Russian sub tried to ‘hijack’ a sonar from HMS Northumberland

Subscribe to Google News

LONDON, ($1=0.74 British Pounds) – The British admitted that their frigate HMS Northumberland had collided with an unidentified Russian submarine at the end of 2020, learned, citing Defence24. It is very likely that during the collision Russian attempts to hijack linear sonar, which at that time was towed far behind British ship.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The incident confirmed by the British Ministry of Defense took place in the North Atlantic during the routine patrol of the Type 23 HMS Northumberland frigate. This unit carried out a routine patrol at the Arctic Circle between the coast of Norway and Iceland, i.e. on the route of the passage of Russian submarines from the Northern Fleet from the Sea Barents on the Atlantic Ocean.

The British frigate followed one of these units on the radar, but at some point, contact broke off. It was then considered that the Russian submarine had submerged and it was decided to use sonar systems to track it. The most effective solution for this type of mission in frigates is the 2087 type passive-active towed sonar. It works at very low frequencies, so it is an ideal means of detecting the latest generation of submarines.

Its efficiency is even greater because the antenna system is towed far behind the frigate, eliminating “own” interference, and additionally it can be submerged to a depth optimal for the given hydrological conditions and the tactics adopted by the tracked submarine. Sonar used on type 23 frigates also has the advantage that it has a towed passive-active antenna. It was during its use that the entire antenna system collided with an unidentified underwater object, but it was highly probable that it was a Russian ship whose periscope had been tracked a moment earlier by the British Marlin-type ZOP helicopter.

The whole event was recorded, because the film crew of the Channel 5 channel was on the British frigate at that time, shooting the series “Life at Sea”. Recorded, among others, hot comments from the crew shouting “What the hell was that?” return to base to replace the sonar antenna system. “Replace” may indicate that the entire antenna has been retrieved, but does not have to be. The British may simply not want to admit the loss of the antenna, and thus the possibility of its being taken over by the Russians. That is why the British Navy officially claims that the incident did not happen intentionally, but by accident.

Or maybe it is not a coincidence, but a rematch?

However, there is a quite plausible theory that the Russians wanted to cut off the British sonar antenna on purpose. On the one hand, they would have access to the latest technology of the ZOP, which they would otherwise not have access to, and on the other hand, they would repay a similar action carried out by the British in 1982. It was then that the HMS Conqueror Valiant submarine [the same submarine that sank the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano during the Falkland War] “stole” a Soviet sonar towed in the Barents Sea in a covert operation code-named Barmaid.

The British ship was in a much better position than the Russians used only towed linear sonar [not active-passive], the antenna of which resembles a rope stretching several hundred meters. The 2087 type sonar was so much more difficult to “hijack” because it has a more massive active block, which is a heavy module several meters high. In addition, the British claim that in 2020 they recovered their antenna system, although heavily “scarred”.

In addition, the Russian submarine, which probably took part in a collision with the frigate HMS Northumberland, did not hide its presence, initially sailing on the surface, so it could not have any additional equipment on board. HMS Conqueror, in turn, for its mission in 1982 the year was properly prepared in advance. For the “hijack” of the Soviet sonar, it was equipped with, among others, a pair of remote-controlled, heavy, steel cutting blades [provided by the Americans] and a set of underwater television cameras, allowing the monitoring of the entire operation from inside the ship. therefore HMS Conqueror ran underwater all the time.

The British were interested in the new Soviet linear towed sonar. It was supposed to be the secret weapon of the Soviet Union in searching for and fighting NATO submarines, detecting noise coming from inside them [e.g. from gyms] at very long distances. It is a device so sensitive that to avoid being disturbed by its engines, it had to be towed several hundred meters from the mother ship. This gave the British a chance to get between the linear antenna system and the vessel using it, and cut the cable line that kept the system at the right distance and depth, and also provided real-time information from the submerged antenna.

The task was difficult not only because of the need to precisely maneuver underwater but also because of the very principle of linear sonar operation. It is a passive device and therefore very difficult to locate. The British had to find the long antenna behind the Soviet ship, but also to avoid detection. Meanwhile, the Soviets boasted that their sonars were able to find even the most silent submarines underwater.

The most interesting thing about all this was that, according to the British, the Soviet reconnaissance vessel towing a sonar antenna was to sail under the Polish flag. Despite these difficulties, a British submarine first sought out a Soviet reconnaissance unit and then located the antenna system towed behind it. The operation was more difficult to carry out, as it turned out that the cameras mounted on the HMS Conqueror were completely useless and nothing could be seen through them.

Despite this, the British, using only their passive sonar and mathematical calculations, not only found the cable but also approached it enough to cut it off and then hold it with a second pair of pliers. Plus, they had to do it just a few yards away from the towing antenna system, a Soviet vessel, in such a way that it looked like an accidental break.

The entire operation was probably carried out in Soviet territorial waters, but the British not only later avoided detection by alarmed Soviet ships but also placed a cut antenna onboard their unit with the use of divers. HMS Conqueror then secretly returned to its home submarine base in Faslane, Scotland. There, the entire Soviet antenna system was packed into the plane and sent to the United States for appropriate research. Repeating this operation by the Russians would undoubtedly be a great propaganda success for them.


Follow us everywhere and at any time. has responsive design and you can open the page from any computer, mobile devices or web browsers. For more up-to-date news, follow our Google News, YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages. Subscribe to our Newsletter and read our stories in News360App in AppStore or GooglePlay or in FeedlyApp in AppStore or GooglePlay. Our standards: Manifesto & ethical princliples.

British Defence Newsbritish sonarDefense NewsEuropean Defence Newshms northumberlandRussian Defence Newsrussian submarine