Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Supreme Court Hears Navy Sonar Case

The Supreme Court today heard oral arguments on the case pitting environmental activists against the Navy with respect to active sonar use and its effect on marine mammals. As usual, it looks like Justice Kennedy will be the deciding vote.

As I've mentioned before, the environmental activists are doing their cause a great disservice by lying in court filings about the effects of active sonar. They were able to fool the anti-military 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but hopefully will get put in their place by the Supremes.


Blogger beebs said...

It's simple. Don't pollute the oceans with sound.

This means we can do limited training,
and only go active all the time for wartime.

But what do I know?

10/08/2008 7:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When all this legal B.S. is over with, I pray that You Submariners Win!!!!! I really do.

You're supposed to limit your training exercises in order to maintain the safety of whales?!

Now, what happens when you're called upon to fire off a Tomahawk or Harpoon when the ground forces call for it? (Which HAS happened in the not so distant past) I guess you Gents are suppose to go in half blind & deaf with no sonar and with a limited understanding of what your position is at present.
That would be like a plane taking off with no Altimeter. You'd be taking off yet still half fucked.

When this case is completed, I just hope you guys come out on the winning side. It was a most refreshing sight to see two missiles coming out of the Red Sea (Vertically) about 3, almost 4 years ago after we called in for support. I know what boat it was, but granted, I can't say who it was. That night, I gained a considerable respect for the USN submarine force.

So again, I hope you Gents win this one. My knowledge of sonar technology is exceedingly limited...but something tells me you guys need it in order to maintain a true course in life.

Good Luck, Gents!!!

SSGT J. Casey

10/08/2008 9:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's simple. Don't pollute the atmosphere with carbon.

This means we can do limited flight training, and only fly all the time for wartime.

But what do I know?

10/08/2008 9:58 PM

Blogger Pig Boat said...


Simple, eh? You do realize that, by decibel level, merchant shipping dumps ways more noise into the water, constantly, than the occasional submarine active ping, right? So we should restrict merchants ships for the sake of not polluting the oceans with sound, right?

And only go active for limited training? What do you think got shut down in the case referenced? That's right, limited training. It's not as if we run around constantly hammering out active sonar. We only go active, typically, when we are told to. We don't like broadcasting our position. So, by your simple logic, this training should have been a-ok, right?

Oh, and "don't pollute the oceans with sound?" What level of sound, what Sound Pressure Level, constitutes pollution? Or, to make it even easier for you, what SPL is *proven* to be biologically dangerous? That's right - there is no clear, consensus answer. There are conflicting estimates, and the Navy makes a good faith effort to not exceed that level when they know or have a reasonable certainty that biologics are nearby. So, we are actually doing our damnedest *not* to pollute the ocean with sound, even though no one can definitively say what that means. Look at that, the Navy is actually pretty green.

However, it would also seem that the only *simple* thing about the whole thing is ... you.

10/09/2008 6:53 AM

Blogger Submaster said...

One, we have been using active sonar since WWII and stranded whales were not a significant issue until 2000?!

Two, other Navies use active sonar, are whales being beached in those countries?!

Don't pollute the oceans with sound eh? Well, lets just kill all ocean going traffic.

This is madness! Next, those nut- case environmentalist will insist that when we go to war that no animals be killed by any munitions we drop.

10/09/2008 7:57 AM

Anonymous Ross Kline said...

And when the USS Houston sunk the tug Barcona, the complaint was that we HADN'T used active. If we had, we wouldn't have sunk her. The same comment came up when the Greenville sunk the fishing boat off of Pearl Harbor.

10/09/2008 8:20 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

I side with the critters. As former chief sonarman (going back to the dawn of scanning sonar and the QHB-Able), would offer:

1. Active sonars have been getting more and more powerful, to point that physics and cavitation limit power. Lots of ergs go into the water with each ping. Affects acoustic-reliant cetaceans? Yes, much.

2. Sonar-equipped surface ships couldn't find a submarine if it landed on their helo deck. Improving their ASW skills ten-fold is still ten times nothing. Limitations on pinging for training has zero practical effect.

3. The prohibition on sonar use with divers in the water show what that amount of acoustic energy does to mammals.

4. And just whose submarines are we training to go against? Hamas? Al Qaeda's? The Taliban's? The US Navy has no blue-water mission for the foreseeable future.

10/09/2008 9:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who sides with the whales has no concern for national security.

10/09/2008 9:10 AM

Anonymous SubRM said...

"And just whose submarines are we training to go against? Hamas? Al Qaeda's? The Taliban's? The US Navy has no blue-water mission for the foreseeable future."

Ever heard of Iran, North Korea, China, or Russia? These countries don't seem to be getting any more friendly toward us and all have subs.

10/09/2008 9:44 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

SSN COB:Careful, boot. I was 'caring for national security' when you were pooping yellow. Environmental concern IS a national security issue.

To SUBRM: we're not at war with any of the nations you cite nor would they pose a blue-water threat to us if we were. Nor would we hesitate to go active against them were it tactically useful. Meantime. let's acknowledge that 'ASW training' in our Navy is a bunch of silliness, poorly done if it is done and not improved by unlimited use of active sonar.

This is a battle we don't need to win ... and really don't need to fight. And all those foolish civilians? We work for then. They own our Navy. They get a say.

As with Navy opposition to progress at Vieques, our operation of the Charleston Brig in ways contrary to Navy regulations, our brain-dead response to the sinking of the Ehime Maru, and many other PR debacles, the Navy's stand on this active-sonar issue is right in the face of most citizens' interests and desires. 'Join the Navy - kill Flipper.' How stupid is that? If we need to ping, ping. But if it's what it seems, a theoretical concern (we really don't do ASW), the smarter path would be to let this go by and quit acting like military dummies.

10/09/2008 10:29 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...

Rubber Ducky,

While I do agree with you that the Navy needs to do a better job of promoting environmental responsiblity, your statement that no country poses a blue-water threat to the U.S. just don't cut the mustard. Russia's cranking up the ol' shipbuilding empire yet again, and in case you haven't noticed, Mr. Putin isn't exactly our biggest fan. Not only do they have desires to restore their own Navy, they see profit in building them and selling them to other countries who don't like us. Additionally, don't discount China, their submarine technology is getting better and better.

I'm all for protecting whales, but I assure you Ivan and Mao won't give a damn about them when they fire up their equipment to blow our asses out of the ocean. We need to find a happy medium.

10/09/2008 12:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rubber Ducky, if you were indeed "caring for national security when (SSN COB was) pooping yellow," then you're probably out of the game in respects to what is now possible in the ever potentially deadly game of underwater cat and mouse. Reading Tom Clancy novels and internet sites don't count.

10/09/2008 12:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rubber Ducky
Since you have absolutely no idea when I retired I's say you may quite possibly be talking out of your TDU. In case you haven't kept up on global events (and based on your comments that seems highly likely) the threat level remains high. Additionally we have fewer boats to cover the same amount of ocean. Screw the whales - this country comes first.

10/09/2008 1:48 PM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...


Responding to your comment about the "anti-military ninth circuit".

I once urinated on the side of the ninth circuit while walking towards Market Street Cinema. The building is pretty nice in the neo-classical roman fashion, and it's across the street from the new federal building (complete with plaque dedicating it to Hugh G. Rection - See

I always wondered what caused me to pee there. Now I know it was karma.

Best regards from San Francisco!


10/09/2008 2:43 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Neither Russia or China pose a credible threat.

Russia is a mere shadow of its Soviet glory, the Cold War is not coming back, and these guys can't patrol the blue sea and aren't.

China's navy is meant to be 'The Iron Wall,' protecting the Army and menacing on the near approach to China's coast ... but not blue-water. And the geo-politics and geo-economics make conflict between China and its largest trading partner (and large debtor) most unlikely.

So why are these nations posited as threats? As a force-building ploy. Gots to have bad guys to justify building more SSNs. Inter-Service competition has far more to do with these guys as threats than anything real. USN NEEDS China as justification for its share of the defense budget, phony though the argument is.

Realistically the main role of the submarine force in today's world is just to keep the art alive, the training current, the technology moving forward, and the industrial base able to ramp up for production should global conditions change drastically.

Using SSNs to deliver Tomahawks is absolute folly: cost-per-round is extraordinarily high and stealth is of zero value in any current scenarios - a barge could do as well.

The intel missions continue, but ACINT is mostly dead and overhead systems and land systems now gather much that previously needed submerged platforms.

Face it, folks. We may be busy, but it's mostly busy work. The two primary roles of our Navy are absolutely satisfied: we protect our island nation and we command the high seas. With very little force.

10/09/2008 3:01 PM

Blogger Port Tack Start said...

rubber ducky,

China may not go to war against us directly, but they could likely go to war against Taiwan. We would then most likely become involved. Think about what a battle in the Taiwan Strait would be like, and then try to tell me that the PLAN does not present a significant danger to US subs.

Subs do, in fact, have more than 'busy work' to do in this day and age. The one example I'll put forward is the SSGN. 154 tomahawks almost continually on-station sitting covertly off the coast of unfriendly nations. The ability to deploy and retrieve SEALs as needed.

In any case, the ban really affects surface-puke ASW training, and I'm sure everyone here would agree that they need all the help they can get...

10/09/2008 9:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ducky, when was the last time you went on a deployment? There is a lot going on out there that you obviously have no idea about.

10/09/2008 10:04 PM

Blogger Submaster said...

You are sorely misguided when you say ACINT is are really removed from real world ops. Here to say ACINT is alive and well.

And who cares if the Ruskies and Chinese are not blue water, which to some degree they are. You still need active training in brown water. I would say brown water poses more of an issue trying to use active sonar and therefore more training required.

Currently active in I know from which I speak.

10/10/2008 7:50 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Go get 'em guys. Ain't nothing like the Navy standing up against public opinion. Ain't nothing dumber.

We work for the nation - we're on a foul course for no serious reason other than wanting to act like militaristic bozos. In America, the people win ... this is a silly game Navy is pushing.

10/11/2008 4:07 PM

Anonymous Kolohe said...

It's been said already, a total ban on MF* or LF active sonar would have minimal impact on the *submarine* force.

It would, however, be a BFD to *Anti*-Submarine Warfare forces.

And there is a real, but hard to quantify risk to marine mammals with both these systems. How you manage the tradeoffs is a legitimate question, but one I would rather see in the legislative process, rather than the judicial

*MF = 'medium frequency' in this case, which is normally congruent with 'mainframe' sonar but not always.

10/11/2008 11:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Go get 'em guys. Ain't nothing like the Navy standing up against public opinion. Ain't nothing dumber."

Yes, because as we all know the public opinion is always right and they are always super informed by the media with no errors or biases whatsoever.
Also, practice torpedos have struck reefs before and I'm sure they have taken out some fish and other marine life, so I'm writing my congressman to tell him to ban practice torpedoes. I'm sure we can shoot one without any practice. Also, I heard a story about a sub that hit a whale so I think they should just stay tied up to the pier until we really need them, like if a war breaks out. Don't even get me started on the Army and their artillery practice. Do you realize how many ants and bugs we destroy with every round that is shot?

10/12/2008 11:15 AM


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