Operation Atrina - The real Hunt for Red Octobers - March 1987
Here's a real live historical scenario for our top CMANO scenario's designers
to get to grips with namely Operation Atrina 1987.
On a Cold Winters morning in March 1987, five Soviet Victor III's of the 33rd Submarine
division, slipped quietly from their moorings in the Kola Peninsular and out into the
Barents Sea. For the crew this seemed like any other routine exercise but for the
submarine commanders this was something quite different, as the Victors were
sailing under sealed orders, not to be opened before reaching a certain latitude in
the Barents Sea.
The Victor III submarine ( project designation 671RTM ) was at the cutting edge
of Soviet naval technology at the time, entering service in the early 1980's, it soon
raised the eyebrows of many NATO analysts for being quieter than it's predecessors
and caused quite a stir for being almost undetectable by SOSUS ( NATO's early
warning, underwater sound surveillance system ) that stretches from Greenland to
Iceland and down to the United Kingdom, in effect an underwater trip wire
which would flag any enemy submarines passing over it.
It was also quite unusual having a distinctive Pod on the vertical stern-plane never
seen before. Speculation was rife that the Pod was the housing of a secret
silent propulsion drive; with US & British intelligence authorising a number of close-up
submarine missions to photograph, record and analyse the Pod.
In the end the Pod turned out to be the housing for a reelable towed passive array
sonar that would make the Victor III's formidable opponents in it's designated role
as a Soviet Hunter Killer Submarine; tracking down, targeting and destroying
British and American ICBM submarines before they can launch their missiles, in
the event of war.
For the Soviet Naval high command, under Admiral Vladimir Chernavin, the Victors
were on a special mission, that was the culmination of many years training. To
penetrate NATO's sound detection and Sonar systems by slipping through SOSUS
undetected, before sailing on down to the Eastern seaboard of the United States,
from where they would track down and target US submarines in their own
backyard. Along the way the Soviet's planned to spring a number of surprises
on their NATO adversaries and at the same time, cause maximum Political
embarrassment to the hawkish Reagan administration, then entering high
level Strategic Arms limitations talks with Gorbachev in Iceland.
Having obtained the Victor's acoustic signatures by clandestine means, US and
British naval commanders were not entirely blind to the Victor's movements
but as they changed course, away from the Barents and Arctic Sea and down
to the GIUK gap - alarm bells began to ring in Whitehall and Washington,
as to why the Soviets are deploying their Victors in strength and in such an
With every anti-submarine warfare asset now diverted to tracking the Victors, as they
bore down on the Western approaches of the UK from Iceland. It soon became clear
that this was no race to reach the open waters of the North Atlantic but a slow, careful,
measured approach by their Soviet adversaries.
One by one NATO's plotting and monitoring stations obtained a fix on the Victor's
positions but the fifth one remained elusive. Try as they might to locate the missing
Victor through the launching of more surveillance aircraft, like the P-3 Orion with
its compliment of electronic surveillance equipment and sonobuoys; no one
could get a fix on the missing Victor and so it remained ( the Red October ) of the
33rd Submarine division.
Upon entering the Western approaches, the Soviet submarines soon became aware
they were being tracked and followed by British and American submarines. This came
as no surprise to Soviet High command, who had anticipated their every move.
Therefore Admiral Chernavin authorises the use of Hydro-Acoustic resistance,
for the Second phase of Operation Atrina.
Whereby the submarine captain fires an acoustic torpedo ( that emits the same
sound and acoustic signature as the Soviet sub ) sending the NATO sub one
way - while the Victor plots a new course away from the torpedo, in the other
One by one the British and Americans subs lose track of the Victors, causing
consternation in British and American naval headquarters. More naval assets are
deployed to find the missing Victors, with the Americans deploying 3 Aircraft Carriers
and 6 more US Hunter killer submarines out into the North Atlantic, while the
British send Aircraft Carrier, HMS Illustrious to cover the approaches to the
With no trace of the Victors off Portugal or the Mediterranean, it soon dawns on
the Americans that the Soviets are making towards the eastern seaboard of the
United States. Never since the Cuban missile crisis have the Soviets dared to
take on the Americans in their own backyard.
As the Soviet submarine commanders steer their Victors towards the Sargasso
Sea, every US Naval asset is engaged in Anti-Submarine warfare patrols in the
Here the final phase of Operation Atrina, is swung into action as the Victors, aided
by their mile long, towed array passive sonar, lock onto any potential US nuclear ICBM
submarines targets off the East Coast of the USA. Which in time of war, they would
eliminate before the US Subs can launch their ICBM missiles against the Soviet Union.
It takes the Americans and their NATO allies, 8 days to track down the missing Victors,
during which time the Soviet's claimed to have gained invaluable information on
NATO's anti-submarine warfare capabilities and their own ability to station their
Victors, anywhere in the North Atlantic.
Following their detection, the Victors returned to base, including the fifth Victor
who throughout the mission, had never been detected during the entire operation.
To this day it remains the subject of great debate amongst the officers and crew
of the five Victors, as to which one had the honour of eluding the NATO patrols
altogether and remained undetected throughout the operation.
Soviet Admiral Vladimir Chernavin and the naval high command were well pleased
with Operation Atrina, saying they would have achieved their objective of taking out
the US subs in 5 days off the United States; instead of the 8 days it took for the US
and their NATO allies to find them.
Also Russian documentary ( with English subtitle's ) on Youtube.
Search for Operation Atrina: Soviet Navy vs NATO