back to article Royal Navy trials 'paging system' for submarines

US arms behemoth Raytheon says that the Royal Navy has tried out its new Deep Siren satcomms "paging system" for submarines, and was very impressed. The company quotes an unnamed UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson as saying that Deep Siren is "the first step toward a transformational capability that will change the way …


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  1. Pete Silver badge

    can't tell if they received the message

    It's a one-way system. You can only send to the sub, so there's no way of knowing if they received the message uncorrupted - or understood it - or are willing (or able) to comply. Or even if they think it was a spoof.

    You might be lucky and they get the "return to base" message, or the one that says "on no account fire any nukes" or "start operation blue-meanie", but you can never know for sure, unless the intended result takes place. If it doesn't you're basically helpless.

    As it is, the best message to send to a nuclear sub is:

    "don't launch your missiles if inverted"

    but hopefully they teach that at sub-mariner school.

  2. J Day


    So the Navy is back to using small boys again!!!

    ...Love it

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm ..

    If a plane has to fly out to drop the thing, why not just drop a few bombs in a pre-arranged pattern that means 'phone home? The subs will hear it.

    This has the advantage of already being certified for use in the air and does not need a satellite.

    If we paint the bombs red, white and blue and call them 'tactical submarine communication reacquisition transponders' we could even sell them to the yanks.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Ok then, from a whale's point of view..

    .. the equivalent would be a large speaker being lowered from the sky and then it blasts out messages loud enough to be heard 100 miles away.

    Won't someone please think of the cetaceans.

  5. Steve Evans

    Mental image of acoustic message

    So there you are, toddling along in the silence of the deep, when suddenly the entire boat starts vibrating to the sounds of a V92 carrier.... Weeeeee ooooooooooh weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee oooooh bong bong weeeeeeeee chchchchchchchch...

    "incoming message captain...."

  6. Luis Ogando

    Texting is next

    Evolutionarily speaking, the next step will be texting. Will the sub captains be taught how to use correct txtspk? I can see it now:

    Subman1: "Yo! chk out my snr on tht Redsub :D"

    Deepboy200: "I jst fired a n00k @ his a$$ *lol*"

    Subman1: "Init! U r sooo c0000l!"

    Mine's the one with the built-in aqualung!

  7. TeeCee Gold badge

    Short messages.

    So, those Deep Siren buoys. How long before they get connected to twitter then?


    Just been to the Head. A really big jobbie.

    Corned beef fritters for lunch. Again :-(

    Off to nuke North Korea, should be fun, they're letting us use the really big jobbies.

    Just read that back. Different jobbies of course. Wouldn't that be LULZ though???111!!!!??!

  8. Anonymous Coward


    > there's no way of knowing if they received the message uncorrupted

    Nope, but you can repeat the message a few times; and if you're not sure where the sub is then you can drop several buoys to cover more sea area. Also, I suspect the most common message to send in this way will be "go to periscope depth and get a message from the satellite please".

    > - or understood it

    Well if they get it uncorrupted of course they'll understand it.

    > - or are willing (or able) to comply.

    They're naval officers, they'll do as they're told. If they don't.... well they're controlling nukes, so we're in trouble.

    > Or even if they think it was a spoof

    That's what encryption is for; even if its a simple one-time code then it can't be spoofed.

  9. David Webb

    Easier to detect?

    Wouldn't having a large buoy in the water kind of give away the fact there is a nuclear submarine somewhere within 100m radius of that buoy? Especially of the buoy is transmitting? How long before some bright spark thinks "hey, we could use the signal to detect exactly where the submarine is, based on the fact the signal gets picked up?". It could possibly remove any element of stealth that sub's have if they used such a system.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Won't work

    Given that sonar can't penetrate some thermal layers or shrimp layers one wonders how they have beaten the laws of physics.

    From someone who flew a Jolly Roger.

  11. Andy Miller

    Showing my age

    I came in assuming a paging system for subs would allow you to swap out the bits you weren't currently using.....

  12. Yorkshirepudding

    like the orange wednesday adverts

    Captain Ramius: Re-verify our range to target... one page only.

    Capt. Vasili Borodin: Captain, I - I - I just...

    Captain Ramius: Give me a page, Vasili. One ping only, please.

    Capt. Vasili Borodin: Aye, Captain.

    beep beep.

  13. Graham Marsden

    @David Webb

    Calculate the area of a circle with a radius of 100 nautical miles using the formula pi*r^2

    The answer is left as an exercise for the student...

  14. Volker Hett

    more stranded whales?

    not quiet in the deep see any longer.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @David Webb

    I dont see how it would be used to determin where ther signal was picked up, its not like its traveling in a straight line and stopping when recieved, the signal will continue to radiate in all directions evan after the sub gets it, Think of it like me standing in a field blind folded shouting I have no way of knowing if anyone heard me... Unless I was a Bat, but then that would be sonar, and they already use that.

    PLUS it says in the article that they are not that worried about stealth anymore (It is impled that other countries dont have the capability of stalking and atacking subs... at least not the ones that we are currently at war with)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    For decades ...

    We've been able to communicate rather well with subs using Ultra Low Frequency radio, which penetrates not only sea water but also solid rock, over distances of thousands of miles.

    The purpose of having submarines at all is stealth: they have regular updates by ULF and maintain total radio silence.

    Marking their location in this way is -- well -- kind of counter-intuitive, no? Sacrificing their total purpose to have a "chat"? Pfffffff ... Who dreams this shit up?

  17. K Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    RE: @Steve Evans

    You sir, are a comic genious.. I love it!

  18. Martin Lyne


    So you, being a naval baddie, see a satcom buoy (or hear an acoustically encoded message), assume a sub is in the area and start active sonar pinging (it's not like they don't know you in your surface ship are there, considering a plane just flew over your area )

    Would this work below the thermal layer?

    Is it beyond current tech to make an extendable, floating, low-radar-profile, lots-of-slack antenna array that allows the sub to remain fairly submerged but still in comms?

    Less messy buoys floating around. Less blatantly obvious medium-term visual cues

  19. David Webb


    So a 100 mile radius is a rather large area, granted, its at least whatever the answer to pi*r^2 is(31 415.9265?). But if a signal is being sent, it has to be collected right? So the sub is there, underwater minding its own business, whilst another submarine is scanning for any tell tail signs than an object is picking up radio signals, or whatever the signals may be.

    When my mobile recieves a signal, my speakers do that weird blerping noise, so wouldn't there be technology in place that could detect the blerping noise (which obviously wouldn't be blerping noise) that would be made by any communications device recieving a signal?

    I think the idea of it is for stealth only, otherwise the sub could submerge and pick up the signal, in peace time it doesn't really have much of a use I guess, I mean peace times sub's just crawl around looking for giant squids who want to take over the planet, but in war time sub's won't want to surface so a system like this would probably be used then, and in those cases it would give a fair indication to the enemy that a sub is in the general area of that bouy.

    I dunno though, to me it does seem like it would be tracable and usable to pinpoint the location of our nuclear deterrent. I'd be happily proven wrong, in that its not possible to scan for electronic equipment picking up a signal and triangulate where that signal is.

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  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ AC won't work

    Presumably using the deep sound channel, otherwise convergence zones would render it useless for most of the 100nm.

    But then, it'll also make the job of searching for the boat a lot easier - wait to hear the signal from the buoy and at least you then know the depth to search at.

  22. Frank Silver badge

    Siren? Nooooooo..

    Sirens are the creatures that lure mariners to their doom on rocks. They do this by singing seductively in a way that can be heard over a long distance so that lonely sailors steer towards them, etc, etc.

    Will the Deep Siren have a similar effect on submarines I wonder?

  23. Anonymous Coward


    "don't launch your missiles if inverted"

    Funny, if somewhat lacking in knowledge about Nuclear submarines. The ballast tanks have holes in the bottom to permit water to get in. They are then vented at the top to allow water in, or high pressure air is pumped into the tank to push water out. If you "fly" inverted the ballast tanks flood and the submarine sinks to the bottom of the sea.

  24. Sweep

    @ David Webb

    "When my mobile recieves a signal, my speakers do that weird blerping noise, so wouldn't there be technology in place that could detect the blerping noise"

    and when you hear a noise, do your ears make the speakers go blerp as well??


  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Martin Lyne

    Martin Lyne Posted Tuesday 2nd June 2009 12:39 GMT

    "assume a sub is in the area and start active sonar pinging

    Would this work below the thermal layer?"

    Active ping won't work if there are enough thermals to hide in.

    "Is it beyond current tech to make an extendable, floating, low-radar-profile, lots-of-slack antenna array that allows the sub to remain fairly submerged but still in comms?"

    The cable would make loads of noise dragging in the water as would the winch as it bought the cable in and out. That's way towed arrays are fixed to the sub unlike a surface ship that can drag them back in.

  26. James O'Shea

    simple solution

    If you're really concerned about someone being able to tell that there's a sub within 100 nm of the buoy, the solution's simple: drop several buoys, only one of which broadcasts a real message, the other ones just send 'This is a test' or something innocuous. Or drop several buoys all of which send the same message; that way not even the air crew doing the dropping know which location was the real one. Or, better yet, drop multiple buoys... and drop some of them where _attack_ submarines hang out, and give the attack boys pre-arranged orders to go hunting for anyone who might be disposed to go looking for the recipients of the message. If you drop 10 buoys, and one is near a missile sub, and one is near three or four attack subs, and the rest are dropped in empty water, then 80% of the time the opposition is busy searching for something that's not there, and 10% more he's walking into a trap. If you tell the missile sub crew to get clear as soon as they pick up the message, then even the remaining 10% is likely to be a dry hole by the time that the bad guys get around to it. If they ever do.

  27. James O'Shea

    why Thailand?

    latitude: 13° 45' 0 N, Longitude: 100° 31' 0 E is somewhere in Thailand. What do you have against Thais?

  28. David Webb


    No, when I hear a noise my brain works out the position the noise came from. The noise a speaker picks up is actually the power burst from the TDMA signal which the speakers can detect as a solid state detector. The reference to the mobile phone was very valid, as a pair of speakers can detect a signal being sent to a mobile phone, then I'm sure the military could easily develop equipment which could pick the signal from a submarine as the submarine picks up the signal.

    Your post offered nothing to the debate on the issue, if you can provide solid proof that it is not possible to detect when a piece of electronic equipment is recieving a signal then I'm happy to listen. The simple fact is, with a buoy in place a navy/airforce will know there is a submarine within 100 miles of the buoy so will be able to scan the area for signs that a signal is being picked up, it doesn't take a huge leap in logic to assume that any signal being recieved will be detectable.

  29. Steven Hunter


    "It's a one-way system. You can only send to the sub, so there's no way of knowing if they received the message uncorrupted - or understood it - or are willing (or able) to comply. Or even if they think it was a spoof."

    Suggested viewing material:

  30. Stuart Gepp

    @David Webb

    Teh soudn the speakers make is caused by your phone TRANSMITTING an acknowledgement of the signal it was send from the cell tower. The cell tower sends the signal in all directions at once and is picked up by all the cell phones on the frequency. Only the one it is addressed to does anything with it - e.g. acknowledge it.

    This new submarine thing is one way only. The sub does not transmit a response and is therefore not subject to detection just because it received a signal. The key thing you are spectacularly failing to understand is that the submarine pager is one way only. Cell phones are two-way.

    BTW, don't even think of trying to make another pathetic analogy with TV detectors.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @David Webb

    Another thing that has been missed, even if such tech was available (and its not, and I doubt ever will be) as I said in my previous post, the article cleary states that they are not too concerned about stealth as no one that we are at war with has a navy with the capacity to be a threat to our subs...

    Plus I think that some common sense may be applied by the navy in that if we go to war with a country with a comparable naval provision then maybe, just maybe, they wouldnt start dropping these when the sub was in a position where it could be compromised... IE sitting a few miles of the coast of a country we were at war with... might not drop them there... might give the game away..

  32. Ascylto


    Never trust a company that pronounces BUOY as 'Boo-ee' instead of 'Boy'.

    (They are probably heterosexual or have some type of perversion).

  33. Ascylto

    @ Yorkshirepudding

    Err... shouldn't that be "pleashh"?

  34. jon

    Suggested Reading

    The Dragon in the Sea (1956) by Frank Herbert describes a very similiar system that allows submarines to send radio signals without giving away thier location. It may be an old book but the theory is sound and technology has been up to this sort of thing for quite a while.

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