Video: Why Submarines Are Mostly Painted Black

Video: Why Submarines Are Mostly Painted Black

submarines black

Last updated on September 15th, 2021 at 02:04 pm

Ever wondered why the submarines are mostly painted black and not any other color? Well, you would be surprised to know that modern submarines are black for the same reason the tires of your car are black. Yes you heard it right, we will get back to this later. Before that let us talk about Submarines and Camouflage.

You would be surprised to know that before the invention of the nuclear power, submarines used to spend more time on the surface than underwater, so to hide from the enemies, camouflaging was a necessity.

During World War I, the United States secretly conducted experiments to determine which colour will be best suited for their submarines fleet to protect them against visual detection, the results reflected that for a surfaced submarine, a grey hull with decks painted black is the best visual protection from the enemies.

As the submarines were settling with grey hull and black decks, in mid 1930s a major problem came to light as it became evident that the submerged submarines, if not too deep in the water can be spotted by the airplanes flying over the submarines. Again, many experiments were conducted by the United States at Pearl Harbour in order to find a solution for this problem. As part of the experiment, submarines were painted with various combination of colors. Finally, it was concluded that the Dark Blue color on the submerged submarines offered the supreme secrecy.

Following the result, the commander ordered all the submarines of his division to be repainted dark blue. All the submarines were painted as per the order of their commander, but after applying the paint a new problem arose. The dark blue paint deteriorated after application and obtained a lighter milky tone, thereby making it easy for the enemy to spot a submerged Submarine. Ultimately, the Submarines were painted black, not due to the black color’s camouflaging property but due to its superior durability as compared to any other color offering the same amount of visual protection also.

Now all this explains how the black color and submarine became good friends in the olden times but what about the Modern submarines? Well, here comes the most interesting part, most modern submarines are not painted at all, instead they are covered with the anechoic tiles, which comes in one color- BLACK.

Anechoic tiles are chiefly made of rubber or synthetic polymer tiles containing thousands of tiny voids Their function is twofold- one is To absorb the sound waves of active sonar, reducing and distorting the return signal, thereby reducing its effective range and the other is to attenuate the sounds emitted from the vessel, typically its engines, to reduce the range at which it can be detected by passive sonar. 

The technology of anechoic tiles was developed by the Kriegsmarine during the Second World War. The Anechoic tile coating had its first sea trials in 1940s on U-Boats.  In late 1960s the Soviet Union began coating its submarines, starting with the Victor class, in rubber tiles. These were initially prone to falling off, but as the technology matured it was apparent that the tiles were having a dramatic effect in reducing the submarines’ acoustic signatures. Modern Russian tiles are about 100 mm thick, and apparently reduced the acoustic signature of Akula-class submarines by between 10 and 20 decibels. By 1980s the US Navy and the Royal Navy started using the Anechoic tiles on their submarines.

Now you must be wondering, why the Anechoic tiles are black? Well, the Anechoic tiles are made of Rubber, the natural color of Rubber is White. So, if the rubber is White, why the car tires and Anechoic tiles have a black color? What makes tires black is the addition of the Carbon black to the Rubber, adding the Carbon black to the rubber mixture increases the tensile strength and the abrasion resistance of the tires.

Related: This Tiny Sub Will Carry Navy SEALs on Their Next Mission

Carbon black is prominently used as a reinforcing filler because of its property of making things more durable and this is why mostly the rubber products where abrasion and tensile properties are important contain carbon black and thus are black in color. Carbon black is also the reason why the Anechoic tiles are black, since the submarines experiences extreme pressure differences as they submerges and resurfaces, the anechoic tiles are under a lot of pressure thus Carbon black filler is used in the rubber mixture to make the tiles more durable.

So, now you know why we compared the color of the car tires to that of the submarine!

Here is an awesome video on this interesting topic:


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