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Silent Hunter:

The Art of Escape


The Art Of Escape


Evasion is the most important, most intense, most time consuming, and most challenging thing you will do in Silent Hunter. On the upper levels of realism, evasion will take hours of game time and real time. Evading enemy escorts can be easier if you know the tactics they employ and learn to use these tactics against them.

Weighing Your Chances

After you have made contact with either a convoy or military group and you are identifying the targets, it is a good time to note the number of and the position of the escorts. The number of escorts that are with a convoy or military group has a direct relation on how you make your attack and then your escape. Be on the lookout for planes also. Planes circling over a convoy or military group on a clear day are able to see your silhouette in the water much quicker than a DD will on sonar.

I use a few set of rules to live by or in other words survive by. The more DDs escorting a convoy or military group, the less likely I will attack. I will not hesitate to attack any convoy or military group that is escorted by 5 or less escorts. But not when that number gets up to 7, 8 or 9 escorts. The greater amount of escorts the more I will consider my options. I also consider what ships are being escorted. What it amounts to is the larger the number of escorts, the smaller chances you have for survival. Even if I'm looking at the Yamato through the periscope, and there are 9 escorts circling around her, I will still weigh my chances. I will sometimes pass on what I think are bad odds instead of attacking and ending up getting sunk for my troubles. Chances are pretty good in Silent Hunter that something else will come your way, where the odds are more in your favor. This strategy may not be very macho, but it does help me survive.

I also would like to mention CL Groups. CL Groups are a good example of what I mean by low survival rates. Most CL Groups, but not all, are escorted by large numbers of escorts. To attack a CL Group that has 2 or 3 CL's in it that are no more than 6,000 tons a piece seems like low rewards for your efforts when the 8 escorts start dropping the kitchen sink on you. So about 95% of the time I will bypass CL Groups when they appear in my periscope.

The Big Decision

You've just made your attacks, ships are burning all around you (nice sentiment), destroyers are charging, the time has come to make a major decision. You have to either stay at periscope depth or head for deeper water.

Staying at periscope depth is a gamble. You could be rammed, your periscope could be sheared making you blind, you could be bombed by aircraft and have shells flying at you from all directions. Most importantly you will be visible. Don't make this decision lightly. You are outgunned, outmaneuvered, and out numbered near the surface. Why even consider it then, you ask? Because one thing you do have in your favor near the surface is initiative and control. You know everyone will be coming after you, and in most cases will be running themselves over to get at you. You can use this to your advantage if you are careful.

Going deep does not necessarily mean you will be safe. Once you've gone deep, you will be totally on the defensive. Keep in mind that once you make your decision, in very short order you must be committed to that decision. If you change your mind at the last second you will not have enough time to get deep enough or back to periscope depth unless you make time. These are the things I consider when making my decision.

1. Number of Escorts - If there is a greater number of escorts than say 5 or 6 I will 95% of the time head deep unless something else is around to change my decision.

2. Torpedo Status - If you have expended all your torpedoes including stern tubes, it is definitely time to head deep.

3. Position of Escorts - Depending on the position of the escorts, meaning if they are far away from my position, then I will stay at periscope depth and attack other targets if available.

4. Status of my Battery - If I have expended a great amount of my battery in making my approach and attack then that is cause enough for heading deep. When you're deep you move at slow speeds to conserve what remains of your battery. Staying at periscope depth calls for flank speed and a full battery.

This is a good point to talk about conserving fuel and battery. While you are on the surface it is best to run at 2/3rd speed or even 1/3rd to conserve fuel. This also has the advantage of charging your battery at the same time. All American classes of submarines will charge their batteries while at 2/3rd speed. The Gato, Balao, and Tench class submarines will also charge batteries while running at standard speed. Save Full and Flank speed for chasing down targets when the need arises.

5. Environmental Conditions - Fog or low light hours are great for periscope defense because the enemy will almost never see you first and they will lose contact easily. 1100 hrs on flat calm seas and clear skies is time to go deep.

6. Type of Boat I'm In - Depending on the type of sub I'm in will also dictate what I do. If I'm in a S-class sub, that's reason enough to go deep as I have no stern tubes or the speed for periscope defense.

None of these factors are all inclusive. By playing Silent Hunter and learning what works best for you will dictate what you do after the attack and whether you stay at periscope depth or head for deeper water.

Fight...

I have gotten to the point of playing Silent Hunter that I don't find it much of a challenge to sink DDs anymore. Since I play at 115% realism going deep really doesn't help all that much either. I find it more of a challenge to avoid the DDs than to sink them. Of course it takes some practice and experience to avoid the DDs without getting sunk or badly damaged. If you choose to stay at periscope depth and fight it out with the DDs keep you're stern tubes available because you'll need them.

Or Flight...

CDR Samuel Dealy of the USS Harder once said, "Keep 'em astern and head deep." Sound advice! When you're heading deep, don't change course until you've reached your desired depth, the reason being that if you change course while you're heading deep it just takes you that much longer to reach your desired depth. Once you're at your deepest depth then change course so you can keep the escorts astern of you. You must decide to go silent or make an active defense. The decision is based solely on your battery condition. If you have a low battery you must stick it out and be silent enough for the escorts not to pick you up. If you have a full battery and all the escorts are coming at you from one direction you can choose an active defense using "sprint and drift" tactics.

Sprint and Drift

Sprint and drift is a modern tactic used by nuke subs. They will drift, listening with their passive gear, then speed up to gain position. After a short period of high speed running, they drift again to relocate their contacts. We can use this tactic, because we know the enemy's limitations. A DD running at high speed will lose contact of you as he closes to within 1000 yards and passes overhead, because his own engine noises overwhelm his sound gear for about 800 yards around him. So we can make all the noise we want because we know he's deaf at this time. To find which DD is closest, watch the red bars on your map screen. When you see one of them starting to move faster than the others, that's the closest DD. Go to flank speed and turn in his direction. As he passes overhead, make a full rudder turn to either port or starboard or stay straight on your course keeping your sonar profile to a minimum and let him get a little distance between you and him. After a few seconds go to 1/3rd speed and listen again. Keep repeating this, if he keeps acquiring you or for each escort there is. Keep in mind, the point is you want to escape - keep your sonar profile to a minimum and try to get further away.

Hiding

Remember there is nothing wrong with going deep. It might be more macho to stay at periscope depth and fight it out, but there are advantages to going deep and hiding. Later in the war, when subs could go deeper, you actually have better luck going deep. Another thing you can do when you go deep is take advantage of thermal layers. Because the earlier class subs could not dive as deep, they could not take advantage of the thermal layers. After March 1943 when the Bathythermograph becomes available, you will be able to find these layers more readily. Even though the escort sonar has a hard time penetrating these layers continue to maintain a low sonar profile and get as far away as possible.

Summary

The enemy's counterattack will usually be severe and long lasting (they take a dim view of the ships in their charge being sunk). Once you know what you must do, do it and be patient (remember to use time compression). Be prepared for a long drawn out encounter. Remember, take your time and keep in control of the situation. This aspect of Silent Hunter takes the longest to learn, but once learned you will be on your way to mastering the game of Silent Hunter.

Copyright © 2002 by Jeff Johnson. Used with the author's permission.