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  U.S. Navy Museum Cold War Gallery Covert Submarine Operations
Navigation

The U.S. Navy developed the ships inertial navigation system (SINS), which allows a submarine to navigate underwater by keeping track of its relative motion from a known starting point. In practice, however, small errors accumulate, requiring the submarine to rise to periscope depth periodically to update its location from external sources. Until the early 1980s, Loran shore stations provided navigational updates. (Loran is an acronym for long-range radio navigation) This system was then replaced by the global positioning system (GPS), a space-based navigational network linked to ground control and data processing stations. GPS satellites, the first of which was launched in 1978, move in one of three polar orbits at an altitude of 11,000 miles.
 
 

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Virtual Walkthrough
Action Below!

Action Below!

What happens in the attack center when a submarine goes into action? To find out, click one of the links below and watch the video. Your activity choices are:

play videoTracking a Soviet submarine in the Atlantic
Anti-Submarine Warfare: This video shows the 1978 mission of the nuclear attack submarine USS Batfish to track a Soviet YANKEE
           ballistic missile submarine.

play videoObserving a foreign surface-to-air missile test
Missile Test Surveillance: This video shows covert submarine surveillance of a foreign cruiser testing a surface-to-air missile.

play videoUnder hull surveillance of a surface ship
Underhull Survey Training: This video shows covert underwater surveillance of a destroyer's hull.

Learn More

Educational Videos

play videoDive, Dive: "The Submariners" (1967):  This segment from the 1967 Navy documentary "The Submariners" follows the nuclear attack submarine USS Shark (SSN-591) during a dive. Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, UMO-41.

play videoUSS NAUTILUS: Operation Sunshine (1959):  This 1959 documentary tells the story of the historic underwater voyage of the nuclear submarine USS Nautilus (SSN-571) to the North Pole. Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section UMO-3.

play videoThe Omega Navigation System (1969):  This 1969 U.S. Navy training film describes the technology and science behind the Omega Navigation System, used for long range navigation by military ships and aircraft. Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section, UMO-41.

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