By Jonathan Davis
As a “cost-cutting measure” during the Obama administration, the U.S. Navy decommissioned the Second Fleet, merging its activities and personnel into the new Fleet and Joint Operations organization of Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces.
Seven years later, during the Trump administration, the U.S. Navy reactivated the Second Fleet.
Naval Today reported:
As informed, Second Fleet will exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and northern Atlantic Ocean.
Additionally, it will plan and conduct maritime, joint and combined operations and will train, certify and provide maritime forces to respond to global contingencies. Commander, 2nd Fleet will report to USFF.
“Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex,” then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said at the time.
“That’s why today, we’re standing up Second Fleet to address these changes, particularly in the north Atlantic,” he added.
The ‘changes’ he was talking about are increased threats from Russia.
“Within an increasingly complex global security environment, our allies and competitors alike are well aware that many of the world’s most active shipping lanes lie within the North Atlantic,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who heads the fleet, said in a press release, according to Defense News.
“Combined with the opening of waterways in the Arctic, this competitive space will only grow, and 2nd Fleet’s devotion to the development and employment of capable forces will ensure that our nation is both present and ready to fight in the region if and when called upon,” Lewis added.
That’s the Pentagon’s way of saying that Russian naval capabilities have improved so dramatically over the past decade that it requires a fleet dedicated to deterring and/or interdicting them.
What is mostly alarming to Pentagon and Navy planners is the dramatic increase in Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic and Arctic.
Business Insider reported in July 2018:
The North Atlantic [has] become an area of renewed focus for NATO in recent years. Alliance officials have said Russian submarine activity in the area is at levels not seen since the Cold War (though intelligence reports from the era suggest that activity is far from Cold War peaks).
Russia’s submarine fleet is is not nearly as big as its Cold War predecessor, but the subs Moscow has added and is working on are more advanced. (NATO navies, too, are smaller than they were during the Cold War.)
“The Russians are closing the gap,” Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said earlier this year. “And they have departed from their traditional sort of approach — with lots of mass and lots of submarines but of sort of varying quality — and they are taking a page from our playbook, which is go for quality instead.”
Last month, the National Interest added that the Russian navy “surged” a large number of submarines into the North Atlantic during a major exercise in mid-October, leading to a response from NATO.
The deployment involved eight subs — six of which were nuclear-powered. The boats deployed to the Barents and Norwegian Seas.
Russia has designs on exploiting resources in the Arctic and is developing the means to defend its interests. The U.S. Navy’s Second Fleet is now ready to defend ours.