The new Russian sub in The Hunt for Red October had a new 'caterpillar' drive which meant it was undetecable to sonars. However, it was spotted on it's maiden voyage and Jones immediately worked out a way to detect it with the sonar.

Hence it was detectable with a slight modification which could be performed by a sonar operator on the fly and the relevant informtion could then be broadcast to the rest of the American submarines and they could detect it too.

If the only feature of the Red October was that it could not be detected then it did not work. Why was such an effort made to capture it?

  • 1
    I thought that the Dallas was tracking it and then lost it when the drive was engaged (apart from the singing) and later Jones kept investigating and eventually played the sound at 10x speed?
    – Stefan
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 8:39
  • New technology or not, every effort would be made on both sides to capture a vessel wishing to defect.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 0:18
  • 1
    @Yasskier pretty much nailed it. Jones was only able to extrapolate that those particular sounds could be the Red October because he knew where to look for it, and even then, it was quite a bit of conjecture. Kind of like how stealth aircraft isn't 100% "invisible," but still damn hard to track, and much harder than non-stealth. Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


There are a few issues at work here.

Firstly, there was confusion as to the mission of the Red October. From the Wiki:

Officials in the briefing, learning that the bulk of the Soviet Navy has been deployed to sink Red October, fear Ramius may plan an unauthorized strike against the United States. Ryan, however, hypothesizes that Ramius instead plans to defect, and leaves for the North Atlantic to prove his theory before the U.S. Navy is ordered to sink Red October.

So to start with, Ryan was tracking and trying to capture the submarine (as opposed to destroying it) as he didn't believe it posed a genuine threat.

Secondly, it has to be remembered that even though the 'caterpillar' drive malfunctioned, it was still a piece of technology that the US didn't have and could learn from. It still could do things that no US submarine could do.

If the US could figure out how it worked and operated, they could attempt to better it and make it more reliable, thus adding to the strength of their naval fleet.


Some demonstration from the movie of Jones' prowess:

Capt. Bart Mancuso: [after hearing Jones's findings] Have I got this straight, Jonesy? A $40 million computer tells you you're chasing an earthquake, but you don't believe, and you come up with this on your own?

Seaman Jones: Yes, sir.

Mancuso: Including all the navigation maps?

Jones: Sir, I-I've got all the...

Mancuso: Relax, Jonesy. You sold me.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 17:19

Please note that the "Red October" had a lot of bad luck - it was spotted by American submarine BEFORE it turned the silent engine, so Jones was doing whatever he can to locate it again, because he didn't believe that submarine can simply disappear.

So if the Red October would turn on the "caterpillar" drive before it has been detected, it would remain silent. In other words the technology is working, the sonar operator was VERY lucky and the Soviet submarine is extremely valuable, because IT IS undetectable, unless you really know what and where you are looking for.

  • Wasn't it Jones who came to the Captain with the ability to track the submarine? I don't think Ryan was on the Dallas at that point?
    – Stefan
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 8:03
  • You are right, I'll correct the answer
    – Yasskier
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 19:24

The plot serves to reinforce the idea that even though "Ivan" was shrewd and could produce a technologically advanced piece of military hardware, good ol' American ingenuity and willingness to let ideas float from the bottom up (as opposed to repressive communism) would still prevail. This was a valid point as it was mostly true.

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