History – The American Sound Surveillance System: Using the Ocean to Hunt Soviet Submarines, 1950-1961

International Journal of Naval History – The most ambitious and effective defense project undertaken during the Cold War next to the hydrogen bomb succeeded completely, made not a sound, and remained invisible for a half-century. Dreading an increase in the capability and geographical reach of a Soviet deep-water submarine force, the U.S. Navy decided in 1950 to turn the ocean itself against the Soviet Navy. Over the next three decades there emerged a sophisticated surveillance network with global reach that used the oceanís own characteristics to identify submarine activity. SOSUS, as the sound surveillance system became known, gradually made it impossible for the Soviets to sortie a submarine anywhere in the world without detection. The present historical analysis of this system highlights the importance of the environment in naval warfare, further illuminates the relationship between naval and civilian ocean science, and reveals significant challenges to naval culture and habits directly related to the nature of SOSUS.

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