Monday, 16 February 2009

'The Hunt for Red October' exposed as fake

Ever read the book 'The Hunt for Red October' by Tom Clancy? Remember all the details about how submarine sonar operators can track their enemies over hundreds of miles and pick up enough clues to tell precisely which boat they are listening to? (the film is slightly less tortuous on this point but comes to the same conclusion).

Well, those submarines from the UK and France seem to have proved that this is a complete myth. The couldn't even hear another sub well enough to avoid smacking into each other. No caterpillar drives were in operation (we assume), just standard missile boats going about their daily business.

Instead of the high tech world of Clancy, it instead brings to mind that scene in 'Das Boot' when the two German U-boats find themselves within a few hundred yards of each other by mistake when they should be patrolling completely different stretches of the Atlantic.


Tristan said...

Except this collision was caused by having very high tech.

These submarines do not want anyone to know where they are - otherwise they're sitting ducks and the deterrent is rather useless (sink the subs then launch your missile attack).
Active sonar would announce their presence to the world since it involves emitting quite a bit of noise.

Also, they are designed to be as quiet as possible to avoid detection through listening for each other - obviously it worked rather well.

The US and UK navies actually cooperate to make sure this doesn't happen, but obviously the UK and French navies don't trust each other enough to coordinate...

As for 'The Hunt...', I've never seen it or heard it, but surely they're not using nuclear deterrent submarines to do this tracking - the US Navy must have several classes of submarine, one of which will probably be deployed to hunt other submarines with sonar (presumable with surface and air support).

So, not really exposed as a fake, although definitely a work of fiction...

Alex said...

Tristan - Agreed, but 'THFRO' went into this at great length. It described how, even without using active sonar, skilled sub sonar operators could still hear other subs - even the 'boomers' which had 'gone quiet'.
Obviously the book is fictional, but you would have thought it might be based vaguely on fact