Abstract A ring-stiffened spherical shell is submerged in an acoustic medium. The shell is thin and elastic. The acoustic medium is inviscid, irrotational and compressible. The center of mass of the shell is subjected to a translational acceleration which is an arbitrary function of time. The absolute displacements of the shell are expressed in terms of the relative displacements and the displacement of the base of the shell, base being defined as the rigid ring placed at the equator. The motion of the acoustic medium is governed by the wave equation. The transient response of the shell is investigated numerically. The results are compared with the results of the in-vacuo response. The effects of the plane wave approximation and the base velocity on the transient response of the shell are studied. The numerical results show that the plane wave approximation accurately predicts the response of the shell in the acoustic medium for short times after excitation. The displacements of the shell in fluid are larger than those in vacuo. But when the base of the shell is restrained from translating, the displacements in fluid are smaller than those in vacuo. Therefore, base translation has a very significant effect on the transient response of the shells submerged in an acoustic medium.