Saturday, May 31, 2008
Cold War Stories - Guardfish Vs. K-184, Part III
(Photo: Ship Encyclopedia)
K-184 continues her transit toward the Gulf of Tonkin. Damage control drills are conducted and hilarity ensues:
13 May. Sky was completely overcast, visibility 2-5 miles, sea state 3-4. We approached the Korean Straits, 15 miles from Okinosima Island. We determined our position with a single sweep of the radar and then continued at depth of 50 meters, speed 12 knots. We systematically swept the area with active sonar. We entered the East China Sea and the water temperature became warmer, +22 degrees Celcius.
14 May. We are in the South China Sea. We are approaching the area where the Kuro-Sivo Current reaches a speed of 2.5 knots. The Executive Officer K3R L.B. Shaipov reported on deficiencies which were discovered during watch drills and his suggestions on improving on them in the future.
David Minton writes: Trailing is a complicated task. In order to remain undetected, the boat must determine the position, speed and course of the contact by means of passive sonar. Estimation of range by passive sonar demanded from Guardfish constant maneuvering in order to get changing bearings to the contact. Too close and they can detect you, too far and contact can be lost. These maneuvers usually took place in the baffles, the dead zone behind the stern. Just about hourly the Echo II turned around to listen to this zone. From time to time it was a passive turn 90 degrees so that their sonar could hear everything that was behind her, and sometimes it was pretty aggressive, turning 180 degrees and reversing course, heading directly at Guardfish. This was a very dangerous maneuver and risked collision. When the distance between us shrank, the Echo II had a real chance of detecting Guardfish. Each time the Echo II performed a baffles clear, Guardfish had to guess which way she was turning so that Guardfish could follow her from the opposite side. Additionally, Guardfish quickly slowed while trying to maintain silence so that the Echo II had enough time and distance to come about on her previous course.
15 May. We entered the Philippines Sea. We got a message giving us water space in area one in the approaches to the Gulf of Tonkin. The area is similar in shape to a coffin lid. K-45 was given area two, an area with a lot of bars and banks. We were ordered to be prepared to use conventional weapons on command and in self-defense. That night I received political information: “Officer Kuz’min said that he condemns the aggression by the USA in Vietnam”. This was “very important” information for the boat.
David Minton writes: “Situation reports are often demanded in Washington so that they can determine the Soviet threat level and intentions. President Nixon and his National Security Advisor received these reports every day. Since radio broadcasts from Guardfish sent at high frequency and power could be intercepted and Guardfish’s position fixed by the Soviets, we used an alternative way to get the message out. An ASW P-3 made a few secret fly overs to Guardfish’s assumed position and received a short message transmitted in UHF at periscope depth or with the help of a SLOT buoy so that Guardfish could remain at proper depth to maintain trail. During this pursuit, any submarine in the Pacific Ocean would immediately re-position to support the carriers operating along the Vietnamese coast and also participate in the search for other Soviet submarines. This created a problem, both for Guardfish and for command. Guardfish was clearly following the Echo II wherever she went and so command had to move other submarines out of the way so as to guarantee that any other, quieter submarine didn’t jeopardize the safety of Guardfish or any other submarines.
16 May. We continue to travel to the designated area after passing Okinawa and we only came to PD twice to get the broadcast. I called the missile officer, K3R Tsimbalenko, to the conn. Out of all the watch officers, Tsimbalenko was the most prepared, the best educated and he knew the missile business like no one’s business. He reported that everything was normal in container six and the water flow from the cable raceway wasn’t increasing.
17 May. Sea state three with swells, fog, tropical rains. We came to PD to determine our position before continuing through the Bashi Straits. We fixed our position using Loran A and C and also got a radar fix. From the intel summary: “A cruiser and destroyer left the Tonkin Gulf in the direction of Saigon. Nixon plans to be in Moscow for talks on the 25th of May. Intensity of military activity in Vietnam has significantly decreased.”
David Minton writes: “Once, while in the Philippines Sea, the Echo II turned to the south-west, in the direction of the Bashi Strait between Taiwan and the islands to the north of Luzon. The Bashi Strait is the often-used entrance to the South China Sea and I was sure that it is the Soviet boat’s goal, though it went further south than usual. The Echo II slowed, came to PD and then began to move quickly, orienting herself with high-frequency active sonar not usually used at that depth. She was lost. While at PD, she apparently fixed her position and then turned back on course for the Bashi Straits and increased speed to 16 knots. After sending a report via SLOT buoy about this quick change of course, Guardfish darted off after the Soviet boat, knowing that American boats may be re-locating to the area. In order to avoid collision with other American boats, Guardfish made her depth 100 meters, the depth often used by Soviet boats and which I knew American boats would avoid. My caution was vindicated when Guardfish detected an American boat, heading away to the north at high speed.
18 May. Today the commo, K3R V.F.Tereshchenko outlined his plan to search for enemy surface ships and submarines in area one as well as well as reporting on the bathymetry and possible measures that could be used to mask the boat from enemy ASW forces.
David Minton writes: “The Echo II has entered the South China Sea and has proceeded to a point located approximately 300 miles from the island of Luzon.
19 May. Today we conducted a check of all the emergency escape gear on the boat. A couple of discrepancies were discovered but they were quickly rectified. Before we went to sea back in April, our boat was inspected by a commission from the Navy General Staff headed by Contra-Admiral Ivanov. They inspected all the escape gear and the Chief of Navy Staff was of the opinion that it would work in the event of an emergency. There was nothing particular of note. At the end of the inspection, Admiral Ivanov initiated a drill. This was part of the scenario: “The boat has lost way. The sea state is four. You have to take on board a tow line from a salvage tug.” I called the missile officer, Tsimbalenko and the forward line handling team to the bridge. We prepared a rocket for the shot line. I gave safety instructions to Tsimbalenko and indicated the direction of the shot – to the side of the signal post. They shot and Tsimbalenko fell over from the recoil, into the sail, the damage limited to a soft spot and a scare. The rocket took off for the signal post, the line unwinding behind it, one end attached to the missile, the other to the boat. The missile smacked into the signal post, scaring the duty signalman sitting in the signal shack, who called up the division duty officer: “A rocket flew off of Berzin’s boat and hit the signal post!” The duty officer, confused at first, because when he heard “missile”, immediately thought a P-6 missile (SS-N-3 Shaddock), the main armament of the project 675 boat. Well, he called the fleet duty officer and quickly got straightened out. Everyone had a good laugh after that remembering that episode. The line handling team headed by Tsimbalenko didn’t laugh about it though. They had to collect up and store in its special configuration 300 meters of line.