The number of Russian submarines sailing in distant waters increased by half between the summers of 2018 and 2019, one U.S. general warned.
The spike in Russian sub activity is consistent with recent trends in the Kremlin’s naval deployments.
But don’t count on it lasting. The Russian fleet like many advanced navies is losing old submarines faster than it can acquire new ones.
American forces observed a “50-percent increase in the number of resources in the undersea that Russia committed” to long-range submarine patrols, U.S. Air Force general Tod Wolters, the head of the Pentagon’s European Command, told U.S. senators on Feb. 25, 2020.
The high pace of deployments continued through the fall of 2019. The Russian navy in mid-October of that year sortied eight submarines in the country’s biggest undersea exercise since the Cold War.
The eight submarines, including six nuclear-powered ships, sailed from their bases in northern Russia into the cold waters of the Barents and Norwegian Seas. At the same time, an additional two boats — the nuclear-powered Sierra-class attack submarines Pskov and Nizhny Novgorod — sailed into roughly the same waters for tests and training.
The 10 vessels represent around 20 percent of the Russian submarine force. For comparison, the U.S. Pacific Fleet with its roughly 30 subs as recently as 2013 reliably could deploy eight boats on short notice.
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