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Undersea Surveillance [SUSOSUS]

The submarine component of the Navy has always been the subject of "closed" conversations. When demonstrating new submarines, their propellers and nose are covered with a thick cloth, the exact composition of weapons is known only to a narrow circle of people, and crew members are forced to sign a huge number of documents on non-disclosure of state secrets. Where is more secret? It turns out that there is another topic that is not customary to speak out loud. These are the stationary "eyes and ears" of the fleet, which provide coverage of the underwater situation in Russian waters.

Rear Admiral Sergey Zhandarov has noted that the activities of submarine strategic forces are impossible without guarantees of a safe exit from their base points. “Russia is building good missile carriers, such as Yuri Dolgoruky, Alexander Nevsky and other representatives of the Borey project. Such submarines must sail secretly, and for this the commander of the“ strategist ”, the governing body, needs to know what is under water. We are sending submarines to nowhere, into obscurity. The commander dives and does not know what awaits him under water. New Hampshire or Virginia, Los Angeles or Seawolf (ed. - names of submarines of the Navy USA), "said Zhandarov.

An instructive example illustrating the danger of underwater "unknown" is the collision in 1992 of the American submarine "Baton Rouge" with the Russian "Kostroma". Then our submarine was in the training ground near the Rybachy Peninsula (Northern Fleet). At the next ascent to the periscopic depth, a blow was heard. The cabin of the titanium Kostroma crashed into the Baton Rouge case, whose presence near Russian territories went unnoticed.

The fight against submarines is considered one of the most important types of military operations at sea. Powerful anti-submarine forces, equipped with modern technical equipment based on the latest scientific and technological achievements, are designed to counter the continuing, and by a number of estimates, increasing underwater threat. An essential role is given to improving the global underwater surveillance system IUSS (Integrated Undersea Surveillance System). It is based on passive sonar systems and facilities, among which a special place is occupied by the SOSUS (Sound Surveillance Undersea System).

SOSUS [SOund SUrveillance System], was a network of underwater listening posts in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Underwwater sensors located across the northern Atlantic Ocean near Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom [the GIUK gap] were originally operated by the U.S. Navy for tracking Soviet submarines which had to pass through the gap to attack targets in the Atlantic. The Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) developed early in the Cold War could, and still can detect submarines with pronounced narrow band tonals across entire ocean basins.

It was later supplemented by mobile assets such as SURTASS becoming IUSS. Successful experience in using the SOSUS strategic stationary passive underwater surveillance system and the long detection ranges of Soviet submarines built in the 1960s (up to 1,500–2,000 km) led to the creation of a “tactical” version of the system in the mid-1970s - TACTASS AN / sonar stations SQR-15,18,19 with flexible long towed antennas.

In the late 1980s, with the help of this system, the most strategically important areas of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were controlled the total area of ??which was 3/4 of their water areas in the Northern Hemisphere. There was a need to develop an underwater surveillance system, which could be quickly and covertly deployed in areas of crisis occurrence and solve the complex of tasks of the PLO in the interests of the US forces and their allies operating there. The implementation of this concept was reflected in the DSS (Distributed Surveillance Systems) program, which consists of two relatively independent systems - FDS (Fixed Distribution System) and ADS (Advanced Deployable System).

In 1970-71, near Feodosia, tests of the global sonar system for detecting noisy objects began. The system was highly rated (the prototype of the Dniester), but the military-industrial commission of the USSR Council of Ministers rejected its implementation for economic reasons, although the operation of a huge anti-submarine fleet has cost much more since then. At that time, they did not know how to count money in our country.

By the mid-1970s Soviet commentators noted the capabilities of US seabed antisubmarine reconnaissance systems. A military writer in Science and Life cited their "rather great reliability" and V.M.Kulish, formerly a General Staff officer and a member of the Institute of World Economics and International Relations, noted in a monograph the "considerable success" which the US hds achieved with them. Informal comments made in 1973 by Georgiy Arbatov, the director of the USA Institute in Moscow, suggested some concern for the vulnerability of Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic area where these detection systems are deployed. The Soviets had not, however, attempted to deploy a SOSUS-type undersea surveillance system of their own.

The Novemer 1974 Interagency Intelligence Report "Prospects for Soviet Success in Improving Detection of Submarines in Open Ocean Areas" stated "The Soviet Navy's submarine detection capabilities lag those of the US by a wide margin. The principal weakness lies in the lack of a capability to detect submarines at long ranges within the broad expanse of open ocean areas. Geographic considerations in most instances inhibit Soviet deployment of an acoustic system comparable to the US SOSUS arrays, whichrequire sound channels found generally in water greater than 2 kilometers in depth. Moreover, the effectiveness of SOSUS depends on the high-radiated noise levels made by the movement of Soviet nuclear submarines; US submarines are relatively quiet."

The 01 March 1976 Top Secret Interagency Intelligence Memorandum "Soviet Approaches to Defense Against Ballistic Missile Submarines and Prospects for Success" [NIO IIM 76-012J], decalssified in October 1999, stated "We have no evidence of deployment of fixed acoustic submarine detection systems in US SSBN operating areas. We know that such systems are deployed in the Barents Sea, and a system may bedeployed in the northern Norwegian Sea. The full extent and purpose of these deployments, however, as well as the analytical techniques used in the processing of collected data, are uncertain."

The Soviets had employed underwater microphones near their bastions to protect its own SSBN and to take care of Intruders. The Soviets had no global interests and thus little need to bug the whole ocean. The Soviet SOSUS was not as sensitive as its American counter-parts. Sometime reducing the RPM on the generators by ten percent was enough for the US subs to penetrate the barrier without being detected. The US Navy did a lot of testing to find the limits of the Soviet underwater sound barrier. This was important for where the barrier and the Alfa were built the main threat came from America's SSBN's. If an American SSBN could be detected and an Alfa sent into the area to search for it, that would be the best way to counter this threat.

After a NATO sub was detected by the Soviet type SOSUS, an Alfa would be sent out as quickly as possible to intercept the NATO sub. The hope was to detect a Polaris sub. The high speed was needed to get to the general vacinity quickly. Up to the mid-1980's the US/UK sonars had a detection advantage in range of about 3:1 over the Soviet SSN's! Add to that the NATO subs were significantly quieter than the Soviet SSN's.

Some Western analysts believed the Alfa's wartime role in bastions was not as "interceptor" but as survivable Soviet underwater AWACS. Some Soviet tactic called for one sub actively illuminating while other silent Soviet subs used these pings to detect and prosecute American subs. Given the Soviet use of accoustic tiles, their boats would not be illuminated by the pinging of the Alfa at medium to long ranges and so would remain covert. One obvsiou problem is the "survival rate" of illuminator, but the Alfa would be too fast for easy intercept. When the Alfa gets over ten knots the boundary layer over the hull shielded the sonars from external sound and makes the subs blind. The Alfa had to sprint and drift.

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union could not catch up with the Americans in the field of hydroacoustics. As Maxim Kalashnikov, a well-known popularizer of Russian military-technical science, writes in his book “Altar of Victory” dedicated to the Cold War, as of 1984, GRU analysts estimated our gap with the Americans in this area at thirty years.

Russia and its Navy do not have underwater tracking systems (FOSS) to the entire depth of the operational zones of the fleets and along the entire perimeter of Russia's maritime borders, which is the largest scientific and strategic miscalculation made more than half a century ago and not yet resolved, despite to the decree of the President of the Russian Federation of March 4, 2000 on the creation of the Unified State System for Illumination of Surface and Underwater Conditions (EGSONPO). Unlike Russia, the United States, raising this problem to the rank of strategic, solved it back in the 1960–80s of the last century, creating a stationary underwater surveillance system “SOSUS”, which in the following years was increased by long-range sonar vessels, continuing to develop it at the present time.

The submarine detection systems installed on the Rusisan Navy’s anti-submarine aircraft are also inferior in sonar detection range to similar US anti-submarine aircraft. This leads to the lack of a lighting system for the underwater situation and excludes the possibility of continuous monitoring of the actions of foreign nuclear submarines (PLA), primarily the United States, in the patrol areas of our strategic missile carriers and in the training ranges of navies, as well as in the immediate vicinity of our territorial waters.

The absence of FOSS does not allow controlling the launch limits of the Tomahawk cruise missiles (KR) (North-East Atlantic, North, Norwegian, Barents Sea, Pacific Ocean, Black Sea). Enemy submarines will be capable of delivering cruise missile attacks on the most important industrial and life-supporting facilities in the European part of Russia, as well as strategic targets, from the tactically most advantageous areas. To prevent these actions, the Northern Fleet had neither the necessary forces nor the appropriate means.

The presence of these problems poses an increasing threat to national security. Given the enormous length of the maritime borders of Russia, it can be argued that the greatest threat will be maritime directions, and especially in the underwater environment. Therefore, it is necessary to solve two strategic tasks: to create a lighting system for the underwater situation in the operational areas of the fleets and to modernize the hydroacoustic means of submarines and anti-submarine aviation in order to significantly increase the detection range under water and achieve superiority in this parameter over submarines of the United States and other countries that are of increased interest to the capabilities of the submarine forces of the Russian Navy and to Russian wealth.

The Dniester active long-range sonar detection system was deployed since 1991, so far only off the coast of Kamchatka, naturally, in conjunction with surface anti-submarine forces, and not necessarily with submarines. The Dniester was not the only project of the Soviet-Russian Navy that monitored the underwater situation. From open sources it is known about the existence of the Volkhov, Amur and Liman systems, as well as the so-called separate underwater observation centers (OTSPN).

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 17:22:14 ZULU