Friday, May 30, 2008

Cold War Stories - Guardfish Vs. K-184, Part II



Part I

K-184 suffers a potentially significant casualty and Captain Minton sends a CRITIC:

11 May. Depth 100 meters, speed 12.5 knots. We turn off course 090 every hour to listen astern – to hear if any American submarines are trailing us. Life on board a submarine is organized and falls into a routine. From the intel summary: “There are six strike carriers and two helo carriers in Vietnamese waters.” During the broadcast, electronic support measures (ESM) detected an AN/APS-20 carried by a P-2 Neptune anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft: the signal strength was weak. We changed course and dove to 200 meters. Thirty minutes later, the missile officer, K3R V.I.Tsimbalenko, came to the conn to report that there was a leak in the cable raceway in missile container six, that is, container six wasn’t hermetically sealed and it contained the missile with the special combat section. If the container was flooded, that meant that the missile would have to be taken out of service, and actually, it was a potential weapons casualty. From the start of the deployment we were vexed by this situation: what to do in this case? Having heard the missile officer’s report and suggestions from the engineer, K2R M.S.Bayburin, I decided to open the drain valve in compartment seven so that the water in the cable raceway in container six would drain into the bilge so the leakage rate could be measured – 10 liters a minute – and periodically I ordered the water to be pumped from the bilge overboard. In addition, I decided to surface and try to fix the opening (or crack) in the cable raceway in container six. At 1520, we surfaced, raised containers five and six and a party of specialists went out to investigate container six. Ten minutes later, the silhouettes of two Japanese trawlers appeared on the horizon on a course headed away from us and at 1535 ESM reported a weak signal strength APS-20. I gave the command to make an emergency dive to avoid the aircraft. K3R Tsimbalenko and K2R Bayburin reported that the inspection was complete, everything was whole with no defects, that is, there was no visible cause of the leak. Thirty minutes later water again came through the drain valve in compartment seven. I decided to surface in order to deal with the leak. K2R Bayburin suggested winding the flange joint with bindings impregnated with epoxy. At 2000, we surfaced and carried out his suggestion and also transmitted a report to shore about the leak in container six. We got the intel report:
The strike carriers “Coral Sea”, “Kitty Hawk” and “Constellation” are located 190 miles north of Da Nang. The strike carrier “Midway” is east of Saigon with 47 vessels in support. The carriers flew 369 sorties in a 24 hour period, 279 strike sorties. In the last 24 hours ships of the 7th Fleet joined by bombers struck port structures with bombs and gunfire in Haiphong and Kam-Pha, the island of Kak-Ba and the Do-Shon Peninsula. As a result of the bombardment in Kam-Pha, the Soviet ship “G. Akopyan” was set on fire. The helicopter carrier “Okinawa” with accompanying amphibious group is located 180 miles north of Da Nang.

David Minton writes further: “In the course of the next two days, the Soviet SSGN often slowed and was at periscope depth for a long time, evidently receiving additional instructions from HQ. During the trail of the Echo II, Guardfish slowed her speed, significantly increasing the frequency response of her sonar. To the surprise of the crew, they could hear at least two, maybe three additional Soviet boats in the area. To follow three submarines is more complex than just following one, while following four is impossible. The tracking party on Guardfish has concentrated all of its efforts on maintaining contact with the Echo II, which we have already visually identified.

12 May. Water again began to come out of the cable raceway in container six through the drain valve in compartment seven. Accordingly I made the decision to continue at depths no greater than 80 meters. At 0600 we passed abeam of Ulin-Do. At 1200, I came to periscope depth to determine our position. There were up to 50 Japanese trawlers on a bearing of 120 to 250 on the horizon at a range of seven miles. The sonar officer, K3R V. Voronin reported that the depth finder went out of service. The navigator determined our position instead using the sun and Loran A and C. At 1634, we got the depth finder working again and thankfully passed abeam a bank with depths ranging from nine to thirty meters.

David Minton writes: Since the Echo II was proceeding to the south-east toward the exit of the Sea of Japan, as the captain, I had to make two important decisions. First, if it was worth breaking radio silence to report sighting three or maybe even four Soviet submarines. The first task during submarine surveillance operations is to report unusual Soviet vessel deployments as soon as possible after recognition. Those types of reports are known as “critics”, and although one had not been sent before, I decided that this was one of those times when Guardfish should break radio silence and inform the CinC about the situation. Second, should Guardfish break off from its surveillance mission and trail the Soviet boat. The orders were silent on this issue. But it occurred to me that the CinC would want to know where the Soviets were going. Since I didn’t have enough time to wait for orders, I remembered the motto of our CinC: “The faint of heart don’t become heroes” and we pressed on.

To be continued...

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