Is That Russian Submarine Threat Still Out There?

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

It is not just the U.S. Navy that is on alert. Europe’s top Navy Commander:

NAPLES, Italy — Russia is deploying more submarines to the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and North Atlantic than at any time since the Cold War as part of a growing power game driving the U.S. to revive a decommissioned fleet and NATO to strengthen its naval defenses, the Navy’s top commander in the theater said.

Russia is upgrading its submarine forces and improving their missile capabilities, all while relations between Moscow and NATO remain tense over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Adm. James Foggo, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, said in an interview earlier this month.

“The illegal annexation of Crimea … that certainly has put a strain on our relationship,” Foggo told Stars and Stripes. “It’s their bad behavior, not ours. It’s the things they are doing.”

The Navy is reviving 2nd Fleet, though on a smaller scale than the one deactivated in 2011, to supply more ships in what Foggo described as growing competition between Russia and NATO in the Atlantic Ocean.

The renewed 2nd Fleet will be a Norfolk, Va.-based joint forces command, with many details yet to be worked out, Foggo said, adding that Navy leaders will know more after NATO’s July summit in Brussels. More here.


This is not really a new condition, it has been going on for a few years without any real U.S. response that is until the Omnibus was passed where monies were allocated for air-dropped sonobuoys that can detect submarines and transmit data back to motherships. The warnings began with Russia, operating in the Mediterranean where missiles were fired into Syria on several occasions.

The United States and Britain have been playing cat and mouse with Russia in several locations. Under Exercise Dynamic Mongoose, 10 NATO countries have been practicing hunting tactics of stealth submarines off Norway’s coast.

This past April, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $1 billion contract for a hypersonic cruise missile.

The Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon program is one of two hypersonic weapon prototyping efforts being pursued by the Air Force and comes in addition to the Tactical Boost Glide program, which the Air Force is working on with DARPA and Raytheon. The service plans to have a prototype ready by 2023.

The Tactical Boost Glide is designed to operate at 5 times the speed of sound to enhance current military systems.

The United States has 70 nuclear-powered submarines and 52 attack submarines along with 4 cruise missile armed submarines and 14 ballistic missile submarines. They all patrol bodies of water across the globe.

Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations has confirmed increased foreign submarine operations.

According to, North Korea has the world’s largest submarine fleet by raw numbers with 76, though most of Pyongyang’s fleet consists of shorter-range, electric-diesel coastal patrol craft. China and Russia, both with modern nuclear-powered fleets that rival the U.S. fleet, have 68 subs and 63 subs, respectively.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, in an interview with the Frankfurt Allgemeine and other news outlets in December, said the Kremlin is investing heavily in its submarine fleet, with 13 delivered since 2013. NATO countries, he said, have let their underwater firepower lag. “We have practiced less and lost skills,” the NATO chief said.

A particular point of concern, said one former high-level U.S. Navy official, is that Moscow may be attempting to tap into or sever some of the 550,000 miles of underwater fiber-optic cables that span the Atlantic and Arctic sea lanes.

“Russians have had a capability … to do things with these cables for the last 20 to 30 years,” said Tom Callender, who once served as head of capabilities for the Navy’s deputy undersecretary office and is now a senior defense fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

“Russians have had a capability … to do things with these cables for the last 20 to 30 years,” said Tom Callender, who once served as head of capabilities for the Navy’s deputy undersecretary office and is now a senior defense fellow at The Heritage Foundation. More than 95 percent of the global internet traffic — military and civilian, classified and unclassified — is transmitted across the network of submerged cables along the ocean floor, according to Washington-based tech firm TeleGeography. The quantity is massive compared with just a decade ago when just 1 percent of all online traffic went through the cables.

Seabed vulnerability

The majority of the 285 underwater cables in place crisscross beneath heavily trafficked sea lanes of the Atlantic and Arctic regions. According to TeleGeography, the longest single cable stretches 24,000 miles and relays internet traffic and other electronic communications from Europe, Asia and Africa.

The scale and scope of global communications moving through the network of cables — some of which are only 2 inches thick — present a lucrative target that is vulnerable to attack by U.S. adversaries. It also poses a significant challenge to U.S. forces defending the lines. Read more detail here.


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