What does the name "hunter-killer" mean for submarines?


I really should change my personal text
Jan 27, 2017
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A submarine that hunts and kills other submarines.

"Hunter-killer" in general is a term that refers to assets that hunt and kill submarines, whether they be surface naval forces, aircraft, or submarines. The term is not used much any more. It was common during and in the years after the second world war.


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May 9, 2008
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The term 'hunter-killer' is used for military operations where these two tasks were assigned to different individuals or groups: one to locate the enemy, the other to destroy them. The sniper and his scout, etc.
In WW2, the hunter-killer ASW group was used: a group of warships that would cross the Atlantic on its own (not as convoy escorts), to hunt for enemy submarines. The ships in such a group would do the hunting, the aircraft off of the carrier in the group would to the killing. Convoy escorts would react to attacks but were unable to pursue subs persistently because they had to stay close to the convoy. After WW2, ASW aircraft would operate in pairs, with one carrying the sensors and the other the weapons (due to payload limitations).

It's a bit odd that the term persists for attack submarines. On one hand, they are dedicated attack assets, on the other hand they don't operate in hunter/killer pairs - they combine those functions in one hull.

Opportunistic Minnow

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Nov 10, 2008
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^ A dichotomy beautifully illustrated by the Grumman AF Guardian. The AF-2W had a large ventral radome with radar to hunt targets while the AF-2S variant had a ventral bomb-bay to prosecute any targets found by the -2W.

As @Hobbes mentions, the phrase is still in use to distinguish an attack boat (SSN) from other submarines but I think only really persists these days because of it's use by the media. You only really use it if you want to sound dramatic!

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