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A 2011 History.Net Exchange on the Loss of the USS SCORPION

By Bruce Rule - June 30, 2013

Posting 171 on History.Net; google History.Net SCORPION

Bruce Rule says

9/2/2011 at 2:04 pm

Those who have read my one-star review of Ed Offley’s SCORPION DOWN know that my assessment is that there are very serious credibility problems with Offley’s contention in his book that a student at the Navy ASW Training Center in Norfolk, VA in 1982, viewed a tape that purportedly recorded a Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) detection of an “underwater dogfight” between SCORPION and an ECHO-II Class Soviet nuclear submarine that sank SCORPION with a torpedo.

The review summarizes why, in my assessment, this tape could not have recorded a real event but was, instead, a composite of three separate (unrelated) detection events:

1. A US nuclear submarine
2. An ECHO-II Class Soviet nuclear submarine
3. A torpedo

Unfortunately, the tape has disappeared.

For background, the purported detection of the dogfight by SOSUS hydrophone arrays in the western Atlantic would have involved detection ranges at least as great as 976 nautical miles, the distance from the SCORPION wreck-site (32-55N, 33-09W) to the closest SOSUS array – designated 3141 – which terminated at Argentia, Newfoundland.

Earlier comments left on this thread state that the acoustic detection of SCORPION (on the tape) included a "bathtub effect." The term bathtub is SOSUS operator slang for the appearance of a Lloyds Mirror multi-acoustic-signal-path effect (interference pattern) on a SOSUS lofargram which is a time (y-axis) versus frequency (x-axis) plot of the low-frequency acoustic spectrum.

The Lloyds Mirror effect appears on a lofargram as a series of energy swaths separated by nulls, both of which gradually decrease in frequency as an acoustic target is detected approaching a sensor on a constant course. The nulls, which have a common (basic) spacing (separation) in frequency, are not multiples of a common frequency, i.e., they are not harmonically-related. They decrease in frequency until a target, maintaining a steady course, reaches the closest point of approach (CPA) to the sensor. The swaths and nulls then increase frequency/spacing as the target, still operating on a steady course, opens range to the sensor. Viewed over time, this pattern resembles a bathtub in that it has a frequency dip (the bottom of the "tub") at CPA. The swaths represent detection of broadband energy from the target. (Such energy is rarely detected from US nuclear submarines at ranges in excess of 5-10 nautical miles.)

If the depth of the acoustic sensor is known and the range to the target can be derived from a Doppler shift in the targets narrowband energy during CPA, then the spacing (in Hz) of the nulls (between the swaths) can be used to determine target depth.

Essentially all detections of Lloyds Mirror (bathtub) effects from US nuclear submarines involve ranges of less than 10 nautical miles because, as noted above, they require detection of broadband energy. Air-dropped acoustic sensors (sonobuoys) are the almost exclusive source of Lloyds Mirror detections of US nuclears and most of the involved ranges are significantly less 2-3 nautical miles, often in the hundreds of yards.

The statement in this thread that the SCORPION detection on the ASW Training School tape exhibited a bathtub effect establishes conclusively that the detection was NOT made by a SOSUS array at a range of one thousand nautical miles or more. Further, it is stated the acoustic sources that formed the bathtub were dropping in frequency. This could only have occurred if the target had been on a steady course and had significantly changed aspect relative to the sensor in a relatively short period of time, i.e., 10-20 minutes. Neither circumstance would be possible if the detection had occurred, as maintained by Offley, at ranges of 1000 nautical miles or more and had involved frequent course changes while involved in the purported underwater dogfight..

As concluded in the book review, the ASW Training School tape was a composite of separate detection events with the most probable source of the SCORPION (or other 585/588 Class hull) detection from a sonobuoy at a range not greater than several nautical miles.

Bottom line: the ASW Training School tape viewed in 1982 was a composite tape put together at the ASW Training School, probably for training purposes, but passed off to students – and one junior instructor as a real event. This conclusion further refutes the basic contention by Offley that a Soviet submarine sank SCORPION.

There was no SOSUS detection of an underwater dogfight between SCORPION and an ECHO-II Class Soviet nuclear submarine nor was there any effort by the Office of Naval Intelligence to confiscate and destroy any such detection. Fifteen analysts with a total of 400 years of SOSUS experience signed off on that conclusion.

SCORPION was lost because hydrogen produced by the main storage battery exploded at 18:20:44Z on 22 May 1968 instantly killing or incapacitating the entire crew. There was no one left to maintain depth-control. SCORPION slowly sank to a depth of 1530-feet where the pressure-hull collapsed at 18:42:34Z.

There was no Soviet involvement, no SOSUS detection of an underwater dogfight with a Soviet nuclear submarine, no SOSUS detection of a torpedo, no explosions external to the SCORPION pressure-hull, and no deus ex machina. There was only a terrible accident (the battery explosion) that occurred while SCORPION was transiting the east central North Atlantic toward its home-port of Norfolk.

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Post Script: Somewhere - still living - there may be those individuals who put together the SCORPION "dogfight tape." It would still be useful if they came forward and acknowledged their complicity in this unfortunate incident which came back to haunt so many when the first SCORPION conspiracy novel was published circa 2006.