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ASDIC refers to a system which uses pulses of sound to detect objects under water, and was invented during World War I, and refined during World War II. It is generally expanded in full to Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee.

The term appears to be of special interest, because the additional letters added to the basic acronym ASD are said to relate to a non-existent committee which would supposedly have been responsible for the equipment, a wartime ploy which would have added the confusion of any enemy trying to locate it in order to acquire knowledge relating to its development:

The first device used to locate submarines is called Asdic (named after the Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee) and was invented during World War I by British, American, and French scientists. This system located underwater objects by transmitting an acoustical pulse of energy, then listening for any echoes returned from that object. From ASDIC, the more modern term SONAR was borne, which means SOund NAvigation and Ranging. SONAR is an American term dating from World War II and is now used universally to describe all underwater detection equipment. In the RCN, the term SONAR started coming into general useage around 1955 and in the Royal Navy, around 1964.

There is also a considerable amount of confusion about the origins of the term 'ASDIC'. To quote Willem Hackmann from Seek and Strike, "The Oxford University Press was prompted on 11 December 1939 to ask the Admiralty about its etymology after Churchill used the term in the House of Commons. After a certain amount of inter-departmental discussion, they were told that the word was the acronym of Allied Submarine Detection Investigation Committee. This body was formed during the war of 1914-1918, and organized much research and experimentation for the detection of submarines, however, no committee bearing this name has been found in the Admiralty archives."


The first reference to ASDICS occurs in the weekly report of experimental work at Parkeston Quay, Harwich, dated 6 July 1918. This word replaces the section heading of supersonics, dealing with these experiments. After this date, the new term appears very frequently in the records. No indication is given for this sudden change of term. It almost certainly stood for 'pertaining to the Anti-Submarine Division'(or Anti-Submarine Division-ics), the Admiralty department that had initiated this research.
- ASDIC, Radar and IFF Systems Aboard HMCS HAIDA.[1]


1 ASDIC, Radar and IFF Systems Aboard HMCS HAIDA - Part 2 of 10 Retrieved April 29, 2010


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