Submarine Missions: Anti-Submarine Warfare

Anti-submarine warfare includes a wide range of activities from placing and monitoring passive sensors on the sea floor to actively hunting and, if necessary, destroying enemy submarines with teams of submarines, surface ships, and aircraft.

Attack submarines had as their primary task stalking Soviet submarines, including SSBNs. Initially, Soviet SSBNs carried relatively short-range missiles and patrolled only a few hundred miles off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. American submarines shadowed them closely, ready to attack—but only with authorization—as soon as they detected the sounds of opening missile hatches.

Fast attacks also worked with the surface fleet, providing early warning of threats to aircraft carrier battle groups and monitoring potentially hostile action. Additional submarines could be promptly deployed in a crisis, a strategy called "surging." In the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, for instance, five fast attacks surged from their bases on less than 24-hour notice to join the four already with the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. The nine American boats effectively countered the 23 Soviet submarines shadowing the American aircraft carriers and helped forestall a threatened Soviet intervention.

Declassified Charts (shown to the right)
These charts were prepared by U.S. Naval Intelligence and declassified for this exhibit; they show five successive stages in the patrol areas of Soviet ballistic missile and attack submarines from the 1960s to the 1990s. Initially, Soviet submarines patrolled close to American shores to remain within range of American cities. As the range of Soviet missiles increased and American antisubmarine tactics grew more aggressive, Soviet submarines retreated to a bastion in northern home waters. Click any of the charts for a full-screen view.



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