by Fionn Kelly
Used in playing Aces of the Deep
I will deal with an attack on a convoy and how I
deal with convoy battles plus give an example of an action I conducted last
An attack on a convoy usually follows the
Detection Maneuver into attack position Attack
DETECTION: Well this happens whenever it happens
and so I can't add anything to your detection methods except to stay on the
surface if airplanes aren't a threat (pretty obvious, I know).
MANEUVER: I prefer to attack at night and from
the midst of the convoy since these two conditions give me the greatest chance
of escaping vengeful escorts (or so I feel, at least).
My preferred method of entry is to submerge and
lie, almost silent directly in the path of the convoy. I believe that it is
immensely important to place yourself at a point in space which negates, or at
least minimizes, your need to maneuver while submerged in order to meet the
convoy. The escorts in front of the convoy are very alert and I avoid speeds in
excess of 1/3rd speed while approaching the convoy from in front.
This is all tactically sound but if I am
restricted to maneuvering at 2 or 3 knots I must be positioned such that I won't
have to chase the convoy for a good torpedo shot so I must develop a good
estimate of the convoy's course so that I can position myself before them in a
perfect attack position and thus remain silent and stealthy until the time comes
for me to reveal my presence by torpedoing as many ships as possible.
I use basic trigonometry to estimate the perfect
position for my submarine. As I run alongside the convoy I start my own plot of
their course on paper. Historically (and in the game) convoys usually zigzagged
at very precise times an pre-determined headings since such forward planning was
necessary to keep the formation of a convoy containing merchant ships unused to
station keeping. Usually the convoy had only 2 courses which lay on either side
of a base course and in AOD I have yet to meet a convoy which has more than 2
courses in its zigzags.
At the beginning of the first zig after you are
ready to plot take readings of the course, bearing, range and speed of the 4
ships at each corner of the convoy. I also begin developing a track on the
central ship of the first row of the convoy since that is my favorite position
to sneak into the convoy. It ensures easy access to the very center of the
convoy when I choose to attack. Measure exactly how long the convoy maintains
this course and then when they change course on the zag leg take the same
readings for the same ships. Again measure the time until the convoy begins
When you have this done you will be able to
calculate exactly how far the convoy travels in each leg of the zig-zag and how
long each leg takes with this information (and assuming the convoy keeps zig-zagging
along the same courses and for the same amount of time).
On the piece of paper beside you accurately
measure out your position relative to the convoy using a protractor and compass
( and since you have at least 4 bearings and distances to different ships in the
convoy you will minimize any errors in working out your relative position) then
map out the projected course of the convoy on the paper, then decide where on
that course you wish to attack them.. pick your spot and plot a course directly
for it. Note that using this method you can also choose a time of attack, say
0100 and figure out where on the future course the convoy will be and then just
using your ruler and compass figure out the course and speed necessary to reach
that point before the convoy.
While it is perfectly possible to place yourself
near the convoys track this method allows you to incredibly precisely pick your
attack point. If you see a particularly valuable target you can, using this
method also plot a course to place you 4 or 500 yards from the future track of
this one particular ship. Basically, using this method I have been able to place
myself at a certain point, at a certain time and a certain distance from enemy
ships, yesterday I decided I wished to launch torpedoes at 0300 from
approximately 500 meters at a line of 3 troopships in the midst of a convoy. I
calculated the necessary track for the troopships and then placed myself 500
meters from it on the correct heading and submerged deeply.
When 0300 came, I rose to periscope depth and let
of my 3 torpedoes (commanding a Type IIC in 1940) at ranges of 600 to 460 meters
and hit and sank all 3 troopships in the midst of the convoy. The strength of
this method is that if used properly and with due care to minimize errors it
allows you to forecast the course, pick a time and place to attack and even to
pick the point such that you can be a set distance from a specific ship in the
convoy. With such accuracy penetrating screens becomes easy and the only
limitation on your kills is the number of torpedoes you carry.
When I reach my plotted position I submerge
deeply to the maximum depth at which my engines running on 1/3rd power can keep
up with water entering the boat (bilge pumps etc). If the escorts are
particularly fearful I may go deeper and crank up to 2/3rds power but no higher.
Obviously I continue circling so as to maintain station (no point picking the
point carefully if you then cruise off it). An other option is to remain shallow
and cut all engines and only dive deep if an escort is getting very close.
As you lie there submerged the enemy ships should
be approaching. I usually aim for the center of the first row of ships (hence my
taking a 5th reading of the center ship of the first row) since that gives me
the greatest number of firing options--any direction I fire in I will probably
ATTACK: As the escorts are passed and the second
row of ships comes into range I often come to periscope depth and at full stop
(to minimize my wake) scan the second and first rows. I pick the biggest ships
in these two rows and working from right to left or left to right (you choose) I
begin loosing my torpedoes until all are expended. Then I instantly kick in my
motors and dive as deeply as possible. I match speeds with the convoy and motor
off to a portion of the convoy which is still packed with ships and use my depth
and the noise of the merchant ships to mask any noises I make.
ESCAPE: Usually by carefully choosing a portion
of the convoy far from where the sinkings took place and also not in the path of
any in-charging escorts I can avoid notice. Once the escorts begin to withdraw
and my tubes are reloaded I come to periscope depth, orient myself towards the
oncoming merchants and again fire all remaining torpedoes. When all are
expended, I dive deeply and motor directly out of the convoy towards the rear
but away from the side on which the ships were sunk so that the search area does
not include me. I find this often works for me and once I am a moderate distance
away (since I attack usually at night) I can surface and run on the surface a
safe distance away before returning home in safety.
If I am detected I slow to a crawl (2/3rd speed)
to save battery power. The enemy has already detected me so there is no point
running now. Save the running until they can't hear me anymore. Also I dive to
the deepest I can go without taking in excess water. I would prefer to crawl at
1/3rd speed but the need to go very deep necessitates a higher speed so that my
bilge pumps can work better. I like to stay at about 200 meters while under
attack. I stay this deep because it takes some time for depth charges to fall
through the water and this extreme depth gives me some extra time in which to
change course, ring up extra speed and generally try to avoid the depth charges.
Once the depth charges have been avoided I will
follow the escort from behind. Its sonar cannot work in an arc of approximately
60 degrees behind the ship. So even at flank speed I am invisible to the ship.
Trailing along behind it I can leave the depth-charge point behind me and still
remain undetected. After the ship has completed perhaps 1/3rd of its circle back
to the depth charge point I go straight and level and lower speed slightly. The
aim now is to move away from the escort's circles such that it won't detect me
with its sonar upon its next circuit. Note that it is permissible (even
advisable) to ring up flank speed while the escort has its stern towards you as
it continues to circle. But as the escort's circle brings it heading towards you
again reduce speed and stay deep. If you are successful in avoiding detection
this time you should be safe and able to escape. If you are unsuccessful then
you will have to re-attempt the whole procedure.
As an example of this I attacked a convoy
containing some 40 merchants and 8 escorts in January 1940 with a Type IIC with
only 4 torpedoes left (I'd already sunk 2 lone ships) And using exactly the
tactics described above moved in and sank an 11,000 ton tanker, a 9,000 ton
tanker and a 16,000 ton troop ship with my first 3 torpedoes. I then dived
directly under an 18,000 ton troopship I had identified during my first attack
and stayed there when the escorts came to investigate. When they left and I had
reloaded I popped up to periscope depth, aimed and fired , dived deep and sped
out of the convoy and managed to avoid detection completely.
With 4 torpedoes and at 100% realism I had just
sunk 54,000 tons in 1 night which when added to the 17,000 tons from my first 2
sinkings gave me a respectable score.
NOTE that these tactics are even more devastating
with a Type VII or IX and I fell it better to remain submerged during the whole
attack since these tactics make very little demand on battery charge leaving
plenty for evasion if necessary.
Hope this was a little helpful.
All tips and contents are
©1998 SUBSIM Review
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