‘She’s right below us!’

Written by The Frontier Post

Andrey Kots

The ship of the Royal Navy and the submarine of the Russian Navy came into “close contact”, which almost led to disaster, write the American media , citing the British Ministry of Defense. The incident occurred back in 2020 in the North Atlantic. The frigate allegedly pursued an unnamed Russian submarine and hit it with towed equipment. Today this is a rarity, but during the years of the Cold War, such incidents happened quite often.
Gone tight
According to British media, the Royal Navy Type 23 Northumberland frigate was patrolling the waters about 300 kilometers off the coast of Scotland at the end of 2020. On board was a Channel 5 film crew filming a documentary about the everyday life of military sailors.
At some point , a periscope and a communication antenna , which appeared out of the water, got into the frame. An alarm was announced on the ship – an unknown submarine was heading in parallel. In the video, the words of the commander are heard: “If they surfaced and the crew went outside, we could see their faces in detail.”
The mysterious submarine disappeared under the water. The Merlin anti-submarine helicopter took off into the sky, but its crew did not see anything. Later it turned out that the submarine, evading pursuit, performed a sharp maneuver and literally crushed the towed antenna of the Northumberland sonar complex (HAC).
As a rule, the authorities of Western countries do not comment on such incidents. However, this one was captured on video. The British Ministry of Defense had to admit the incident: “At the end of 2020, the Northumberland frigate hit an unknown Russian submarine with a towed antenna.”
The mission was canceled, the ship went to the port to replace the antenna. The British media immediately noticed that the frigate returned to base ahead of schedule. Journalists claim that the submarine could also have been damaged, but the Russian Defense Ministry did not report anything about this.
Antenna hunting
A towed antenna is one of the few ways to detect a submarine underwater. The device allows you to fix the acoustic signature of the ship. Roughly speaking – to hear. It is useless to place ultra-sensitive equipment on the carrier itself – it will be drowned out by the noise of the engines. In the USSR, the USA and other countries, they came to a common decision: the sensors should be outside and at a distance.
The antenna itself is a thin tube stuffed with microphones. The ship drags her along on a cable. Naturally, during the Cold War, the technical characteristics of such equipment were extremely interesting for the warring parties. Both the USSR and the USA tried by hook or by crook to get the enemy’s HAC antenna in order to study it and understand how best to hide.
In August 1982, NATO naval forces carried out Operation Barmaid. The British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror, which sank an Argentine cruiser in the Falklands War in May of that year, took the trail of a Soviet reconnaissance ship disguised as a Polish fishing trawler. There was the latest towed antenna.
Before going to sea, American experts installed special wire cutters on the submarine, with the help of which they managed to cut the cable and steal valuable equipment. When the nuclear submarine reached the base, the antenna was delivered to the United States by military transport aircraft.
The Soviet Navy took revenge a year later. In October 1983, the K-324 nuclear submarine of project 671RTM “Pike” followed the American Bronstein-class frigate McCloy in the Sargasso Sea. The sailors read the parameters of the secret TASS submarine detection complex and got a little carried away. Maneuvering under the stern of the frigate, K-324 accidentally wound the HAC cable around the propeller. I had to float. Two American destroyers soon arrived at the scene and escorted the Soviet boat for ten days in an attempt to recover the top-secret antenna. They even considered going for a boarding. To prevent the nuclear submarine from being captured, the crew mined it.
However, the Soviet ship “Aldan” arrived in time to tow the K-324 to Havana. And from there the antenna was promptly sent to the USSR.
Anti-submarine fleet
The North Atlantic in the second half of the 20th century was constantly an arena for a game of “cat and mouse” between NATO ships and Soviet submarines. Now, obviously, everything is back. In 2018, the Pentagon revived the Second Fleet, which countered Soviet submarines in the Atlantic during the Cold War. The first permanent task force, Greyhound, was formed in September 2021.
It includes destroyers Donald Cook and Thomas Hadner of the Arley Burke class. According to Rear Admiral Brendan McLane, commander of the US Navy’s surface forces in the Atlantic, these ships specialize in hunting for submarines. Later, the destroyers The Sullivans, Cole and Gravely will join the group. Four pennants will operate simultaneously, the fifth – for repair and maintenance. In addition, depending on t-he task, the Borzuyu can be reinforced with multi-purpose nuclear submarines or patrol aircraft. The connection will reach operational readiness by July 2022.
The United States admits that Russia has learned how to build really quiet submarines that are extremely difficult to detect: nuclear-powered Yasen and diesel-electric Varshavyanka. Two years ago, Vice Admiral Andrew Woody Lewis declared that the Pentagon had lost control of the Atlantic. In his opinion, Moscow uses equipment with “more deadly weapons systems”, which is why the preparation of the Navy for operations is becoming increasingly difficult. And outside the main Atlantic naval base, American sailors no longer feel safe.

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