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Silent Hunter

Patrol Tactics

Patrol Tactics

There are many ways to patrol in Silent Hunter. I will try to relate to you some of the tactics that work for me. These tactics may work for you or you will find that you can modify them to your own style of patrol tactics.

Plan Your Route

The first thing to take notice of when you enter a patrol zone that you have been assigned to, is the routes Japanese ships take. Japanese ships, both merchant and military use specifics routes to get where they are going. Note the areas that these routes cover. Try and find where two or more convoy routes come together. These are the areas that you will want to patrol. When you've picked an area that you feel will yield plenty of contacts, make sure that you have plenty of deep water in which to evade after you make your attacks. Don't chase contacts that are far away, because you needlessly expend fuel and time when you might find other contacts closer to the area that you are currently in.

Another good area to exploit is the high traffic straits. Areas like Kii Suido or Bungo Suido provide a wealth of contacts both military and merchant. But beware, after a successful attack or two you might find your next contacts turning into a large ASW group. Learn to shift your areas of patrolling. If an area yields nothing in the way of contacts, shift areas and see what the next area yields. By planning your route, you can set yourself up well and more importantly save fuel and extend what hopefully will be a successful patrol.

High Periscope

I like to use a high periscope at all possible opportunities. It allows a submarine to cover a greater expanse of ocean than with lookouts standing on the bridge of a submarine. On a clear day, I have been able to spot ships as far away as 25,000 yards. The high periscope can give you an early indication of a convoy's course and speed and allow you to plan your attack accordingly.


Once it becomes available, radar becomes your most valuable tool for hunting. Radar can cover 4x the area that the naked eye can. Learn to use it well! Early in the war you can use radar continuously, but later in the war, you might need to switch it on and off once in a while to provide you with the stealth you need. One of my favorite tactics is to use the PPI scope when it becomes available. After I make contact with a convoy (usually about 34,000 yards), then I try to line up with the convoy bow on. Then using time compression I submerge and try and find if I will have a thermal layer available to me for evasion after I attack the convoy. If and when I find a thermal layer I come back to radar depth, relocate the convoy and attack, knowing that I have a thermal layer to hide under after I have shot my torpedoes. Air search (SD) radar also has its usages. Usually aircraft escort high value contacts, so if you spot aircraft, more than likely you will find some valuable targets nearby to shoot your torpedoes at. Also keep in mind the limitations of radar when you use it close to shore. Picking up contacts becomes difficult because of interference caused by terrain. Also remember that radar sends out a signal that at times can be detected.

Torpedo Usage

The number of torpedoes available to you on a given patrol will determine how long your patrol lasts. Once you fire a torpedo at a target, you can't get it back. Learn to use your torpedoes wisely, don't waste them on useless targets. Wasteful usage of torpedoes shortens patrols and lowers your overall tonnage.

The number of torpedoes it takes to sink a ship varies upon the realism settings you use. As you play you will learn how many torpedoes to use against different ships. Early in the war, the dud torpedoes and prematures will drive you crazy at times. If it does, just think how the sub skippers in WW II felt when it happened to them. On anything over 20,000 tons, a full spread of torpedoes (with none being duds) will sink most any ships but the Yamato-class ships. Firing a full spread of torpedoes at a small carrier or a troopship is in my opinion wasteful. Also firing your deck gun at anything larger than a tanker is wasteful unless the ship you're shooting at is crippled.

A Waste of Torpedoes

There are three kinds of ships that I will not shoot at as a rule. Destroyers, submarines, and sampans are in my estimation not worth the time to fire a torpedo at. There are exceptions. If a DD gets in my way or he is becoming a nuisance, I will not hesitate to take him out of the action. If I happen to come across an ASW group on active patrol, I will turn around and leave them alone rather than engage them. If they discover you and force you underwater they will keep you down a very long time. It wastes torpedoes to even engage them, so retreat is sometimes the better part of valor.

Submarines fall in the same category. Usually where there is one there is more. You may get lucky and get one of them, but the other subs may get you. So playing cat and mouse with enemy submarines is a risky business at best, so why risk it. So in other words I avoid them.

Sampans are easy targets most of the time. A couple of shells from your deck gun will take them out. In rough seas you only waste shells trying to hit them. These are shells you might need later to finish off a crippled merchant that you have torpedoed.

These are some of the basics I work by. Your tactics depend on what kind of skipper you are, so if you have your own set of patrolling tactics, by all means stick with them. If you learn these skills early, learn to conserve resources, recognize wasteful attacks, and learn where to find a bountiful hunting ground, you'll find your patrol lasting longer and your tonnage will start going up.

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