Task and Purpose
But could they find it?
How the U.S. Navy Tried to Steal the Secrets of a Dead Russian Submarine
Back in Washington, deep inside the Pentagon’s inner ring, Jim Bradley had an idea. Bradley, a captain, was officially the assistant for undersea warfare in the Office of Naval Intelligence, but his real job was as the Navy’s chief underwater spy. A former submariner himself, Bradley oversaw the Navy’s growing clandestine efforts in undersea intelligence, where advanced technology was beginning to give the United States an advantage that it desperately needed to make up for a distinct gap in on-the-ground human espionage, which the intelligence community refers to as HUMINT.
For the better part of two weeks, the world has watched, in hope and horror, as 13 countries embarked on a frantic search for the ARA San Juan, the Argentine sub that went missing on Nov. 15 with a crew of 44 aboard. It’s almost certain now that all hands have been lost, and it could be weeks or months before we know what caused the sub to sink. The first challenge is to locate it.
The ARA San Juan is first submarine to be lost at sea since the Kursk, which sank after an accident in 2000, causing the loss of 100 Russian lives. The remarkable string of safe patrols in the years since helped us all forget that submarine duty is one of the most perilous peacetime jobs in the armed forces. It’s certainly not something that any submariner takes for granted.
This article first appeared in 2017.
For as long as they’ve had submarines, the world’s navies have worried about losing them — and especially about how best to find them when they’re lost, ideally soon enough that a crew rescue is still possible.