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May 13th, 2007 by AW1 Tim

Note: This is AW1 Tim’s inaugural post. I played in the same world from the surface, so I can say the “gouge” is good…and it’s a good story from the days of the “Cold War.”


I’ll start off this adventure with a story about ASW, anti-submarine warfare. I relate it to you partly because I was a participant, but mostly because it is an example of thinking outside the box. It illustrates what can be accomplished by using your opponent’s philosophy against him. This story took place nearly 30 years ago, but I can remember it quite well.

The Straits of Gibraltar is the western doorway to the Mediterranean Sea. Pretty much everything has to pass through it to reach the Atlantic. Directly above the straits is Spain, and it’s western side holds the Bay of Cadiz, and a small city called Rota. Rota is the home of Eastern Atlantic ASW operations, and the location of Naval Station Rota, where we were based. At that time, I was assigned to VP-10 as a Sensor operator onboard P-3B Orions. Basically, an airborne sonarman. A good job, and one I liked. Rotais also a prime liberty spot, and the setting for many an adventure which will, in due course, see the light of day. But not this day, for there is another tale to tell, and so I must return to the narrative.

Well, the Soviets, our old friends,and to a certain extent, they were that, or, rather, acquaintances, bred of familiarity, were also interested in the area. The only way for them to get a submarine (outside, of course, of their own Black Sea Fleet) into the Med was to transit the straits, and that’s a difficult thing to do undetected, even for our own boats. It’s shallow water, as ocean’s go, and not too wide, and lots of ships overhead. Many an opportunity not only to be found out, but to interact rather rudely and, perchance, catastrophically with other vessels and land forms. Plus everyone’s looking for you. The usual tactic for submarines of all types was to trail some distance behind the carrier (or other target vessel) they were shadowing, and to try and glide in under a larger surface ship, to mask their own noise.

Did I mention the Soviet Trawler? Regardless of the paucity of commercially viable fish stocks, the Soviets had stationed a fishing trawler off the runway at Rota, in international waters. Their purpose to keep tabs on us, casting, as it were, their nets to catch the unwary. Now, It was a given that they were an intelligence-gathering vessel. Their fishing nets were all neatly stored, they never left their anchorage, and there was this small forest of antennas and masts all over the upper works. We knew what theywere, they knew we knew, and we all played the game. So familiar was the fishing trawler to Navy Pilots and Navigators, that it became an unofficial navigational marker. In fact, as a professional courtesy, on many a mission we would drop a care package to those poor souls on our way outbound. A little gift from America to our Soviet Naval Comrades, as it were. We’d take a plastic packing case that a sonobuoy comes in, fill it with a bottle or two of Jack Daniels, some cassette tapes, a couple of adult magazines, and then seal it up. We’d drop it out the sonobuoy launcher on the way by, and they’d send a small boat over to pick it up. They’d wave, we’d wave, and the cold war went on. But I digress.

USS Saratoga was planning on transiting the Straits, and conducting a patrol through the Mediterranean Sea. Problem was, there was this pesky Soviet Echo-II class submarine tailing her, and Saratoga was, naturally, concerned about the situation. Echo II class submarines carried cruise missiles that could well & goodly cause all sorts of mischief to a carrier, ar any other vessel. Saratoga requested that our squadron conduct ASW operations to locate andidentify this submarine so she could determine how best to deal with it. Usually, if you can locate the sub, they’ll back off and try again some other time. At the very least, they don’t like being discovered, because a submarine’s best defense is to remain undetected.

We planned and briefed for a late afternoon launch, and the ASW Ops portion of the mission would be exactly what we trained for. However, there was a problem in that the Soviet Trawler would be easily able to ID our launch, and transfer that information to the Echo-II, who would then lay low until we departed the area. Not unlike smugglers who have someone watching out for the cops. Same idea. What to do, what to do. We needed to locate and ID this submarine, generate as much intel on it as possible, and to try and give Saratoga more time to complete her inchop to the Med. We also didn’t want to tip our hand that we KNEW about the submarine ahead of time. The plan developed thusly:

Our aircraft would depart from Rota and rather than turn south, we’d turn north as though we were headed up the coast to England, following the standard air transit route. Once we got sufficiently up and out of the range of the Soviet sensors, we circled west and out, keeping our distance until we could, at altitude (above 15,000ft) approach the Straits as if we were a commercial aircraft. One of the advantages of the P-3 Orion is that it was, well, derived from a civilian airliner. Therefor, posing as one on radarwasn’t too awfully hard.

Meanwhile, Saratoga had some of it’s ASW folks pull a few sonobuoys from their own stores, and at a specified point, they rolled these off the stern, the drop being sufficient to activate the buoy’s impact sensor and deploy the antenna and hydrophone. For anyone watching, it would look more or less like they were tossing trash overboard. Saratoga radioed us the channels of the bouys, and the order they were dropped, and the spacing, and we dialed them up into our sensor suites, and waited.

The Echo-II, having been given, apparently, the “all clear” from the Trawler, now moved to trail Saratoga into the Straits, maneuvering fairly close aboard, though submerged, to a commercial vessel also heading east. The Echo-II was counting on both the noise and the mass of the civilian ship to mask her transit, but was unaware she was sailing directly into a waiting
line of hydrophones. The hunter had become the hunted.

As we neared the area, being at high altitude we could start to pick up the signal from the sonobuoys at some distance. Within a very short time, there came the unmistakable signature of a Soviet Echo-II class submarine. We were elated. Not only did we have direct acoustic contact with him, but we had his location down to a very narrow area. After contacting the ASW Tactical Support Center onboard Saratoga, it was decided that the best course of action would be to gather as much acoustic intel on the Sovietboat as we could, then light him up with active sonar and try and chase him back out of the straits. In fact, rather than allow him to get through, we determined to try and turn him before he made it in. We did this by dropping a pair of CASS (command activated sonobuoy system) buoys ahead of the submarine and waiting for it to approach them.

At about the extended range of the CASS buoys, we fired off the first ping, and folks, it was like turning on the lights and yelling “Happy Birthday!” at a surprise party. That Echo-II wound his turbines up so high that I had to turn down my headset sound. The sub initiated a hard turn and transited back out to the Atlantic like there was no tomorrow. It was a complete surprise to him, and we made it a little more painful by descending to low altitude and fixing his position with our MAD gear and smoke markers. Bythat I mean that we were so low during that phase of the evolution, that he would have easily heard our own propellers and turbines as we flew overhead. He KNEW we were there.

So, long story short, Saratoga got away into the Mediterranean with quite some distance between her and the trailing boat. We were able to bring a few more crews onto the Echo-II and tracked him around the area for several days before he finally turned north and headed back, his mission foiled. Probably had some serious ‘splainin’ to do when he got home as well. We, on the otherhand, found it difficult to list humility amongst our many virtues at that point. I suspect such has always been the bane of Naval Aircrew, regardless of the era.

The important story, though, is that we were able to exploit the Soviet tactics by turning their stoic allegiance to certain dictats to our own use. We made the Soviet Trawler think that we were doing something else. By spending the time to transit way out and around, we lowered our own on-station time, but kept the ability to stalk our prey by being “downwind” as it were, and approaching from an unexpected quarter. We utilized non-standard stores delivery by having Saratoga deploy the buoys. That allowed us, then, to approach the target while monitoring the pattern, and also saved us time by not having to drop them ourselves. The combined ops of both the CVBG and the VP Squadron allowed us to fully control the ASW environment, and to force the submarine to react to our terms. Had this been an actual war, we would most likely have been able to engage the contact before he was aware of our presence.

AW’s have a motto: We will locate your faintest whispers… your slightest movements…..gaze upon the heat of your body…..we will hear your pounding heart in the deepest oceans…..and when you finally become aware of our presence…..we will have already begun your departure…..forever!

We’re good at what we do.

Category: "Sea Stories", History, Military, Navy | 4 Comments »

A Little Blogging Humor….

January 16th, 2006 by AW1 Tim

This was published in the local paper on New Year’s Day, but not listed in the Pearls Before Swine cartoon archives.

Maybe it’s an analogy of what happens out here in the blogosphere sometimes…Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the Open Thread!Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

Category: Blogging, Humor | Comments Off on A Little Blogging Humor….

Today is Remarkable Battle Day

October 25th, 2005 by AW1 Tim

October 25th. No year attached, just a day of the year. As I researched some connections I have to this day in 1998, I have discovered it’s interesting how so many battles of historical note happened on this day.

I am most attached due to this day due to my Naval career, which included a tour aboard USS CARR (FFG-52). Gunner’s Mate Paul Henry Carr, USN, of Checotah, OK, is the namesake for the vessel.

GM2 Pual Henry Carr, USN

He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions aboard the USS SAMUEL B ROBERTS (DE-413) at the Battle Off Samar on October 25th, 1944. My post last year, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the last great sea battle held in the history of mankind is here.

The best book I have read on this battle, which brought together many first person accounts was “Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors” by James Hornfischer. I highly recommend it.

Walking backwards on the timeline of history to October 25th, 1854. The Crimean War was raging and the 13th Hussars of British cavalry rode to their deaths and immortality at Balaklava in the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

The last stop on this October 25th journey is a day of special significance is the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The recollection of this battle is usually provided in the form of the stirring and often quoted call to the troops to rise to the challenge of the day before them in Shakespeare’s play “Henry V:”

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

I’m amazed that these several battles of major significance would all fall on this day in history. Each battle can be rightly described as courageous, filled with honor and sacrifice for a higher calling, that have been noted by history as something out of the ordinary.

That’s today’s history lesson.

Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

Update 10/26/2005: Check out ANYDAY Today in History to see what happened on any day of the year!

Category: History, Military, Military History, Navy | 1 Comment »

By the Book? Yes, I am….

November 18th, 2004 by AW1 Tim

Yes, I’ll admit it. I’m a “by the book” kind of guy. After many years of being around organizations big and small, I believe I’ve finally figured out why I have chosen to read “the book.”

Usually, when someone accused me of being “by the book” (let’s make the BTB from here on out), it was because they thought it was a bad thing. I challenge you to think of it this way: I was just lazy. When someone in the military remarks that someone is BTB, it’s most often spoken in such tones that you cannot possibly miss the negative connotation it carries with it.

Books in business or governmental settings are horribly dry reading. Full of blah, blah, blah and…. What people found out about how to do it the easy way through their mistakes. In the military arena, it is often said the books are written in blood. I’d be willing to bet the NAVSHIPSTECHMAN on the proper preparation of a steel surface for priming and painting had little or no blood on its pages, but the tactical doctrine to fight against anti-ship cruise missile attack had the blood of the crews of the USS STARK (FFG-31) and the HMS SHEFFIELD on them.

So, if you have the ability to keep your eyes open and you get rewarded with explanations of why things are done the way they are done. This can provide you with reduced levels of tension, cure migraines and generally make you have a kinder and gentler disposition, now that you “know” why they did it like that. In addition to this basic information, you will be able to see when it is appropriate to lobby for a change. Maybe the old way was tied to manual methods that have become superseded by automation, yet no one has updated the procedures.

There is, how ever, a dichotomy inherent in all of this: On one hand people dislike it when someone tells them to do it like the book, but they certainly don’t hesitate to tell you they are doing it “this way” because “that’s how we do it.”

I came to look at the study of documents on policy and procedure as a method to also determine what were the circumstances under which these procedures were to he carried out (the “normal” cases) and, by derivation, when you rightfully needed to come up with your own plan. It’s one thing to think you’re out of the box, it’s another to know you most certainly are. When you find yourself out of the box, your hard earned BTB information provides you with a foundation of knowledge to work with, while you rapidly work to get the chaos under control., rather than standing dumbfounded.

See how it’s all about lazy? I’d rather let someone else make the mistakes, and therefore, I lessen the opportunity to repeat them, thinking that my stupidity is something original.

Another angle to take on the BTB philosophy is that of the fiscal one. If you do things the way someone figured them out already, you should be able to be more efficient. Now, unless you have a “make the work expand to fit the remaining time” type of boss, then you have the option of bagging out sooner, an opportunity to get in some afternoon golf.

The other side of the financial stuff here is if you read the book, and see the “procedure” is just plain wasteful, and you choose not to take the time to fix it, then you are not being very responsible with the dollars of whoever is putting money in your hand on payday.

So, there’s my chaotic thoughts on being “by the book.”

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