The periscope is the eye of the submarine. It was invented and developed solely for the purpose of providing a means to view the surface without fear of detection by surface craft.
Why is the periscope raised when submarines dive?
‘First, because the procedure says it should be.
‘Now as to why?
‘Submariners live and die by written procedures. They break them out before every evolution and use them as checklists. In a casualty they perform their immediate actions then breakout the procedures and audit their actions. The OOD does a reread of it before going on watch if he knows he/ she’s expecting to do some procedure – I read the dive or surface procedure before every almost every watch where I was expected to be involved even after years of doing it. The crew, when they’re poking holes in the ocean, before they talk about sports or liberty will break out procedures and train on them. Senior enlisted ensuring junior enlisted are aware of the reasons behind each step and teaching the many pitfalls that happen when procedures aren’t followed verbatim.
‘To give you some insight. If in the middle of doing an evolution you determine the procedure is flawed. You place the ship or the reactor into a safe condition. Stop the procedure, go back to the appropriate officers and chiefs to rewrite the procedure, then train on the procedure, and then attempt the procedure.
‘It sounds insane to most people but to a submariner it is the best way to ensure that a mistake doesn’t occur. Early in the submarine force for the US Navy… Sailors treated submarines like surface ships and relied on tribal knowledge, and the ‘all knowing’ senior NCO’s and often times ships sank next to the pier as things were forgotten or missed. It is much harder to, in procedural error sink a surface ship, because it is never intended to submerge.
‘Between 1905 and 1935 probably 20 or so ships were sunk and raised pier-side. Many times, the crew got off but a few times sailors or officers died. Which is why the submarine warfare patch and later pin was developed to identify those sailors who lived with that extra risk. It grew into a formal qualification program and became emulated by the aviators, spec warfare and eventually even the surface warfare community in the 1970’s.’
‘Procedures don’t replace common sense nor intuition but enhance it by ensuring you are not missing a simple step with grave consequences. Also, the Duty officer, the OOD (Officer of the Deck), the Engineering duty officer or EOOW (Engineering officer of the watch) are the stop gaps to ensure that procedures and contradictory procedures don’t result in damage or loss of life.’
Photo credit: Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Kevin H. Tierney / U.S. Navy
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