Photo: A Russian Sierra-2 class submarine.
A Russian nuclear attack submarine was cruising the waters of the Atlantic Ocean as close as 200 miles off of the East Coast of the United States in what defense officials are saying is the latest sign that Russia is continuing to flex is naval and aerial power against the U.S. Officials are downplaying the potential threat of an attack sub detected so close to U.S. shores, and even gave the sub safe harbor in Florida during Hurricane Sandy.
The Russian Sierra-2 class submarine was believed to be a part of Russia's Northern Fleet, which means its outfitted with SS-N-21 anti-submarine warfare missiles, SS-N-16 anti-submarine warfare missiles, and torpedos. The Free Beacon reports that this is the first time that a Russian Sierra-2 class sub has been detected near a U.S. coast.
Speaking on conditions of anonymity to the Free Beacon, one official revealed:
"While I can’t talk about how we detected it, I can tell you that things worked the way they were supposed to," adding that the submarine "poses no threat whatsoever."
Officials believe that the submarine was most likely conducting anti-submarine warfare efforts against U.S. ballistic and cruise missile submarines at Kings Bay, Georgia. There are two guided missile submarines and six nuclear missile submarines docked at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. These are a known target of Russian attack subs.
The Russian sub did not sail near Kings Bay or threaten a U.S. aircraft carrier group that was conducting exercises nearby in the eastern Atlantic. It was considered safe enough that it was given a safe harbor in Jacksonville, Florida's commercial port during Hurricane Sandy, which is within listening range of Kings Bay.
The Russian sub is now believed to be hundreds of miles away from the U.S. shore.
In February 2012, Russia announced an increase in submarine patrols in strategic waters around the world. The detection of a Russian attack sub near U.S. shores could be read as an effort by the Russian navy to re-establish naval power projection capabilities.
Another U.S. official told the Free Beacon that:
"A Russian AGI and an SSN in the same geographic area as one of the largest U.S. ballistic missile submarine bases—Kings Bay—is reminiscent of Cold War activities of the Soviet navy tracking the movements of our SSBN’s."
SSBN is the designation for ballistic missile submarines.
During the Cold War, Russia's navy carried out hundreds of submarine patrols to maintain first and second strike nuclear capabilities. When the Soviet Union was in decline in 1984, their navy still conducted 230 submarine patrols. Nowadays, it conducts fewer than 10 per year.
Richard Fisher, a military analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, wrote in an email:
"As was their primary mission during the Cold War, Russian SSNs [nuclear attack submarines] would likely be trying to track U.S. nuclear missile submarines deploying from Kings Bay, Ga., and to monitor U.S. naval deployments from Norfolk, Va."
He added that Russia is currently building new attack subs to rival the U.S.'s Los Angeles-class submarines.