Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Hunter is Hunted

In Monday night's In Harm's Way: Pigboats game, the hunter became the hunted.

It was forty minutes to sundown, and the sun was over the tops of the mountains of Borneo as the USS Pike came up to periscope depth at the entrance to the Makassar Strait between Borneo and Celebes (Sulawesi). The Pike needed an early start to run the 300 mile strait in one night on the surface. The Skipper looked around with the 'scope, seeing nothing. The boat came up a bit further, just high enough for the SD radar mast to be exposed, thus exposing the periscope shears. Lt. jg O'Grady scanned the sky for planes with the radar. There was something - either very far out or a glitch of some sort. No way of telling, but no immediate threat.

The Skipper was about to order the boat surfaced, when O'Grady decided on a hydrophone sweep. Why? I don't know. That is not standard procedure. They were looking for planes - the skipper had already looked for ships in the vicinity, and it was clear. The player later said he had a feeling - the Pike had hit that convoy hard, and this was a logical route for an American sub, a perfect place for an ambush. There were the faint, whispery sounds of two screws, and the faint hum of vibrating wires in the water. No sound of engines.

"Sir! I think there's a sub out there! 30 degrees to port. Close!"

"Hold off on the surfacing! Can you get me a range?"

"It's real faint, sir. If I ping him, he'll know we see him."

"What can you do?"

"If we can wait a bit, I can get a new bearing for a parallax, and I know his speed. That should give me a good range."

Retry. "Sir? By the revs of his screws, he's making about three knots. That places him at about 1500 yards. I think he's waiting for us to cross his bows, sir. Give him a fifteen degree angle on the bow."

Skipper to XO: "Set me on that bearing. Our periscopes are nice and high - I should get a good look."


"OK! I see him! Bearing... Mark! Speed, three knots! Angle on the bow 15, Range one-five-oh-oh. Ready all tubes forward, but we'll use tubes one and three."

"Ready all tubes!"

"Shoot on my mark"

"Sir! His screws have stopped!"

"He's getting ready to fire! Replot! Speed zero! Fire One! Fire Three! Rudder hard a-port!"

"One and three away, sir! Both fish running hot, straight, and normal!"

Hydrophones: "Fish in the water! I hear two fish coming at us!"

Over the periscope, the skipper watches as both of the Pike's fish hit the submarine dead center, flinging the debris high and far. One of the Japanese torpedoes misses forward, evidently set for where they would have been if they continued straight. The other burrowed through the waves right at the Pike - aimed for where they might be if they slowed or turned.

"Luckily" said the skipper's player, using a LUCK point, "the torpedo's rudder sticks, and it turns past us."

The Japanese fish ran past the side of the sub. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

"Reload  tubes one and three, and prepare to surface!"

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