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encore Eagle Eyes


A bridge watch stander on a diesel-electric submarine is perplexed by his commanding offi cer’s remarkable vision — until he catches on to his game.


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Diesel-electric submarines spend much of their underway time on the surface. During my one-year tour in a diesel after completing nuclear power and submarine training, I served many a bridge watch. The usual number of bridge watch stand- ers was three — the officer of the deck (OOD) and two lookouts. On my boat, the bridge was located at the top of a plastic sail. There was no radar repeater on the bridge and the OOD relied for radar con- tact information on voice reports from a radar operator located in the conning tower. A periscope usually was raised when running on the surface. From time to time, the commanding officer (CO) would come to the bridge for fresh air or a cigarette. On more than one occasion, while I was on the bridge, the CO would come up, and after a few minutes and without using binoculars, he would point casually in some direction and ask, “Do I not see a ship out there?” The lookouts and I would train our binoculars in that direc- tion, and sure enough, we would discern an almost imperceptible speck on the horizon. Highly embarrassed, I would report the contact to the captain and resolve to keep a more vigilant visual watch in the future. I would think to myself: What eyes this man has! and Funny, I hadn’t noticed he had an unusual taste for carrots! I did notice one peculiarity: These


events always occurred during the first 10 to 20 minutes after the captain had ar- rived on the bridge.


88 MILITARY OFFICER JUNE 2016 It took me a while, but I finally fig-


ured out the game he was playing. The radar operator did not report contacts to the bridge until they approached within 20,000 yards, which was several thousand yards beyond what an observer could see from the bridge. The radar, however, was able to “see” contacts at ranges far greater than that. The radar operator normally had computed the course, speed, and closest point of approach of the contact long before he re- ported it to the bridge. Before the CO would come to the bridge, he would stop in the conning tower and look at the radar scope and through the periscope. If there was an approach- ing ship, he and the radar operator would figure the time that it would come into view of the personnel on the bridge, as well as the relative bearing when that would happen. Then, when he was on the bridge, he would wait for the time to elapse and claim he had seen the contact while it was still unseen by, and unknown to, the bridge watch standers. “Captain Eagle Eyes,” indeed!


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— Charles Adams is a Life Member and a retired Navy lieutenant commander. He lives in Chapel Hill, N.C.


Encore Update Over time we’ve observed significant overlap in entries for Encore and Lessons Learned. To free up magazine space for a wider variety of content, the two will merge under Lessons Learned, effective July 2016. For submission information, see page 6.


ILLUSTRATION: KOTRYNA ZUKAUSKAITE


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