The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
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Dirty Little Secrets
Why Black Boats Got the Blues
Discussion Board on this DLS topic
by James Dunnigan
April 7, 2006
The Royal Navy, after extensive
research, has concluded that submarines should be painted a shade of
deep blue, rather than black, to protect them from detection while
surfaced. Subs have been painted black, or some form of camouflage
pattern, for over a century. But, as with many other color schemes in
the past, close examination usually reveals better ways to do it.
the paint job on a submarine has very little to do with its chances of
being spotted. Nuclear subs (Britain only has nuclear subs) are under
water nearly all the time they are at work. The only time they surface
is, sometimes, when sending commandos ashore, or picking them up. Many
subs can do this while still submerged. These command operations
usually take place at night, when black paint does the concealment job
quite well. What the British camouflage experts discovered was that,
during the day, or in overcast weather, black was much less effective
at concealing a surfaced sub than was the new shade of dark blue.
diesel-electric subs, which spend most of their time on, or near, the
surface, don't depend all that much on their paint job. Radar and sonar
are more likely, than an eyeball, to detect a surfaced sub. Not only
that, most diesel-electric subs have a schnorkel device, which enables
the sub to stay beneath the surface, with only the washing machine
sized schnorkel be above the water, to get air into the sub, for the
crew and its diesel engines.
color does provide better concealment in tropical waters, that are
"brighter" than the cooler north Atlantic and Arctic waters that have
been the scene of most submarine operations over the past century.
Currently, subs are more likely to be roaming warmer waters.
anything, the new British innovations hurts them, more than it helps
them. Navies that have lots of diesel-electric boats will now repaint
them this more effective color, making it more difficult for the
British to detect them.