A top secret military acoustic detection system designed to spot enemy submarines first heard what the U.S. Navy suspected was the Titan submersible implosion hours after the submersible began its voyage, officials involved in the search said.
The Navy began listening for the Titan almost as soon as the sub lost communications, according to a U.S. defense official. Shortly after the submersible’s disappearance Sunday, the U.S. system detected what it suspected was the sound of an implosion near the debris site discovered Thursday and reported its findings to the Coast Guard commander on site, U.S. defense officials said.
While the Navy couldn’t say definitively the sound came from the Titan, the discovery played a role in narrowing the scope of the search for the vessel before its debris was discovered Thursday, the officials said.
“The U.S. Navy conducted an analysis of acoustic data and detected an anomaly consistent with an implosion or explosion in the general vicinity of where the Titan submersible was operating when communications were lost,” a senior U.S. Navy official told The Wall Street Journal in a statement. “While not definitive, this information was immediately shared with the Incident Commander to assist with the ongoing search and rescue mission.”
Officials decided “to continue our mission as a search and rescue and make every effort to save the lives on board,” the U.S. Navy statement said.
The Navy asked that the specific system used not be named, citing national security concerns. It is normally used to detect enemy submarines.
The U.S. Navy typically deals with foreign threats using military capabilities. The U.S. Coast Guard typically carries out search-and-rescue operations and handles other matters directly related to security of the country. The two services often operate together due to their mutual maritime missions. The search for the Titan was conducted roughly 900 miles off the coast of Massachusetts.