Living Underwater: How Submarines Work


This video was made possible by Brilliant. Learn something new everyday with Brilliant
for 20% off by being one of the first 200 to sign up at brilliant.org/Wendover. In all of World War Two, the world used about
5 megatons of explosives. Now, this is a Trident II missile, capable
of carrying 12 nuclear warheads together equivalent in power to about 5 megatons of explosives. A single American Ohio Class submarine can
carry 24 Trident II missiles. A single submarine can carry a devastating,
catastrophic, inconceivable amount of firepower. While in reality due to arms reduction treaties
and practicality these boats often carry far less than their maximum armament, submarines
can still creep up anywhere, undetected, ready to unleash their firepower, more powerful
that the entire arsenal of some countries, in an instant. Submarines are different in purpose to some
other elements of a navy. While an aircraft carrier, for example, is
intended to be big, foreboding, and noticeable as a means to display a nation’s power to
the world, submarines are meant to to be unseen, undetected, an invisible, silent force that
could or could not be anywhere at any time. In a way, submarines almost serve a purpose
of psychological warfare—an enemy can never know for sure whether a submarine is looming
off its shore. While dozens of countries operate submarines,
the most powerful and often largest of these boats are those capable of firing ballistic
missiles carrying nuclear warheads. Only six nations are confirmed to have these
submarines—The US, UK, France, India, Russia, and China. In addition, analysts have found evidence
suggesting that North Korea and Israel also each have nuclear-missile capable submarines. Nowadays, there are essentially two different
types of military submarines with two different missions. The attack submarine, the more common kind,
is generally smaller and, in combat, attacks other close-range targets like ships using
torpedoes, shorter range missiles, and other armaments. The other, often larger type of submarine
are those ballistic missile submarines which essentially serve the purpose of being a mobile,
hidden launch platform for nuclear missiles. The idea is that, as a stealth launch platform,
a country’s submarines would survive any nuclear first strike and therefore be able
to retaliate against an aggressor. Ballistic missile submarines are therefore
crucial to the idea of mutually assured destruction—if anyone attacks with nuclear weapons, assuming
those attacked had nuclear weapons that would survive a strike and they retaliated, both
the attacker and those attacked would be destroyed. Therefore, many consider these nuclear missile
equipped submarines to actually be a form of nuclear deterrence—they say they reduce
the likelihood of others using nukes since they assure their subsequent destruction. Considering that these submarines might survive
when a country and its government do not, they therefore need the independent authority
to use their missiles. While other operators likely have similar
setups, it’s known that the UK’s four ballistic missile submarines each have a letter
locked in a safe instructing their commander on what to do if the UK is wiped out by a
nuclear strike. These letters are written by each prime minister
at the beginning of their term and destroyed, unread, at the end. Each PM essentially has to chose which of
the four potential options they want to instruct the sub commanders to do—nothing, to place
themselves under the command of an ally like the US or Australia, for the commander to
use their judgment, or to retaliate and launch nuclear missiles at the attacker. Of course, what gives submarines their stealth
is the blanket of water. American Ohio class submarines are publicly
known to be able to go down as deep as 800 feet or 250 meters. In reality, it is believed they can go much
further. As soon as a sub surfaces, though, their stealth
is lost especially in today’s era of satellite tracking. Therefore, it is important that submarines
can stay underwater for long periods so that that can dive underwater on one side of the
world and make their way to the other undetected. Of course, almost all of the world’s ballistic
missile equipped submarines are nuclear powered meaning they have virtually unlimited range. These boat’s reactor cores only need to
be swapped every few decades. In addition, most submarines have oxygen generators
and desalinators so, like nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the only thing that really
limits how long they can stay deployed is their food supply. How it works on American nuclear subs, which
work similarly to those of other countries, is that each boat has two fully staffed crews
at any given time—the Blue and Gold crews. The Blue crew will first man the boat while
on patrol which lasts, on average, 77 days. The different submarines different patrols
are scheduled so that there are always submarines deployed. Despite this long patrol period, in the US
Navy at least, submarines are actually known to have the best food of any vessel. Some say it’s because submarines are small—the
chef has nowhere to hide if a meal is bad. It more likely has to do with the fact that
submarines get a higher food budget than other vessels. Food is important to morale especially considering
submarine duty is one of the Navy’s toughest jobs. Of course, fresh food can only last, at most,
two weeks, so the meal quality deteriorates as the weeks go by. Eventually, the only ingredients left are
canned, dried, or frozen. The sign of food quality deteriorating does
mean that the end of patrol is coming at which time the first crew, the Blue crew, would
take the boat back to either its home port or a allied overseas port. The Gold crew will then arrive and then both
crews will work to complete a turnover, restocking, and maintenance period of 25 days. Then, the Blue crew will fly home for vacation
and subsequent training before the cycle repeats again. Most crew members keep this cycle going for
years on end. Submariners even live their days in cycles
as well. They work eight hours on then have sixteen
off to train, conduct maintenance, work out, eat, and sleep. Now, to get a sense of the scale of the largest
of these submarines, here’s a Boeing 747-400 and here’s an American Ohio-Class submarine. It is almost 2.5 times longer with a hull
circumference far larger than the plane’s fuselage. But even this is not the world’s largest
submarine. That title goes to slightly longer and far
wider Russian Typhoon-class submarine. These are so large that their amenities include
a sauna and small pool. On American and most other submarines, the
amenities are more lacking, though. It’s important that submariners have things
to do in their down-time considering they’ll spend three months without sunlight in a metal
tube, but there just isn’t much space. The mess is really the only open space not
devoted to work. Submarines tend to have gym equipment but
it’s not usually consolidated in one room—more often it’s just spread out in different
nooks and crannies. On large Ohio-class submarines, a submariners
tiny bunk is their only true personal space. On smaller submarines, like the American Virginia-class,
the number of sailors exceeds the number of bunks so the most junior sailors will have
to share bunks—while one works the other sleeps and vice versa—and there’s no true
personal space. Compared to many surface Navy ships, which
have phones, frequent mail deliveries, and even internet, communication to the outside
world is limited on submarines. Each submariner is given an email address
that their family can send messages to. When the submarine is able to receive communications,
all these messages are then sent electronically. Onboard, the messages are all reviewed by
a dedicated crew member. They check through to be sure that no information
is being sent that they don’t want known by the sailor. For example, they might choose to not pass
on information of a family death in order to not affect crew morale. There’s often no way to get sailors off,
anyways, so many believe it’s better to leave that news for the end of the patrol. How submarines communicate, though, is complicated
because they do, of course, spend months underwater. Almost all radio waves can’t travel through
salt water but submarines do need communications to receive orders. Very low frequency radio waves, though, do
penetrate water to an extent. That’s why VLF radio forms the core of submarine
communication systems. Different navies have large VLF transmitters—for
example, the US has ones in Maine, Washington, Hawaii, and elsewhere; India has one on its
southern coast; and Australia has one in Western Australia. These VLF signals are able to penetrate the
ocean and be picked up by a submarine as deep as 60 feet or 20 meters. One major disadvantage of VLF, though, is
that it is very low bandwidth. It can’t even transmit real-time audio signals—the
most it can do is about 700 words per minute in text. When deeper, some submarines also have the
capability to launch buoys to shallower depths to receive signals. Submarines also typically can’t respond
with VLF frequencies since they don’t have large enough transmitters so they have to
raise to shallow depths so they can have antennas sticking out of the water to respond. It’s at this depth that modern submarines
will often have quick transmissions with satellites in order to download and upload information. There are a few other techniques used less
commonly, some new technologies under development, and some separate systems designed for use
when the main systems are compromised, but VLF radio forms the bulk of communications
with most submarines. But the fact that submarines spend their time
underwater in stealth also makes another crucial element difficult—navigation. Both GPS and Radar don’t work underwater
since they use higher frequency waves that can’t make their way through any depth of
water. What does work underwater is Sonar where the
submarine essentially generates a sound and then listens to when and how the sound comes
back to map out its surroundings but emitting this sound makes it quite easy for others
to track a submarine. Therefore, when operating in stealth conditions,
submarines can’t use active sonar. Rather, they use an inertial navigation system. These are essentially systems of accelerometers
and gyroscopes that take the last-known accurate GPS position of a submarine and then tracks
the submarines movements relative to that. It uses this to estimate position but of course,
as time goes on from the last reliable reading, the accuracy of this system diminishes. 24 hours after the last reading, these will
drift to only about 1.15 miles or 1.85 kilometers of accuracy. Now, this technique combined with the consultation
of maps is usually fine since most of the time the ocean is a big, wide open space but
there are a few objects floating below the surface that submarines could collide with—submarines. Some modern submarines are so well cloaked
that another submarine just feet away might not be able to detect it. That’s what happened on the night of February
3rd, 2009 when the British Navy’s HMS Vanguard submarine felt a resounding bump while sailing
in the East Atlantic ocean. It had collided with the French submarine
Le Triomphant seemingly just by chance. Luckily they were going at low speed and there
were no injuries but, considering both these subs were both equipped with nuclear warheads,
one can only imagine the potential consequences of a more damaging collision. Submarines are dangerous—even in peacetime. They are designed to disappear so, after something
does go wrong, they often do just disappear. Many submarine operating countries have rescue
submarines that can hypothetically be used to save stranded submariners by going down,
latching on, and shuttling sailors to the surface but in practice, these have never
really had much action. Sometimes submarines sink, their systems fail,
and nobody can get to them before oxygen runs out. As submarines become better at masking themselves
submarine tracking technology is simultaneously advancing. There’s some thought that there will be
a time when nothing can hide in the ocean’s depths but until then, submarines are a crucial
aspect of any modern navy. Nowadays, just as they were in World War Two,
even traditional, non ballistic-missile submarines and their torpedos are effective and deadly. One of the best ways to track submarines is
also by sonar equipped submarines so it’s a situation where countries need submarines
because others have submarines. That’s why there are still hundreds of them
somewhere, or rather, anywhere, ready to strike at any moment. So, you know those short, free moments during
your day like when waiting for the bus, or the train, or for an appointment, or a call? It’s hard to do anything productive during
these times but Brilliant tackles this in a great way. Every day, their short Daily Problems give
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once you’ve figured one out, if you find it interesting, you can also try their corresponding
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more in a little time. To start solving Brilliant’s Daily Problems
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100 Replies to “Living Underwater: How Submarines Work

  1. I hope you enjoy this video! One note: the little numbers that pop up in the bottom-left corner are references. By matching the number to the ones at the bottom of the description you can find where a piece of information comes from in the video.

  2. SSBN's (nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines) are the deadliest weapon systems in the world. One sub can destroy a country in minutes without warning.

  3. I'm surprised by the 24hour work day. I had to look that up to make sure it was true. I spent 4.5 years on nuclear submarines working 18hour days when at sea. I can see advantages with both, but one thing about 18 hour days is that no matter what port you pulled into in the world, no jet lag! You could instantly adjust to whatever time it is.

  4. What the hell does USA think of war? Why do i have to say all the fucking time that war exists all the time?!

  5. 77 days with a 25 day turnover… hahahaha. My GN had nothing longer than 3 day turnovers with Blue crew and they/we went home.

  6. Food is better on a sub because there are no windows, even if you are in the middle of nowhere being on a destroyer or carrier you can go up on deck from time to time, on a sub you are isolated from the topside for almost three months and even the hardest submariner will get dips in morale that only curry night can fix.

  7. Currently a submariner for the USS Henry M. Jackson and one thing worth noting is that submariners can literally go to sleep anywhere, at any given time, under absolutely any condition. It’s like a new superpower you get after a patrol

  8. This is testimonial to how FUCKING SICK this is, this is INSANITY! Forget two-legged, hairless APES, there GARBAGE!

  9. This is an excellent video with great narration and voice over. It's very well put together with motion graphics too!

  10. I came here for ballast, buoyancy, rudder, diving planes and propulsion. I got something far more interesting.

  11. nuclear warheads are actually very hard to blow up by accident. They have to be triggered in a very specific manner and therefore an accident wouldn't cause an unarmed nuclear bomb to blow up. The nuclear reactors are a different story however.

  12. 04:03 "the only thing that really limits how long they can stay deployed is their food supply" – and their toilet paper supply,

  13. Worked on both subs and surface. Guys get flown off in the case of family death. If you are not a numb skull, nothing you communicate is censored, and you do get mail (sometimes), less frequently than surface ships but still…

    The hot bunking doesn't happen anymore in the us, and as a junior sailor working in the engine room on a destroyer, my bunk was my only space as well

  14. Nice video until 12:12,
    "on American submarines the
    amenities are MORE lacking"

    Sorry that's grammatically incorrect.

  15. This is scary af. Considering the conditions the crew has, it's a miracle we are all still alive.

  16. Hate it when Civvies refer to Submarines as ‘Subs’. It’s a boat, therefore refer to it as a boat. Fucking non-quals! 🙄

  17. The 2009 british/french submarine collision was captained by Captain (now Commodore) Fancy. i know this because my dad was trained by Commodore fancy and this was used as a training scenario.

  18. Yes there are 3 shifts or watches at sea. But you got the hours wrong. Each watch is 6 hours long. That is so the same watch does not have the same time of day every day (in other words in 3 days each watch will work the mid watch once).
    You really do not understand the purpose of sonar or how it is used.

  19. "Mutually Assured Destruction" seems all very feasible.  However, there are totalitarian ideologues that have said "We love death more than you love life".  Just saying

  20. Even IF the two subs collided at high speeds there would not be a large explosion, all modern ballistic nuclear missiles(and or) torpedos, they won’t go off if they are not primed.

  21. This is better than the recruitment films they showed me. This would have been enough for me to join the navy. Sign me up.

  22. We don't "work" eight hours.  You stand watch for six hours 9the maximum allowed) and are off 12 hours.  When on watch, you only do what is specific for your watch station, nothing else.  After watch, you may have maintenance to do, so part of that time is completing assigned tasks or you might watch a movie, read, etc., then get some sleep and the cycle starts over.  Usually on Fridays (local AM), there will be a training drill, followed by "Field Day" or general cleaning the ship.  Drills are all hands response and they may come at anytime "day" or 'night".

  23. A nuclear first strike alone, even unanswered will produce enough fallout to cause global agricultural failure, and thus omnicide by famine.

  24. Where does this video get its information. Obviously they have more Intel than the United States government. The US government isn’t even sure North Korea has nuclear missile capability. Let alone an actual submarine capable of launching a nuclear missile. There’s no way North Korea has a sub that can launch nukes. They don’t even have a missile capable of caring a nuclear war. Let alone the actual submarine. I wouldn’t put too much believe in this videos information.

  25. I walked through the U.S.N. Calagore and you realize that if you're having a bad day in this tube under water you better be screwed on right. There's no place to go crazy. You're stuck right there in a steel closet.

  26. nosireee not for me not in a steel tube 400 ft our even one inch under our above the water becides i love ❤️ nookey at sea that long without any i would go crazy i like mine everyday
    all the way from beautiful
    nassau, bahamas 🇧🇸

  27. We have one such VLF antenna at Jim Creek in Washington state and it is miles and miles long, that's an over simplification because space and time don't allow it here. As with most things, if you're interested, just Google it. It's all there ad nauseatum

  28. I knew a brother of my friend who was years on British Nuclear Subs. Very nice guy, a bit quirky but spoke 5 languages fluently and was very smart. I'm sure he worked in listening and translating but never made him feel uncomfortable by asking any questions about his job. Especially when he was on holiday and stayed at our house for a week or so. He went out on his own to explore the area and our local international big city. We were 2 hours out in the country and I never asked where he went or what he did but I know it was sight seeing and his first time visiting our Country. But not in a sub. Can't reach our local international city with a sub.

  29. 24 nuke missiles? Not really. They carry at least a couple of dummy test missiles for training and testing. Not that it makes a big difference. lol

  30. Early WW2 American torpedos were nortoriosly (sp?) Unreliable (sp)!'m using my phone and can't see the screen that well

  31. I served on a destroyer escort. We did not work 8 hours on and 16 off. We worked 6 on 8 off, These 8 were when you slept. Then 8 hours on with six off unless called for extra duty. Ya, no extra pay. These 6 hours were not spent in your bunk, this is normally when you trained, etc.

  32. Scary as hell knowing that hundreds of these giant machines of destruction are ready to annihilate mankind at the push of a button! Miraculous it hasn't happened alreadt!

  33. I suppose that this little dork will recite the rhyme of the ancient mareener? Learn your stuff before pretending to educate others.

  34. Imagine being in a submarine and then you knock into another one

    “Oh ello frenchies”

    “Les Anglais, putain !”

  35. The new agean global communication system the US has can transmit info in real time at any depth , those chem trails you see everywhere is partly used for that system it is so far ahead of the rest of the world there's nothing close to it at all…

  36. 7:06 " For example they might choose not to pass on information about a family's death on crew member in order to not affect crew morale " Man… I work on an island as a dishwasher in a resort away from the city, which my family is at. with a 10 months contract already made me felt like shit, let alone a death in a family member.

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