How One Submarine Killed a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier in a Simulation

Sebastien Roblin
By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Michael Moriatis (RELEASED) - http://www.news.navy.mil/management/photodb/photos/051001-N-1722M-355.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=695865

Sebastien Roblin

Security, Americas

The era of AIP subs?

How One Submarine Killed a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier in a Simulation

The slow, sustainable underwater speed of AIP-powered diesel submarines make them less than ideal for stalking prey over vast expanses of water.

In 2005, USS Ronald Reagan, a newly constructed $6.2 billion dollar aircraft carrier, sank after being hit by multiple torpedoes.

Fortunately, this did not occur in actual combat, but was simulated as part of a war game pitting a carrier task force including numerous antisubmarine escorts against HSMS Gotland, a small Swedish diesel-powered submarine displacing 1,600 tons. Yet despite making multiple attacks runs on the Reagan, the Gotland was never detected.

(This first appeared several years ago.)

This outcome was replicated time and time again over two years of war games, with opposing destroyers and nuclear attack submarines succumbing to the stealthy Swedish sub. Naval analyst Norman Polmar said the Gotland “ran rings” around the American carrier task force. Another source claimed U.S. antisubmarine specialists were “demoralized” by the experience.

How was the Gotland able to evade the Reagan’s elaborate antisubmarine defenses involving multiple ships and aircraft employing a multitude of sensors? And even more importantly, how was a relatively cheap submarine costing around $100 million—roughly the cost of a single F-35 stealth fighter today—able to accomplish that? After all, the U.S. Navy decommissioned its last diesel submarine in 1990.

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