Silent Hunter header

Silent Hunter:

Escort Tactics

Escort Tactics

Evasion is one of the toughest aspects of Silent Hunter. It is a game within a game. Like any war situation, the more you know about the enemy, the better equipped you are to predict what they will do. There are two points in an attack where knowing what the escorts are doing is crucial for success. One will always be needed during the approach, and the other is only needed during the escape when you go deep.

Approach Formations (Undetected Patterns)

While you are making your approach to a firing point, often times you'll see the escorts racing back and forth. They are using specific patterns when they guard a convoy, and the better you know them, the more apt you will be to take advantage of it. The most common formations are the "picket" and the "arrow".

The Picket

Usually a small convoy will have just two or three escorts. Generally a two or three escort convoy will employ "the picket". The picket formation has the convoy lined up in a column, with one escort on each side of the convoy. As the convoy moves forward at 8-10 knots, the escorts move from the rear of the convoy to the front of it. When they pass a little ahead of the lead ship in the convoy, they will both break away from the convoy for about 300 yards, and then turn again on a "back heading" toward the rear of the convoy. This pattern forms a continuous box along the sides of the convoy protecting the ideal approach lanes on each side of the convoy. An "end-round" is an ideal form of attack for this form of convoy. By approaching from the front you should try to gain a position inside the path of the escorts and the path of the convoy. Then time your attack when the escorts are at the rear of their route, preferably heading away.

The Arrow

The arrow is similar to the picket screen in that the convoy runs in one or two columns and the escorts are in the same positions of the picket screen. The main difference is that the escorts will turn at their own pace and usually counter-rotate (one on one side will be heading to the front while the other is moving to the rear). Watch Out! The better escort crews use the arrow. If there are three or four escorts, the two to the front and rear will counter-rotate also.


Warships seem to travel in either echelon formation or the anti-submarine formation. In the echelon formation all the members are heading in the same direction but staggered. The key member (the largest of the group) will be in the middle of the pack with cruisers after the DDs at the ends. If it's a large group, parameter escorts will ring the group, but their patterns will be small because of the speed of the group. Generally, an echelon is good ASW practice because when they zig, all members will make a simultaneous turn changing the dynamics of the echelon (an echelon right will become an echelon left, etc.). This makes solutions very hard to obtain. Cruiser groups, especially light cruiser groups, favor this type of formation.

A standard formation is the anti-submarine formation. It is also used for Anti-Air Defense. This formation is used with high value ships and a large number of escorts for the parameter. The key members travel in a column while the DDs form a perimeter around the main body. This is good for you. Columns are tougher to zig so you might have an easier time closing with the capital ships once the perimeter is breached. The bad news is these formations will have an awesome number of escorts with them. You must remember though, approaching a BB or CV Group requires luck as well as skill. Most of the time you'll only get a good shot if they happen to turn in a way that will allow you to close. It's a product of the right time and the right place.

Search Patterns (Detected Patterns)

This is the real "meat and potatoes" of escort tactics. What they do after they detect you and you being deep is the most important time to predict the escort activity. This subject falls into three categories, single, paired and group tactics.

Single Tactics

When you are up against one escort it is usually the easiest to avoid and the escort uses simple tactics. When you are spotted, escorts will usually try to run down to the point where you where last seen and drop some DCs. When they pass overhead, they will continue on for a little over 1000 yards and slow to regain contact with you. If they regain contact, they will once again try to run you down. If they don't regain contact, they will make "lazy eights" using your last contact point as the center of the eight. If over time they still don't regain contact, they will usually select an obvious escape route or direction, go to that area (which is usually 3000 yards away) and circle at slow speed trying to regain contact. Unless they choose the area where you are trying to make your escape, this will be your chance to escape. After 1943, with deeper diving submarines that take advantage of thermals, evading a single escort becomes so routine that there is really not too much you should do other than take your time leaving the area.

Paired Tactics

This concerns two escorts. After the initial rundown, the escorts will then turn in opposite directions and spread out a little. One will stay slow circling, trying to pick up a contact, while the other noisily pings close to the last contact point trying to "flush" you out. If the distant one picks up a return from a turn, the near one will come dropping DCs. As he passes, the other guy will make his pass, with the first one taking up station as the listener. When they spread out, they will do it in a way that will force you to increase your "Sonar profile" which is the hallmark of group tactics. They will continue to alternate until they either sink you or lose contact for more than an hour or so. Again continue to move away and take each escort at a time (the closer one). Remember they know you can't move at great speed without being heard, so patience is the key.

Group Tactics

Group tactics are the most challenging brand of Silent Hunter tactics. It usually falls into one formation, the dreaded "Wagon Wheel". After their initial charge, they will take up station about 800-1000 yards from the last point of contact and circle around that point. The more escorts there are, the tougher this gets. At their station, they will circle slowly, trying to reestablish contact. If there are 6 or more escorts, almost always one will get a fix on your position. Once they do, they will take turns, running down your location and drop DCs. Prior to 1943, or in an S-class sub, trying to evade 6 or more escorts is certain doom. After 1943, you have to hope you can find a thermal layer and creep away under the thermal.

There is really no way to avoid the wrath of the escorts, but with skill and a little luck and prior knowledge of the formations and tactics they use, you can eventually master Silent Hunter.

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