Submarine Communication During The Cold War – (2023)

by Antonio

The ELF system was used by the United States Navy during the Cold War to communicate with submerged submarines. The system operated in the extremely low frequency (ELF) range of the electromagnetic spectrum and was able to transmit messages to depths of up to 200 meters. Although the ELF system was decommissioned in 2004, it is still used by other navies around the world.

Does The Navy Still Use Elf?

The Navy’s ELF communications system currently consists of a radio transmitting facility near Clam Lake, Wisconsin, and a radio receiving facility near Republic, Michigan (see Figure 1-2). Each facility has a transmitter buried at the end of a long overhead wire (antenna), followed by ground terminals at the beginning.

What Is The Elf Communication System?

Using a principle based on physics, an ELF communication system can detect radio signals (electromagnetic waves) from seawater and increase their attenuation. As a result, a usable signal will travel deeper in the ocean than at the lower end of a radio transmission frequency.

How Long Is An Elf Antenna?

In 1982, a transmitter was built at Clam Lake, Wisconsin, as part of Project ELF, the replacement for Sanguine. Sections of the power lines that connect the ground dipole antenna to the transmission lines can be seen passing through the forest in the lower left corner of this image.

How Do Nuclear Submarines Communicate?

When the submarine is submerged, radio waves very low in frequency are used for communication. Radio waves travel quickly through seawater because it absorbs them quickly, and the deeper the submarine, the more water it must pass through to reach the radio waves. Very low frequency radio waves are extremely short-lived and can only travel a few tens of meters.

Is The Submarine Still Used Today?

Submarine Communication During The Cold War – (2)

Yes, submarines are still used today by militaries all over the world. They are used for a variety of missions, including surveillance, intelligence gathering, and, of course, warfare. Submarines are incredibly important military assets, and they will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

They are intended to be the most survivable and flexible nuclear submarines in the world. Furthermore, they are designed to be the most dependable and capable platforms for supporting strategic deterrence. SSBNs have the latest stealth technology, such as an integrated power system, acoustic dampening materials, and quiet propeller systems. State-of-the-art intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems are also available for Columbia-class subs. SSBNs equipped with the Columbia-class provide enhanced capabilities in terms of weapons systems. It is made up of a multi-mission payload module that enables Columbia-class subs to carry a wide range of weapons systems, including the world’s most advanced submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Long-Range Strike-Launcher (LRSL). Furthermore, the Columbia-class SSBNs carry a variety of precision-guided missiles as part of their advanced maritime strike systems. Furthermore, the Columbia class subs are equipped with advanced combat systems that can be used to carry a wide range of weapons systems. The Columbia-class SSBN program represents the most significant advancement in the US Navy’s nuclear submarine program. Because they are the most survivable and flexible nuclear submarine platforms on the planet, as well as the most reliable and capable, they are also the most capable platforms for supporting strategic deterrence. In addition to their role in the US nuclear deterrent, the Columbia-class SSBNs are a significant step forward in the Navy’s nuclear submarine program.

Do Submarines Have Communication Cables?

Submarine Communication During The Cold War – (3)

The primary means of connectivity between the United States and the rest of the world is submarine cables, and this is also the primary means of connection between the US mainland and consumers in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States.

A submarine communications cable serves as a telecommunications link between countries by laying beneath the sea. The first such cables carried telegraphic traffic. After the first generation of cables, data communications traffic was carried along with telephone traffic. With the exception of Antarctica, submarine cables carry all of the world’s continents. John Watkins Brett’s Anglo-French Telegraph Company launched the first line across the English Channel in 1850. In 1852, a submarine cable was laid that linked London to Paris for the first time. cables owned by the British, French, German, and American governments that connected Europe and North America at the end of the nineteenth century.

A cable connecting Bombay to the Saudi peninsula was laid in 1863. Another attempt was made in 1865, with much improved material, and a connection was finally made and operational on July 28, 1866, following some setbacks. Until polyethylene was used as a cable insulation in the 1930s, Gutta-percha was not widely used. Signals are reduced by a wire or core buried underground that has insulated connections. Michael Faraday, in his research, discovered that the effect is caused by capacitance between the wire and the earth. It is critical to understand these effects in order to design cables that are dependable. E.O. Whitehouse dismissed the issues and declared that a trans-Atlantic cable would be feasible.

It was widely believed that laying a telephone cable across the Atlantic in the 1920s was a serious challenge. The first cable connecting Scotland and Canada, initially carrying 36 channels, was laid between 1955 and 1956. Transoceanic cables were used to transmit frequency-multiplexed radio signals in the 1960s. Many of these cables exist and are still in use, but they are no longer commercially viable due to their small capacity. Fishing trawlers, anchoring, underwater avalanches, and shark bites are all possibilities for breaking a cable. The majority of modern cable systems now have their fibers in self-healing rings to increase network redundancy. Submersible cables can be used to repair cables that are located close to the ground.

For the majority of the twentieth century, Halifax, Nova Scotia, was home to a half dozen such vessels. Several new techniques for repairing and improving cable laying were developed by these crews. Several companies, including CS Cyrus Field, CS Minia, and CS Mackay-Bennett, were hired to recover RMS Titanic victims.

With the advancement of submarine cables, global communications have been revolutionized. By using submarine cables to transmit data, submarine networks can connect continents and eliminate the need for terrestrial networks. Fiber-optic cables are used in the vast majority of submarine networks, which provide high data rates and bandwidth. The benefits of submarine networks are numerous. Data can be easily transferred between locations by using submarine networks, which has resulted in the development of global markets. In addition, submarine networks are an excellent way to communicate securely and effectively. Despite the enormous advantages, submarine networks do have some limitations. In the case of submarine networks, the ability to transmit voice is insufficient. As a result, voice traffic continues to be carried over land-based networks. Furthermore, submarine networks are not always dependable, which causes delays in data transfers. These limitations, on the other hand, are slowly being lifted as technological advances advance. The submarine networks have improved communications across the world. Because they have high data rates and are capable of carrying larger files, they are ideal for large files and for providing secure and dependable communication. Despite some limitations, submarine networks have proven to be a reliable means of global communication.

The History And Importance Of Submarine Cables

Since the 1860s, submarine cables have been used for communication. The first applications of these devices were for telegraphing, but they were eventually used for a variety of other purposes. Submarine cables are used in communication, information storage, and energy transfer today. A submarine cable is typically laid on the sea bed between land-based stations. More than 400 cables have been connected to the ocean as of today.

Elf Submarine Communications

The elf submarine communications system is a classified communications system used by the United States Navy. It is a very low frequency (VLF) system that uses extremely low frequency (ELF) waves to communicate with submerged submarines. The system is designed to be highly secure and is used to transmit data, orders, and commands to submarines.


How does the US communicate with its submarines? ›

Submarine Communication Overview

The U.S. Navy operates two extremely low frequency (ELF) radio transmitters to communicate with its deep diving submarines. The sites at Clam Lake, Wisconsin and Republic, Michigan are operated by the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station – Atlantic.

How do military submarines communicate? ›

Standard radio technology

A surfaced submarine, or a submarine floating a tethered antenna buoy on the surface, can use ordinary radio communications. From the surface, submarines may use naval frequencies in the HF, VHF, and UHF bands, and transmit information via both voice and teleprinter modulation techniques.

What is the frequency of submarine communication? ›

Very Low Frequency (VLF) communications transmitters use digital signals to communicate with submerged submarines on at frequencies of 3-30 kHz. The eighteen Trident submarines constitute about half the US strategic nuclear capability.

How do submarines communicate with the outside world? ›

Very low frequency

VLF radio waves (3–30 kHz) can penetrate seawater to a few tens of meters and a submarine at shallow depth can use them to communicate. A deeper vessel can use a buoy equipped with an antenna on a long cable.

What system was proposed by the U.S. Navy for underwater submarine communication? ›

A system proposed by the U.S. Navy for underwater submarine communication, called ELF (for extremely low frequency, operates with a frequency of 76 Hz.

Do subs have to surface to communicate? ›

Yet a deeply submerged submarine still can't effectively communicate with anything above water. For a naval submarine to communicate with its base or an aircraft, it needs to surface—or at least rise enough to send up an antenna—thus jeopardizing the security of the vessel.

Why do you have to whisper in a submarine? ›

The aim is to evade discovery by passive sonar by eliminating superfluous noise: nonessential systems are shut down, the crew is urged to rest and refrain from making any unnecessary sound, and speed is greatly reduced to minimize propeller noise.

Do submarines have communication cables? ›

Modern submarine cables use fiber-optic technology. Lasers on one end fire at extremely rapid rates down thin glass fibers to receptors at the other end of the cable. These glass fibers are wrapped in layers of plastic (and sometimes steel wire) for protection.

How far can submarines communicate? ›

How it works. Submarines use very low frequency radio waves for communication when submerged. Radio waves are absorbed quickly by seawater, and the deeper a submarine travels, the more water those radio waves need to get through. Very low frequency radio waves can only travel a few tens of metres.

Do cell phones work on submarines? ›

Can you hear me now?" If you're trying to use your cell phone on a submerged submarine, the answer is no. Cell phone signals use very high frequency radio waves (around 800 or 1900 megahertz in the United States).

Is there Internet on a submarine? ›

To connect with terrestrial technologies, the nodes communicate with gateway buoys on the water's surface, linking to the above-sea internet via cellular networks or satellites. Still, undersea broadband is a way off, due to the low data rates. Also, sound waves in water travel 100,000 times slower than radio waves.

Can submarines detect each other? ›

A submerged submarine can use either active or passive sonar to detect other subs. Passive sonar basically entails using audiophones to listen to the surrounding water, but that might not be adequate to detect a slow-moving modern submarine.

Do U.S. submarines have WIFI? ›

Modern submarines may have Wi-Fi within their hulls for official crew use only.

How do U.S. Navy ships communicate? ›

To communicate with other vessels they use bridge to bridge radio, the maritime version of a CB radio, in which they pick up a microphone and find the common frequency to talk in real time.

Can the U.S. detect enemy submarines? ›

Countries like the United States and China have built networks of hydroacoustic sensors, which use sonar technology to detect submarines that navigate close to their coastal borders and strategic military locations.


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