ASW against Soviet submarines trying to sink the US carrier and ASUW against capital ships in the Soviet surface action group [SAG]. The LOS ANGELES class SSN was designed almost exclusively for Carrier Battlegroup escort; they were fast, quiet, and could launch Mk48 and ADCAP torpedoes, Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles (no longer carried), and both land attack and anti-ship (no longer carried) Tomahawk cruise missiles. The new submarines showed another step improvement in quieting and an increase in operating speed to allow them to support the CVBG. Escort duties included conducting ASW sweeps hundreds of miles ahead of the CVBG and conducting attacks against the SAG.

Submarines of the LOS ANGELES Class are among the most advanced undersea vessels of their type in the world. While anti-submarine warfare is still their primary mission, the inherent characteristics of the submarine's stealth, mobility and endurance are used to meet the challenges of today's changing global geopolitical climate. Submarines are able to get on station quickly, stay for an extended period of time and carry out a variety of missions including the deployment of special forces, minelaying, and precision strike land attack.

These 360 foot, 6,900-ton ship are well equipped to accomplish these tasks. Faster than her predecessors and possessing highly accurate sensors, weapons control systems and central computer complexes, the LOS ANGELES Class is armed with sophisticated MK-48 Advanced Capability anti-submarine/ship torpedoes, Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles, and mines.

Designed as a follow-on to the STURGEON class submarines built during the 1960s, the Los Angeles class incorporated improved sound quieting and a larger propulsion plant than previous classes. Her many capabilities include wartime functions of undersea warfare, surface warfare, strike warfare, mining operations, special forces delivery, reconnaissance, carrier battle group support and escort, and intelligence collection.

Dominance over the Soviet Navy was vital in preserving maritime superiority during the Cold War. During this time period, U.S. attack submarines monitored Soviet naval development and open ocean naval operations in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. U.S. SSNs obtained vital information on Soviet naval capabilities and weaknesses while underscoring American determination to defend the nation and her allies from attack.

While almost all Cold War operations remain classified, two declassified missions showcase Submarine Force capabilities. USS Guardfish (SSN-612) silently tracked a Soviet cruise missile (SSGN) submarine which was following U.S. aircraft carriers off Vietnam in the 1970's - ready to protect American ships should the SSGN launch her missiles. In 1978, in the Atlantic, USS Batfish (SSN-681) tracked a Soviet ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) sailing off the East Coast of the U.S.- learning Soviet SSBN patrol areas and operating patterns and providing early indications of any potential surprise attack on the US.

This particular Yankee trailing operation - given the code name Evening Star - began on March 17, 1978 when USS Batfish (SSN-681) intercepted a Yankee SSBN in the Norwegian Sea. Batfish, towing a 1,100-foot sonar array, had been sent out from Norfolk specifically to intercept the SSBN, U.S. intelligence having been alerted to her probable departure from the Kola Peninsula by the CIA-sponsored Norwegian intelligence activities and U.S. spy satellites. These sources, in turn, cued the Norway-based SOSUS array as the Soviet missile submarine sailed around Norway's North Cape. After trailing the Soviet submarine for 51 hours while she traveled 350 nautical miles, Batfish lost contact during a severe storm on March 19. A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft was dispatched from Reykjavik, Iceland, to seek out the evasive quarry. There was intermittent contact with the submarine the next day and firm contact was reestablished late on March 21 in the Iceland-Faeroes gap. The trail of the SSBN was then maintained by Batfish for 44 continuous days, the longest trail of a Yankee conducted to that time by a US submarine.

As the Cold War progressed, the Soviet Navy expanded substantially in size and capability. Concerned about U.S. submarine superiority, the Soviet Union devoted considerable resources to improving the quality of their submarine force, which throughout the Cold War was much larger than the U.S. Submarine Force. By the 1980's, Soviet submarines had narrowed, but not eliminated, the submarine technology gap. The U.S. Navy counted on the superiority of its submarines and, above all, its submariners in the event of hostilities.

In the 1980's, the U.S. Navy adopted the Maritime Strategy, which envisioned a wartime thrust into ocean areas adjoining the Soviet Union in order to defend Northern Europe against a Soviet invasion. US military planners foresaw a key role for submarines in the Maritime Strategy. They counted on the stealth and superiority of US submarines to destroy Soviet warships capable of targeting U.S. battle groups. Additionally, U.S. submarines focused on Arctic warfare, where Soviet submarines, including SSBNs, were expected to operate in the event of war.

In the mid-1980s U.S. officials began to publicly discuss the Western anti-SSBN strategy. Probably the first official pronouncement of this strategy was a 1985 statement by Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, who declared that U.S. SSNs would attack Soviet ballistic missile submarines "in the first five minutes of the war." In January 1986, the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. James D. Watkins, wrote that "we will wage an aggressive campaign against all Soviet submarines, including ballistic missile submarines."

Not all US trailing operations were successful. Periodically Soviet SSBNs entered the Atlantic and Pacific without being detected; sometimes the trail was lost. A noteworthy incident occurred in October 1986 when the U.S. attack submarine Augusta (SSN-710) was trailing a Soviet SSN in the North Atlantic. Augusta is reported to have collided with a Soviet Delta I SSBN that the U.S. submarine had failed to detect. Augusta was able to return to port, but she suffered $2.7 million in damage. The larger Soviet SSBN suffered only minor damage and continued her patrol.

The Cold War ended in 1989-91 with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. For over 40 years submariners played a largely unheralded role protecting and defending the United States and her allies from nuclear and conventional attack. Often away from home for deployments of six months or longer, the men of the Submarine Force kept careful watch over their Cold War adversaries, while preparing for and deterring war.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 12:55:09 ZULU