Cold War Climate: Submarines in the Nuclear Age

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How did the Cold War change the design of submarines?

Several submarines had succeeded in torpedoing enemy submarines during World War Two. As the Cold War emerged during the late 1940s, the Royal Navy therefore focused on developing this capability and used submarines as a means of hunting Soviet boats. This concept was also favourable due to technical developments that made more conventional forms of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) more difficult. The Navy therefore needed progress in designing long-range passive sonars, as well as homing torpedoes.

Several other submarine functions that had been more or less subsidiary during World War Two fitted the new strategic situation of the 1950s. These included providing support for carrier strike forces and direct strikes against enemy territory. In addition, submarines possessed the stealth and endurance to carry out surveillance operations tracking the Soviet fleet. Submarines also helped train the Navy's surface and air anti-submarine forces.

Submarines had the advantage of being able to operate in areas that were under Soviet control, or at least in waters close to the landmass of the USSR. Anti-submarine patrols during the Cold War occurred in areas such as Norwegian coastal waters, the Arctic, Baltic, Black Sea and Mediterranean.

Crew loading Mk 24 torpedo onto HMS Resolution, June 1975 (RNSM)
Crew loading Mk 24 torpedo onto HMS Resolution, June 1975 (RNSM)

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Initial technical developments

Development of Nuclear powered submarines

Britain's Nuclear deterrent

HMS Resolution


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