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Open Source Document That Discusses Soviet Knowledge of SOSUS

By Bruce Rule - August 5, 2013

Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, an encyclopedic book on Soviet and Russian strategic weapons, payloads and delivery systems, was published by MIT Press in 2004. It was a collaborative effort by three research fellows at the Center for Arms Control Studies at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, et al.

Chapter 5, Naval Strategic Nuclear Forces, discusses the development of Strategic Missile Submarines and their weapons including design characteristics and reactors.

The following quotes (Q) are from the indicated pages:

Page 276 (Q) Project AV-611 (ZULU V), 629 (GOLF), 658 (HOTEL) and 667A (YANKEE) submarines on combat patrol had to spend a long time in transit from their bases to their service areas. The route the submarines took in the Atlantic to their service areas took them across the (North Cape-Bear Island) and ((Greenland-Iceland-Faeroes Island-UK (GIUK)) Gap.

The speed of the submarine during the crossing was chosen to take into account that the transfer had to be made covertly but as quickly as possible. The average speed of a (YANKEE) crossing (into) the Atlantic was 12-14 knots, so it took the submarine 11-13 days to reach its patrol area. During the crossing the Soviet submarines were at their most vulnerable to ASW systems.

The antennas of hydroacoustic detectors of the U.S. SOSUS networks, which had been deployed at the borders of the (North Cape Bear Island, the GIUK Gap) and along the Aleutian Islands in the Pacific, played a key role in U.S. detection of Soviet submarines.

These antennas not only registered when Soviet submarines crossed these borders but at times could detect them at a considerable distance from the borders.

A timely report of a Soviet ship leaving its base thus enhanced the effectiveness of their detection. After the submarine had been detected by the SOSUS border antennas, an ASW plane was usually sent to the presumed location of the submarine to determine its position and course and, if necessary, to keep it under surveillance. Information about the location of the submarine could then be transmitted to antisubmarine surface ships or attack submarines.

Soviet submarines used several methods to escape detections and reduce the effectiveness of ASW systems. A submarine could stay in direct proximity to merchant or naval ships with a noise level high enough to muffle the sounds of the submarine. The submarine traveled at the quietest possible speed near the locations of the hydroacoustic antennas. A submarine periodically changed course to verify that it was not being tracked by ASW systems and to reduce the detectability of the ship by the antennas.

Page 625 (Q): It is interesting that Project 667A (YANKEE) left on patrol according to a strict schedule which was one of the reasons for the highly effective tracking of those submarines by U.S. Antisubmarine defensive forces in the 1970s.

Page 625 (Q): Several joint cruises by Project 667A submarines escorted by Project 671 (VICTOR I) attack submarines revealed the drawbacks of hydroacoustic communications systems and the incompatibility of radio communications systems. The noisier Project 671 ships were revealing the location of the Project 667A submarines. The practice of close-in protection of strategic submarines therefore had to be abandoned.