Actual underwater combat occurs silently with very little reaction time

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

Submarine movies such as Crimson Tide and Hunter Killer use torpedo chase scenes for dramatic effect:

The reality is that a torpedo maneuvering and hunting submarines that are frantically trying to evade is the least likely scenario in a modern submarine attack. As already noted, in a 21st Century torpedo attack, the target will likely never know it’s about to be destroyed. Modern submarine torpedoes have sound silencing built into their design and, unless they use their active sonar modes, they may not be detected until the moment before detonation.

A common event observed in naval exercises is two submarines passing within a few hundred meters of each other, detecting each other at the same time, and racing to get a shot off before the other. The other type of engagement is when one sub detects the other sooner, and often at range, resulting in a first shot, first kill. So, the underwater prolonged dogfights that are such beloved set pieces of modern submarine thrillers are just not the reality. Actual underwater combat occurs silently with very little reaction time to fend off an impending attack.


65cm Wake homing torpedoes, like the Russian 65-76A, are large long-range torpedoes designed to search for a ship’s wake and follow it. 65cm torpedoes have enough fuel to travel in excess of 100 kilometers at 50 knots for just over an hour. This makes evasion a very time-consuming affair, allowing the attack submarine time to evade and re-engage. There are ways to actively defeat a wake homing torpedo, but a salvo of this kind of weapon is a carrier killer.


  1. Adar says:

    Underwater collisions are occurring because the two boats just cannot hear one another.

    I think the carrier group surface warships tow an array behind them that deceives those wake homing torpedoes. But correct, a mass attack of such torpedoes could destroy a carrier.

  2. McChuck says:

    So sub-vs-sub fights boil down to long-range sniping or gunfights in a phone booth.

  3. CVLR says:

    Aircraft carriers were invented to transport groups of Hellcats across the Pacific Ocean. Hellcats were propeller-driven airplanes with a combat range of a thousand miles and were in operational use before the discovery of the transistor, before intercontinental ballistic missiles, before integrated circuits.

    Why do they still exist at all?

    It really makes you think. ????

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