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Countering Underwater Sabotage

Soviet approaches to defenses against Western underwater sabotage forces reflect the Soviet understanding of how their own forces would be used against Western targets. A definition of the concept "underwater sabotage forces and means," often met with different interpretations, and also with an incorrect classification of these forces and means. Underwater sabotage forces are those forces capable of employing while submerged the combat means (torpedoes, mines, explosive charges, including nuclear ones) adapted for them and powerful enough to destroy a target, and also capable of conducting reconnaissance. Falling into the category of underwater sabotage forces are frogmen, who move about with the aid of underwater and surface towing devices, and midget submarines.

The general system of organizing combat against underwater sabotage forces and means in a naval theater must be based on a determination and evaluation of the sea or water areas from where most probably underwater sabotage forces and means will be able to operate, and it must also take into consideration the capabilities of the navy to maintain the proper operational conditions in the theater as a whole or in separate areas, including those in most danger from underwater attacks. Undoubtedly, combat against submarines and surface forces groupings at sea, carried out on the scale of armed conflict in the theater, will reduce the danger of an attack by underwater sabotage forces; however, it will not completely eliminate it.

During the Cold War, some Soviet officers, generals, and admirals expressed the opinion that, under the conditions of modern armed conflict at sea, inspite of the presence of the West's highly developed underwater sabotage forces and means, with the dispersed basing of Soviet navy's forces, there was no sense in specially organizing combat against underwater sabotage forces and means. The reasoning for this was that the Soviets would hardly be able to allocate a large number of the navy's mobile forces and fixed means, and protection with the aid of numerically small groupings may prove ineffective.

As the underwater sabotage forces and means of the West developed, the further improvement of both Soviet combat and technical means and of methods of combat against them took place, The new conditions of basing naval ship groupings in dispersed points for the purposes of protecting them from weapons of mass destruction, forced the Soviets above all to think specifically of just how to organize the activity of the available forces and means at naval bases and of the large units and units of general fleet subordination for the most effective and dependable protection against underwater sabotage.

In the interests of organizing combat against Western underwater sabotage forces and means in a naval theater, in addition to the existing "distant" and "close-in" zones of anti-submarine defense in the naval theater, it was necessary to set apart from the "close-in" zone still another, the "coastal" zone. It took in a narrow strip of dry land, the water area of gulfs, all bays, harbors, and river mouths. Its boundary were established at sea at a distance of 25 to 30 miles (45 to 60 kilometers) from the shoreline. In such a "coastal" zone it would be easier to study and take into consideration the peculiarities of the hydrological conditions and the relief of the terrain, and simpler to assign forces and means and precisely work out the organization of combat (including control and all-round support) against every type of underwater danger on the approaches to bases, ports, anddistant dispersed basing points for naval forces as well as other important installations.

Within the limits of the "coastal' zone it was advisable to establish separate areas or sectors for combat against underwater sabotage forces and means, especially on the more probable and convenient axes for the penetration of underwater sabotage forcesand means, where there are important military or economic installations. In the "coastal" zone, groupings of forces and means of the navy and.of other branches of the armed forces would be operating. These groupings may consist of fixed means and of mobile means. The fixed means of the navy could include equipment to conduct continual surveillance over all areas or sectors, give warnings and maintain communications, including shore sonar stations, detection indicator's, mobile and fixed sonobuoys, and signalling nets. In addition, the service for the close-in surveillance of the shore, water surface, and airspace would be operating. Really mobile naval forces must be established for the purpose of pursuing and destroying underwater, sabotage forces that were detected.

All the work to coordinate the actions of the naval forcesand means and the forces and means of the other branches of the armed forces must be carried out jointly with the commanders of the large units and units of the other branches of the armed forces and the border guard troops. The main consideration in this work was timeliness. Control of the grouping of ground forces allocated for combating underwater sabotage forces and means would be carriedout by the senior commander in the given area or the commander of the local garrison. Overall leadership of the forces and means for combat against underwater sabotage must be exercised by the fleet commander and his staff centrally at the scale of the naval theater. This is due to the fact that the fleet will be accomplishing the assigned task in parallel with the conduct of combat against submarines, inasmuch as these are the basic means of transporting undetwater sabotage forces and means. Centralized control would make it possible to intensify efforts in good time for greater effectiveness, if this is required, by using forces and means of the naval bases, certain ship large units of general fleet subordination, and the fleet aviation in any coastal area of the naval theater.

In the 1960s, the lack of special technical means of detection adversely affected the organization of a dependable system of protection for naval force bases against the possible penetration of underwater sabotage forces, This circumstance compelled many of the responsible officers of naval large units and units to proceed, as of old, on the basis of the visual surveillance data of naval patrol forces and shore observation posts. An experimental exercise conducted on this theme in the Black Sea Fleet showed that ship, shore, and aircraft technical means operating in the "echo direction finding" mode did not detect such underwater targets as frogmen and midget submarines. The latter produced very insignificant, noise and magnetic and electrical fields. Furthermore, the broken nature of the shoreline and the presence of capes and shoals form extensive dead zones when surveillance was being done by onshore fixed technical means, and the littering of coastal areas with the remains of sunken vessels and various metal objects created a wide variety of false targets.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:49:17 ZULU