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Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line

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Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 6/9/2015 3:23:23 PM   

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Of all the platforms in Command, it's submarines that have taken the longest for me to feel at least a passing confidence with. Mostly I think it's the lack of concrete sensor awareness. With surface and air units you have pretty solid confidence when other surface and air contacts can see you, as well as what you should be able see.

The complex acoustic arena of the ocean is a bit different in determining what your sensor capabilities are and how your detectable you sub is. There are lots of variables at work and seeing their effect is very much an art with the in-game tools provided at this point. Among these variables are...

Water Depth
Thermocline (width and strength)
Self & Target Active/Passive Sonar Signatures
Self & Target Active/Passive Sonar Sensors and Coverage
Crew Training (? - I assume better crews are better at isolating and identifying detected contacts)
Noise Due to Speed (both in respect to platform signature and sensor effectiveness)
Convergence Zones

All of these combine to create a pretty dense operational environment for a player to comprehend. This lack of understanding will often get your subs killed, too. Why? Because you've maneuvered your sub in a way that has gotten it detected, and you weren't even aware. Next thing you know, there's a torp in the water overhead and you've got to run.

So how do you deal with this? For me, after a lot of practice and with significant parts of the big picture still blurry, I came up with some SOPs that seem to work.

SOP 1: Initial Situational Awareness.
When I'm driving a sub the first thing I do is a 1-minute periscope sweep at Creep speed to clear the surface. This also allows my sonar to pick up any nearby contacts, too. I also review any intel on suspected enemy forces in the area - this lets me know how my sub matches up to the threat environment. If it's a mismatch in my direction, I can operate with more aggression. If it's parity or worse, then the need for caution becomes stronger.

SOP 2: Know the Sub's Speed Capabilities.
While you can quickly determine your sub's speed at the various throttle settings, it is less obvious what your cavitation speeds are. After clearing the nearby area, I'll usually go to Shallow depth and increment my speed until I see the sub is cavitating. I then repeat this process at the Just Above the Layer depth.

SOP 3: Only Go As Fast As You Need To.
Slow speed saves lives when you're driving a sub. You make less noise and your sensors work better. Go as slow as your mission or patrol area allows. If you need to go fast, go to a depth where you won't cavitate and put yourself on the side of the thermocline opposite your opponent's best sonar.

SOP 4: Stealth is Life.
When dealing with a threat, do everything you can to make the chances of your sub's detection as low as possible while maintaining as good a picture as you can, yourself. This is an area where you need to balance the acoustic variables listed above in your favor as much as possible. Approach from a direction, depth and maintain distance in a way that minimizes your chances of detection. Remember that VDS and towed arrays deploy BELOW the thermocline. Be aware you'll be tempted to push this envelope often to create advantage or move into weapon parameters. Also understand that when you do this, that's the point of greatest threat of detection.

SOP 5: Respect Active Sonar!
Powerful active sonars are a serious threat to a sub. They can have a substantial detection range and provide little positional ambiguity for an ASROC or SS-N-14 shot. The good news is that with a serviceable acoustic intercept sensor, you'll usually pick up an active sonar before it sees you. When you do so, take action to stay out of it's arc and range. Active Sonar WILL pick you up, if you get sloppy. The main defense against active sonar is placing the thermocline between you and the emitter and hugging the sea floor if you can. Some subs are more stealthy to active sonar but it's hard to tell how much you can count on that.

SOP 6: Respect ASW Aircraft.
Probably the most dangerous opponent, aircraft can often detect your sub without you even knowing it and have the ability to quickly localize and pursue you. Sonobuoys last for hours and helos with active dipping sonar can put your sub in a spotlight and keep it there. I am very loathe to enter an area where I know ASW aircraft are hunting for these reasons. Anything you can do with your other units to reduce this risk is very much appreciated.

< Message edited by mikmyk -- 6/10/2015 12:40:04 AM >
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RE: Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 6/9/2015 3:55:58 PM   

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SOP 7: Take a Look Topside Every Once in a While.
As the circumstance dictates, try to come to the surface now and again for a quick periscope and ESM check. This can help you know trawling sub-hunters that are otherwise hard to pick up via passive sonar, or ASW aircraft, are in the area. Be careful doing this in a high threat environment. Your periscope mast can be spotted if you're unlucky, and coming above the thermocline may put you on someone's active sonar set.

SOP 8: Make Sure You Have the Right Weapons Selected.
Use Load Priority to make sure you have the right weapons loaded in your tubes, according to your preferences. Weapon management matters.

SOP 9: If Detected, RUN!
Once you're under attack do your best to get out of Dodge. Dive deep, vector away from the threat and go to Flank. Your goal is to get outside of threat sensor range ASAP. You might get away with obfuscating your position, too, but it's more risky. That would include things like slowing down & changing course, using the thermocline, bottoming out, etc. I don't have much experience here but it may be possible to slip into the middle of the thermocline and get a degree of sensor coverage from sensors both above and below it. However odds are if you think you've been detected you're either already, or will soon be, attacked.

SOP 10: Attack From a Blind Angle.
Remember that a sub's launch transient spike's it's acoustic signature. Do your best to launch from a location and distance that minimizes that threat because there will be counterfire if you're detected. A baffles shot is the signature use of this SOP. Wire-guided torpedoes with a 2-way link can also be given their own courses and act as a remote sensor. This is handy for making an off-angle shot and getting a fix on contacts you've lost persistent contact with because you went below the thermocline.

That's about it at this point. Anything to add?

< Message edited by Primarchx -- 6/9/2015 4:56:14 PM >

(in reply to Primarchx)
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RE: Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 6/9/2015 8:16:01 PM   

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I suppose the last thing to mention here is that sub ops really take a lot of patience and you need to respect your limitations. Know when you're outclassed. I wouldn't advise anyone to take a sub against a capable ASW screen unless you either need to or you see a significant weakness you can exploit. If you have to let a target escape so you can live another day, definitely consider it.

Not that you can't be daring with a sub. That can definitely be the case, though sometimes it's unplanned heroism(!). However, because of the inherent uncertainties of sub ops, the risk goes up significantly. You'll learn to know when you have a substantial advantage and when you're better off standing off and scouting.

(in reply to Primarchx)
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RE: Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 6/9/2015 8:30:14 PM   

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Thanks for sharing this! I'm certain most players (and particularly starters) will make use of this and appreciate it.


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RE: Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 6/9/2015 9:21:35 PM   


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Have had a bit more luck lately by using the thermocline layer much more than I used to. In the past my tactic was to run just below the layer and pop above the layer on occasion to see what was up there. A new tactic I'm playing with is to sit 'inside' the layer, which seems to screen detection better, VDS is hanging below the layer to detect subs and will still pop above the layer briefly to get surface contacts.

A believer in making your own luck, the best way of finding a weakness in an ASW screen is to make it! Combining Air & surface attacks on the screen in the initial strikes will usually be more successful than sending all your harpoons in on the major surface units - and will create a hole in the screen. Combining your weapon systems to complement each other by using strength against weakness is always fun.


(in reply to Primarchx)
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RE: Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 6/11/2015 5:10:53 AM   

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It might be worthwhile mentioning the capability of some ASW assets to spot the masts of a sub at periscope depth with radar in calm seas. Sea state 0-2 works very well for them, at 0 they can spot you from farther away as you may expect. At sea state 3 and higher your masts start to disappear into the clutter of the higher waves.


Windows 7 64; Intel(R) Core(TM) i7 CPU 920 @ 2.67GHz (8 CPUs), ~2.7GHz; 6144MB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970;

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RE: Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 7/16/2015 2:43:18 AM   


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Good read Primarchx...... Thank you...

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RE: Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 7/16/2015 7:56:06 AM   


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Ops, didn't see your good post before posting mine, good read!

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RE: Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 1/6/2017 10:03:34 PM   


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All these comments work to answer the question I posted on a different thread. Thanks for the advice. I will try the different schemes as I work through the tutorial before tackling the real work.


(in reply to Galahad78)
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RE: Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 7/26/2018 11:08:30 PM   

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So back in the Dark Ages of the Cold War we used to look for the “Goblins” with a first guess depth that was known as the “ Best Depth.” I don’t know if that value is still classified but it was a distance below the layer.


"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem."

I was Navy, but Assigned TAD to the 24th MAU Hq in Beirut. By far the finest period of my service!

(in reply to MBogdasarian)
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RE: Sub Ops - The Thin Blue Line - 2/3/2020 11:55:31 AM   


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Heya. Need some hints on what to do.

While creeping at 5 knots and using only passive sonar, I can get rough estimate on where they are but can't get a precise targeting solutions for my torpedoes or missiles.

Going to Periscope depth to confirm is risky.

Torpedo range is limited which makes it challenging

(in reply to BeirutDude)
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