... ay, designated Sierra two-one, bearing two-one-zero, classification unknown. Contact is exiting Kola Bay with no radar signature.”
“Very well,” Buglione replied. “I’ll be right there.”
* * *
Buglione entered the Control Room a moment later, his arrival announced by the Quartermaster. “Captain in Control.”
He stepped onto the Conn — a one-foot-high platform surrounding the two periscopes — and stopped behind Lieutenant Williams. “Let me take a look.”
Williams swung the periscope back to a bearing of two-one-zero, then stepped away. Buglione took his place, quickly adjusting the periscope optics to his setting. The contact was still too distant to classify visually. Fortunately, Sonar had begun to sort things out.
“Conn, Sonar. Sierra two-one is classified as a nuclear-powered submarine. Still analyzing.”
A Russian submarine was outbound, most likely K-561 Kazan, Buglione surmised. The sonar technicians were comparing the contact’s frequencies to those in Sonar’s database to determine the submarine class, and it didn’t take long to confirm Buglione’s suspicion.
“Conn, Sonar. Sierra two-one is classified as Yasen class.”
Kazan was the second Yasen class and the only one currently in service, with the lead submarine in the class—Severodvinsk—having been sunk under the polar ice cap beneath Ice Station Nautilus a few months ago.
Shortly after Sonar’s report, Buglione spotted plumes of water spray jetting into the air from Kazan’s bow and stern. The Russian submarine was submerging, venting the air in its main ballast tanks. Buglione stepped back, returning the periscope to Williams.
Buglione ordered, “Come down to one-five-zero feet and increase speed to ahead two-thirds. Station the Fire Control Tracking Party.”
* * *
Three minutes later, Pittsburgh was at 150 feet and ten knots, the periscope lowered. Sonar and the Control Room were fully manned, with supervisors standing behind the men at their workstations. The submarine’s Navigator, Lieutenant Bob Cibelli, had relieved Williams as Officer of the Deck, and Williams now occupied a combat control console on the starboard side, one of three workstations configured to determine the contact’s solution — its course, speed, and range.
Buglione announced, “This is the Captain. I have the Conn. Lieutenant Cibelli retains the Deck.” Buglione would now issue all tactical orders, while Cibelli managed the ship’s routine evolutions and monitored the navigation picture, ensuring Pittsburgh stayed clear of dangerous shoals. Buglione added, “Designate Sierra two-one as Master one. Track Master one.”
Moments later, Buglione’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Rick Schwartz, head of the Fire Control Tracking Party, announced, “Possible target zig due to downshift in frequency.”
Sonar was monitoring Kazan’s tonals and had noted decreasing frequencies. Like listening to an approaching train, the pitch of the train’s horn was higher as it approached, falling off after it passed. This was due to the Doppler effect, with the sound waves compressing if the source was approaching, or expanding if it was moving away. The subtle change in frequency was detectable by the submarine’s sensors, and that change provided valuable information.
Lieutenant Commander Schwartz stopped behind one of the combat control consoles and evaluated the frequency change, along with Kazan’s new bearing rate.
Schwartz announced, “Confirm target zig. Master one has turned to the northwest.”
Now that Kazan had submerged, its captain had changed course, hoping to slip by any NATO submarines lurking in the Barents. Buglione stopped behind Williams and examined the geographic plot on the upper display of his dual-screen workstation. It contained a map of the southern Barents Sea, with Pittsburgh in the center and Kola Bay to the south. To the northwest was Rybachy Peninsula. The Russian captain would likely hug the coastline until he reached Kazan’s assigned underwater transit lane, which would take his submarine toward its destination.
Pittsburgh would be close behind.
“Helm, right ten degrees rudder, steady course three-zero-zero.”
Under normal circumstances, Buglione would have maneuvered Pittsburgh in behind Kazan, trailing the Russian submarine in its baffles — a vulnerable area behind a submarine where the spherical array, mounted in the bow, couldn’t hear contacts due to sound being blocked by the hull. However, Kazan was a quiet submarine, held only on Pittsburgh’s towed array. Kazan was in shallow water, which Pittsburgh couldn’t enter, or its towed array, which drooped below the submarine’s keel, would drag on the bottom and be damaged. That meant Pittsburgh would stay farther out to sea on Kazan’s starboard stern.
The Helm complied and Pittsburgh swung to the northwest, angling in toward Kazan, while the Fire Control Tracking Party determined Master one’s course, speed, and range. Schwartz studied the geographic plot on the nearest console. After examining the distance to the shoals surrounding Rybachy Peninsula, Schwartz announced, “Maximum range to Master one is six thousand yards.”
It didn’t take long for the two fire control technicians and Lieutenant Williams to converge on similar solutions. Schwartz examined the three consoles, then tapped one of the fire control technicians on the shoulder. “Promote to Master.”
Satisfied that Pittsburgh had reached the optimum position behind Kazan, with the water becoming shallow, Buglione turned toward the northwest, paralleling Kazan’s track. “Helm, right ten degrees rudder, steady course three-three-zero.”
Now that Pittsburgh was properly positioned, with Kazan’s crew hopefully oblivious to the American submarine shadowing it, Buglione settled into the Captain’s chair on the Conn, waiting for Kazan’s next move.
* * *
Two hours later, Kazan altered course. One of the fire control technicians announced, “Possible target zig due to upshift in frequency.”
Lieutenant Commander Schwartz evaluated the various displays, then announced, “Confirm target zig, Master one. Contact has turned to the north. Set solution range at four thousand yards.”
Buglione kept Pittsburgh on its northwesterly course until they were behind Kazan, then turned north to follow. Kazan continued north at ten knots for just over an hour, when she turned to the east. But what caught Buglione’s attention wasn’t the ninety-degree course change — it was Sonar’s report over the Control Room speaker.
“Conn, Sonar. Receiving mechanical transients from Master one. Consistent with torpedo tube muzzle doors opening.”
The report took Buglione by surprise. Why would Kazan’s crew open its torpedo tube doors? Then he realized Kazan hadn’t been to sea for several weeks and its crew was most likely exercising their torpedo tubes for routine maintenance — American crews fired water slugs once a week to verify tube operability.
Just in case, Buglione brought his submarine to full manning. “Officer of the Deck,” he ordered, “man battle stations silently.”
This close to Kazan, Buglione didn’t want to activate the General Alarm — the loud bong, bong, bong used to awaken and alert the crew to a battle stations order or emergency. The sound traveled through the steel hull into the water, and at only a few thousand yards away, might be detected by Kazan’s sonar.
The Messenger and LAN Technician hurried through berthing and the other submarine spaces, alerting the crew. The Control Room and Sonar were already at full manning due to the Fire Control Tracking Party being stationed, and the rest of the crew streamed into the Torpedo Room and other spaces in preparation for combat. Buglione turned his attention to his weapons load. Tubes One and Two were loaded with MK 48 MOD 7 warshots, the most advanced heavyweight torpedo in the U.S. arsenal.
“Weps, power up tubes One and Two.”
The Weapons Officer relayed the order to a fire control technician manning the Weapons Launch Console, who applied power to both torpedoes. Buglione contemplated loading tubes Three and Four, but reloads were sometimes noisy, plus at this range, Pittsburgh would need only one torpedo.
Now that precautions had been taken for Kazan opening its torpedo muzzle doors — for what was almost assuredly routine operability checks — Buglione focused on the geographic situation. Due to Kazan’s turn to the east, Pittsburgh was now on the Russian submarine’s starboard beam, headed north. Buglione decided to maintain course. As Kazan moved eastward, Pittsburgh would slowly drive into Kazan’s baffles again, then turn to follow.
Buglione waited patiently while Pittsburgh moved in behind the Russian submarine aga