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Submarines are a powerful offensive weapon in war. They have the ability to project power into the heart of an enemy’s territory. They are an essential
component of any nation’s war machine.
Having covered generic peacetime and wartime roles for submarines, next month we will explore their use in the Australian context such that we can
start to gain an appreciation for what type of submarine capability might best suit our needs. APDR
In wartime it is likely that a maritime commander would be reluctant to shift limited submarine
resources from otherwise offensive activities with high probabilities of success to a defensive ASW
activity with a low probability of success.
OTHER WARTIME TASKS
Once hostilities have commences, submarines can still be employed
to conduct ISR, REA, Special Forces insertion and support and mine
They can also be used to conduct indications and warning
operations. At the later stages of the Falklands War British submarine
were deployed along the coast of Argentina near military airfields
and used as early warning pickets, warning other fleet units of
aircraft approaching the task group and the islands.
Submarines can be used to conduct cargo operations, although
this is generally not considered an effective use of a submarine asset
unless the cargo is part of a covert or clandestine operation.
Anti-submarine warfare involves the locating and neutralizing of
enemy submarines, or, if that is not possible, minimizing their
Whilst submariners tend to boast a submarine is the best ASW
platform, the reality is that the passive detection ranges of modern
submarines have decreased to under a kilometre. Other assets can
have advantages over a submarine as an ASW platform due to their
speed and geographic disposition. They can easily outperform a
single submarine performing ASW.
Nonetheless, there are circumstances when a submarine may
still be the best ASW option. Clearly they can be used to destroy
submarines that have been trailed since leaving their ports. They can
be effective in operations very close to enemy submarine bases, in
choke points through which enemy submarine must pass or around
one’s own naval bases or amphibious forces. Submarines can also
be used to conduct ASW where environmental conditions, such as
high seas or ice coverage, limit the use of other assets. Finally, it is
acknowledged that submarines are one of the few platforms that
can conduct ASW in areas when own forces lack sea and air control.
In wartime it is likely that a maritime commander would be
reluctant to shift limited submarine resources from otherwise
offensive activities with high probabilities of success to a defensive
ASW activity with a low probability of success.
Turkish submarine Preveze
Credit: USN / Dave Fliesen
Royal Navy submarine HMS Tireless (S88) shown in the arctic ice.
Credit: USN / Erik Reynolds
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