Between June 21 and September 14, 1966, USS Atakapa (ATF 149) (featured image), equipped with electronics intercept equipment, first conducted electronic surveillance of a Soviet fleet exercise off Norway and then operated briefly in the Baltic Sea.

While waiting for the exercises to begin, Atakapa was positioned in the Norwegian Sea for the purpose of detecting and identifying Soviet out-of-area submarines activity.  This surveillance effort resulted in the sighting and trailing of two Zulu-class submarines (A), thereby confirming the identities, actions, and intentions of the Mediterranean bound units.  During the Soviet exercise, Atakapa collected extensive intelligence information that no other platform or facility had collected and proved the concept of employing small ships as intelligence collectors.  Despite the tug’s long operating endurance, however, its slow speed proved inadequate for fleet surveillance, and the use of faster ships was recommended.  In the Baltic Sea, Atakapa’s operations established a U.S. presence in the area and obtained considerable SIGINT data that was, however, of limited value since most of the data were available from other collection sources.  Soviet reaction to Atakapa being in the Baltic Sea was negligible.

Soviet Zulu-class submarines

In January 1966, USS Jamestown conducted surveillance operations off the coast of Cambodia and continued to operate in the Western Pacific throughout the year.  Oxford also continued to operate in the Southeast Asian area in 1966.

On November 15, 1966, USS Banner, while conducting SIGINT Operations in the CLICK BEETLE IX operating area, was harassed by a large number of Chinese Communist fishing boats and steel hulled trawlers.  Commander Task Force 72 sent the destroyer USS Everett F. Larson (DD 830) to extricate USS Banner from the situation.

(A) Soviet Navy Project 611 (NATO designation: Zulu class) was one of the first Soviet post-war attack submarines.  They were a contemporary of the Whiskey-class submarines and shared a similar sonar arrangement.

Source: A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence
Edited by Mario Vulcano