The Wall Street Journal (USA): Russian submarine experience of NATO strength in the icy waters of the North Atlantic

At the end of last year, 10 Russian submarines left their bases on the Russian Arctic coast and went West, to the North Atlantic.

According to military officials and analysts NATO, such a deployment is one of the largest exercises since the cold war — is not only a demonstration of the power and aspirations of the Russian Navy to defend its territory, but also a demonstration of his power in the Atlantic.

In recent years, Russia has spent billions of dollars to modernize the aging submarine fleet, which it inherited from the Soviet Union, expanded to more quiet and fast submarines that can remain undetected and to move at a greater depth over a longer period of time. Russia’s Northern fleet based on the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic, is the main submarine fleet, which was traditionally used for the protection of the marine expanses of the Russian North.

The commanders of the naval forces of the United States and its allies say Russia is now more often and for longer periods deploys submarines in the Atlantic, where they can threaten warships of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and key elements of the us infrastructure, as the Russians are patrolling the East coast of the United States.

Military officials in Russia say they have increased the frequency and magnitude of underwater exercises and that they have to build the capacity to confront what they say is an increasingly aggressive NATO action.

The revival of the Russian submarine fleet and its forays into the Atlantic worried about the NATO Alliance, which it will be necessary to deploy American forces to Europe across the Atlantic in the event of armed conflict with Russia. The importance of this strategy will increase if the United States executes the orders of the President of Donald trump and withdraw a quarter of American troops from Germany.

“We see this on a regular basis, more submarines, at a greater distance and for longer periods of time,” — said in an interview with the head of the joint Maritime command NATO, Vice-Admiral Keith Blount (Keith Blount).

In February, commander of the Second fleet of the U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis (Andrew Lewis) stated that American ships coming from bases on the East coast, was in the disputed area and could no longer count on the fact that they will be able to cross the Atlantic freely.

Large-scale naval exercises, such as those that took place at the end of last year, “not performed since the cold war”, said the Minister of defence of Norway Frank Bakke-Jensen (Frank Bakke-Jensen) in his email. “It is extremely important to guarantee freedom of navigation and to make the sea lanes of communication across the Atlantic remained open to the case we need to deploy reinforcements.”

Meanwhile, the commander of the Northern fleet Vice-Admiral Alexander Moiseev said earlier this year that Russia regularly conducts exercises with the participation of more than 10 submarines and expanding its combat duty and patrols.

“If today you arrive in any of our garrisons, we will note that many of the piers are empty, he said in March in an interview. It says that the submarine crew <…> to fulfill the tasks of combat training, combat duty, or perform a combat patrol.”

Representatives of the Russian Navy said that in the course of the exercise in October last year, the military tested the weapon and plunged to a maximum depth in international waters off the coast of Norway.

At that time the intelligence service of Norway informed the Norwegian media that, apparently, one of the goals of the leadership of the Russian fleet was to demonstrate the ability to send submarines into the Atlantic and to test NATO’s ability to track them. No other details of the service reported.

Mike Petersen (Mike Petersen), Director of the Institute for the study of the Russian Navy at the naval war College said that the main mission of Russian submarines in the Atlantic is to track critical targets, from aircraft carriers to key infrastructure in Europe and the United States.

“They can cross the Atlantic and quietly located off the East coast, as well as to strike targets in the United States and Europe,” he said.

American Admiral James Foggo (James Foggo), commander of the naval forces of the USA in Europe, compared the situation with the battle of the Atlantic during the two world wars, when German submarines attacked allied ships, as well as during the cold war, when NATO anti-submarine connections played a cat-and-mouse with Soviet submarines.

“We are still in the advantage in the underwater sphere, but they have achieved great skill,” said Admiral Foggo during the webinar, organized by the International Institute for strategic studies on June 25.

It meets the NATO anti-submarine capacity building and strengthening training. The United Kingdom has ordered nine new aircraft coastal patrol aircraft P-8A “Poseidon”, while Norway said it is ready to buy five of these aircraft. The U.S. Navy returned to their anti-submarine planes to Iceland, where in 2006 the United States closed its military base during the cold war.

Monday, 29 June, NATO began exercises off the coast of Iceland, involving ships, submarines and military aircraft from six countries-members.

All these developments point to the renewed importance of the so-called Faeroe-Icelandic border — line anti-submarine defence of NATO in the North Atlantic between Greenland, Iceland and great Britain, which during the cold war were closely monitored, then the NATO Alliance patrolled the frontier from the sea and from the air. Early in his military career, Vice Admiral Blount, who is now the head of the joint Maritime command NATO, was flown by helicopter Royal Navy, hunting down Soviet submarines in the area.

Over the last few years the Russian submarines are so improved their performance that they are now potentially able to beat planes “Poseidon.” They are able to hide at the bottom of the North Atlantic, where many troughs, submarine ridges, cold and warm currents distort the sonar signals that catch the “Poseidon”.

Russia plans to further develop its Northern fleet. The first submarine class “Yasen-M”, most likely, will be put into service next year — after a series of tests last year. It is expected that these submarines will have higher stealth and will allow Russian pilots to obtain a more detailed picture of the bottom of the North Atlantic.

Russian nuclear submarines — “this is the most deadliest, the stealth of the submarine with the longest duration of independent swimming — it’s their ACE in the hole,” said Petersen of the Institute for the study of the Russian Navy.

“Russia is almost equal adversary of the United States, it is very important to keep up with her,” said Michael Coffman (Michael Kofman), senior researcher of the Center for naval analysis in Arlington, Virginia.