By Jonathan Davis
A top U.S. Navy admiral said this week that Russian naval activity mostly in the form of submarine operations is surging throughout NATO, and it is posing new challenges and risks to member states.
Adm. James Foggo, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, told reporters Wednesday that sub competition with Russia is heating up.
“This has been one of the busiest years that I can remember, and I’ve been doing this since 1983,” he said. “… Russia has continued to put resources into their undersea domain. It’s an asymmetric way of challenging the West and NATO alliance and actually they’ve done quite well.”
Russia this fall held a major submarine exercise in the Atlantic. The goal, according to a report from the Barents Observer — Europe’s northernmost English-Russian news outlet — was for at least eight nuclear-powered subs to get as far out into the North Atlantic without detection.
“Such maneuvers haven’t been seen from the Northern Fleet since the days of the Cold War,” the Barents Observer reported.
Foggo called the report on the Russian exercise “fairly accurate.”
“We’re seeing a surge in undersea activity from the [Russian navy] that we haven’t seen in a long time,” he said.
Russia has made substantial investments in upgrading its submarine force from the immediate post-Soviet era when much of the country’s military forces and equipment lapsed into mediocrity and obsolescence thanks to a lack of funding.
And while Moscow still does not have anywhere near the funds to challenge U.S. hegemony and weapons development, President Vladimir Putin has instead chosen to place limited resources in asymmetric weapons development — like submarines, electronic warfare, drones, etc.
American subs are considered superior in many aspects, but the newest Russian subs are very quiet which, of course, is a distinct tactical advantage.
The National Interest reported in August 2018:
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian submarine program fell into decline along with many other branches of the Russian military. In the past decade, however, Russian officials have undertaken efforts to modernize their armed forces.
From upgrading Cold War models to meet present-day challenges, to designing completely new platforms like the Borei and Yasen Class submarines, Russia is clearly determined to renew the status and capabilities of its underwater fleet.
The nuclear power plant onboard Borei Class submarines grants the vessels a surface speed of 15 knots and a submerged speed of 29 knots. The vessels have a maximum diving depth of 480 meters and an endurance of 100 days.
Borei Class submarines promise to provide the Russian Navy with a potent long-range capability for years to come. Already, Moscow has placed an order to receive 10 new vessels by 2020.