As previously submitted for inclusion in “Our Book.”
In April 1959, several LANT stations reported a common contact for which the bearings converged in the mid-Atlantic. As the contact continued on a westerly course, additional stations reported detection until almost the entire system became involved.
The contact consisted of three, 3-bladed propellers at about 240 rpm with associated turbines. It was classified Unknown Non-American Submarine, Nuclear: XNASN. The estimated speed was 23 knots.
The contact passed north of Bermuda and was lost as it entered shallow water just east of New York City. About three days later, contact was regained as what was obviously a passenger liner began its return transit to Europe.
Although it was suggested the event involved the French liner LIBERTE, this was never confirmed nor – to the writer's knowledge – was this unique signature ever detected again.
This event was an example of just how dark the Acoustic Dark Ages were. Contacts were classified threat not because they met specific criteria but because they did not display known characteristics.
It was at that time – one month after I reported to Eleuthera – that Chief Don (?) Miller, my watch supervisor, decided I might be rescuable and he began to educate me. I still remember “discovering” why the M-boat looked the way it did. Don Miller had made Chief in six years, six months and could have taken – and most assuredly passed – the E8-E9 test with a high enough score to become an E9 had he had a little more time in grade. I owe my entire professional career to Don Miller. Thank you, Don.
You had Don I had Ed Smock!
I would like to think George W. would remember the LOB I sent to the P-3 performing a type six mission one day watch at Argentia. Since they were flying out of Arg they were on Station 6-8 hours?? I kept expanding the LOB due to the lack of multi contact with other array's. As the time on station was coming to an end I said George WTF am I doing wrong, I am assuming a merchant speed the contact seems to be opening??? George said lets do a Panic SPA up to the edge of the Flight OP Area. Well at debrief we found out what it was QE-II transiting at 23Kts. They caught it just heading out of the OP Area. That was one for the photo library for sure.
Some times we used PANIC ANALYTICAL Plotting skills as well. What great fun and excitement the system provided us older plank owners, no matter where the plank was. We always practiced our skills knowing we could always be wrong but would fight to the end when we were convinced we were making the correct call.
As a young OT(ST)(1965) on Grand Turk I loved SOSEXes. They were fun! Finding a decent target, coordinating with other facilities, encrypting message traffic with KAK-30(?), and planeside debriefs. Later on in my career I got to work closely with AW's while stationed at TSC Kadena and flying as a crewmember with VP-4 out of Barbers Point while assigned to PACFAST, Pearl Harbor. Not surprisingly, AW's had their own opinions about SOSEXes, ranging from "Good job" to "Where the hell you sending us?" Check the link out for a good article on the 50th anniversary of the P-3.
Some of the NARRA BAY Submarine Operating Areas were adjacent the main shipping lane from New york to Northern Europe. Whenever the boat (SS-244 out of Groton) was scheduled to work in these opareas, MacNally, the leading sonarman, would come aboard with a copy of the sailing page from the New york Times. If during the week we picked up a high-rpm twin 4-blade signature (as I recall — it's been over 50 years), we'd check the sailings for the time and date and not only classify the contact as ocean liner in high-speed transit,' but also name it and give other details — "why that's the Queen Elizabeth bound for Le Havre. Should get there around 2100 Thursday." Boat had a great wardroom. The first time we did this with ops permitting, the submerged OOD decided to call our bluff, got permission to go to periscope depth, and put the scope on the contact ... which turned out to be precisely the ship we called. Thus was our credibility as an ace sonar gang enhanced.
'Nuther time we were operating off the coast further down and picked up a rhythmic pounding to the west. Never could figure out what it was, but MacNally called it 'a self-propelled pile driver.' For this one the skipper (Yogi Kaufman) decided to check it out himself and came down to sonar to listen. He concluded that we'd nailed it. I asked Mac how he'd come up with that. He said he had no clue what it actually was, but at any time along the coast always operate pile drivers so why not bluff the classification.
Junior OODs got in the bad habit of asking for 'estimated range' on our passive sonar contacts. We made a little basket that hung from the sonar overhead and in it puts small slips of paper with various ranges written on them. Whenever we got one of these calls for range, we'd have the least qualified guy in the sonar shack pick blind one of the range chits and that's the range we'd give back to the conn. Got caught, got our asses chewed, but we also got no more calls for estimated range on passive contacts.
Rubber Ducky's posting on XNASN reminded me that at Eleuthera we had what we called a “hot beam,” north-terminal (016), that pointed into Narra Bay. In reality it was “hot” not because it was any more sensitive than any other beam but because the target density was higher: lots of FMs and GMVs.
In April (?) 1960, we got a T/B ratio on 016 that demanded a 585/588 Class at 24 knots. We went with that classification even though no one else in the System had anything. SUBLANT – not understanding that a T/B ratio was a 99% certainty - came back with the pro-forma “no candidate,” and there the matter stood for several weeks. What we did not know was that Bud Eubanks, a former Ops-Officer at Eleuthera then at Norfolk, would not let the matter rest.
Finally SUBLANT coughed up that SCORPION had made an early and unscheduled op far enough south of Nara Bay to enter deep water, and was nailed. the first ever acoustic detection of that hull. In 2008, 48 years later, the writer sadly also worked the last detection from the Canary Island single hydrophones: collapse events only on 22 May 1968; no main propulsion or auxs.