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Okay, here's the idea. There's a weapon that an nation built a hundred or so kilometers from its coast(s), installed into the seafloor, what works by absorbing dissolved gases from the water. When the command is sent to the device by its operator, all of the gases that it stowed away are released, creating a flurry of bubbles that reduces the water's density, so that boats on it lose their buoyancy and sink. I need to know if such a weapon would work in real life. To work, it will need to lower the water density for just long enough for a battleship to find itself completely submerged. We will assume that we're dealing with a battleship that can only float as long as the water's density remains above 950 kg/m^3, and if it sinks by 30 m, it will be down for good.

In an Earthlike environment, will a weapon like that work?

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Plausible

Methane rising from undersea vents was proposed as a method behind the bermuda triangle making ships disappear. The Guardian certainly believe it to be plausible:

... And ships certainly could sink suddenly if the water beneath them turned to foam, which these craters – measuring up to 45m deep and 800m wide – could be capable of doing.

It would be non trivial engineering these as they'd need to survive the depth, and then you need to get a signal to them which is tricky at that depth (radio signals bounce off layers of seawater that change temperature). You'd need many thousands to protect a coastline (there's a huge area of water you need to get your bubbles too).

It may be simpler to install a long pipe with strategically placed pressure relief vents - and when you want to fire pump gas into the pipe at high pressure - the overpressure vents open up and bubble up the water. When you stop pumping, the vents seal up again. Or just open vents in front of the incoming ships - help preserve gas.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that really is a better model than what I proposed. And the methane would definitely pose a risk to anything with an engine, so it could work as an anti-air weapon. $\endgroup$ – TysonDennis Dec 7 '20 at 5:16
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    $\begingroup$ @TysomDennis re air attack: stoikiometry says no. You need a precise air fuel mixture in order to get combustion. That's unlikely to occur more than a few meters above sea level as the methane will rise and disperse. $\endgroup$ – Ash Dec 7 '20 at 6:26
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    $\begingroup$ Oops, sorry. And you misspelled "stoichiometry." $\endgroup$ – TysonDennis Dec 7 '20 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ Oh yes, and because its a weapon anyway, light that bubble of methan! $\endgroup$ – Herr Derb Dec 7 '20 at 14:55
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What is the goal?

The mechanism will probably work, but it sounds terriby inefficient.

  • It could be done as a stealth attack, to mimic a natural methane hydrate release. Of course that means the mechanism should be well hidden.
  • It could be done against ships with some sort of point defense against conventional attacks. Effective counter-torpedo torpedoes and the like.
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  • $\begingroup$ and it's terribly easy to destroy with a few well placed water bombs. Plus the sinking ship will most likely land on top and destroy it. $\endgroup$ – Karl Dec 7 '20 at 20:24

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