Why Don’t Submarines Have Windows?

Submarines, those mysterious vessels navigating the deep blue, are marvels of modern engineering. One question that often arises about these underwater explorers is why they lack windows.

Unlike what we see in movies or on themed underwater tourist subs, real working submarines, especially military ones, do not have windows.

In this post, we’ll delve into the reasons behind this design choice and how it impacts submarine operations.

The Nature of Submarine Operations

Submarines are designed to operate in some of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on Earth. They often dive to great depths and face immense water pressure, demanding a design that prioritizes integrity and safety.

Reasons for the Lack of Windows

1. Pressure Resistance

  • Immense Water Pressure: The deeper a submarine goes, the greater the water pressure. At great depths, the pressure can be intense enough to crush objects.
  • Structural Integrity: Windows, even if made from the strongest materials, would be weak points in a submarine’s hull. To maintain structural integrity and ensure the safety of those inside, solid, windowless hulls are the norm.

2. Material Limitations

  • Strength vs. Transparency: Materials that are strong enough to withstand deep-sea pressure, like thick steel, are not transparent. Conversely, transparent materials like glass or acrylic are not suitable for withstanding the extreme pressures.

3. Stealth Operations

  • Military Stealth: Military submarines, in particular, rely on stealth. Windows could compromise this, both by potentially reflecting light and by offering less protection against sonar detection.

How Submarines Navigate and Observe

Without windows, submarines use a combination of sophisticated technology and equipment to navigate and monitor their surroundings.

Sonar Systems

  • Primary Navigation Tool: Sonar (Sound Navigation and Ranging) uses sound waves to detect objects underwater. It’s a submarine’s primary means of understanding its environment.
  • Passive and Active Sonar: Submarines use both passive sonar (listening for sounds) and active sonar (sending out sound waves and listening for echoes) for navigation and detection.

Periscopes and Cameras

  • Surface Observations: For viewing the surface, submarines use periscopes equipped with mirrors and prisms. Modern submarines may also use high-resolution cameras and electronic periscopes.

Electronic Navigation Tools

  • Submarines are equipped with various electronic instruments, including GPS (when at or near the surface), depth finders, and electronic charts, to aid in navigation and situational awareness.

The Bottom Line

The absence of windows in submarines is a necessary design feature, driven by the need for structural integrity, pressure resistance, and stealth.

While this might detract from the romanticized image of viewing the ocean depths through a porthole, it is a crucial aspect of ensuring the safety and effectiveness of these incredible vessels.

Through advanced technology, submarines can navigate and observe their environment, allowing them to carry out a range of missions, from scientific exploration to military operations.