Perhaps our readers are surprised why we devote so much time to the state of the Russian Navy, its problems and prospects. Unfortunately, not everyone understands that the Impact, if, God forbid, ever happens, will come not in the form of NATO tank wedges, but from the sea. The problem is that the potential adversary has the most powerful navy, but this cannot be said about the Russian Navy today. The quantitative and qualitative lag can play a very cruel “joke” with the “great land power” as a result.
Russia has four fleets and one flotilla, the Caspian. It is no secret that all Russian strategic submarines are divided into two ocean fleets, the Northern and the Pacific. Moreover, most of the SSBNs are located precisely on the North, which is considered safer for them due to the fact that combat duty is carried out under a powerful ice cap, and the difficult acoustic situation makes it difficult for enemy hunter submarines to search for and destroy the submarine. We will return to this point in a little more detail.
As we have told, in the Pacific Ocean, the Russian Navy keeps 4 SSBNs, as well as several SSGNs and diesel-electric submarines, which form the basis of Russian strike power against Japan and the United States. A couple of days ago, during a Pacific Fleet exercise near the Kuril Islands, an American Virginia-class nuclear submarine was discovered. It was reportedly identified by the joint efforts of the Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft and the Russian submarine participating in the maneuvers. "Virginia" ignored the order to emerge and fled, using special equipment to create a false trail.
There is a good chance that the Pentagon purposefully “lit up” a submarine created specifically for hunting Russian submarines in order to divert the attention of the Russian Defense Ministry from the western direction, where all the most combat-ready military units and ships of the Navy are concentrated.
At present, in the Pacific Ocean, to cover SSBNs, we have one relatively combat-ready frigate "Marshal Shaposhnikov", the modernization of which raises certain questions, the outdated BOD "Admiral Panteleev", which actually does not have an air defense system, and the old destroyer of the "Sarych" project, plus in four corvettes of projects 20380/20385 take part in the maneuvers, which have a fairly decent Redut air defense system in terms of performance characteristics, which has a rather modest ammunition load. This is about the possibility of the Pacific Fleet to ensure the safe deployment of SSBNs in the area of combat patrols, where numerous anti-submarine aircraft will operate against them, as well as inconspicuous hunter submarines of the Virginia or Sivulf type.
The Northern Fleet is objectively the strongest and most combat-ready in the Russian Navy. It is here that the most powerful surface ships and the largest number of SSBNs and SSBNs are located. In the zone of his responsibility is the Arctic. It is no secret that Russian SSBNs are on combat duty in the Arctic Ocean, which gives them a lot of advantages: anti-submarine aviation is simply useless, without a nuclear icebreaker, multi-purpose destroyers and frigates of the US Navy and NATO simply have nothing to do there. Only hunter submarines remain, but their activity is also complicated by the unique hydroacoustic environment created by continuously moving ice floes.
This allows the North Sea submariners to look at the Pacific Ocean with sympathy. But will it always be so - that's the question at the cost of Russia's national security. Is not a fact.
At first, the Americans conduct regular exercises called ICEX (Ice Experiments), during which they work hard to find and destroy (Russian) submarines under the Arctic ice. US Navy nuclear submarines conduct under-ice firing of the latest torpedoes in the most difficult hydroacoustic conditions and terrain.
Secondly, they develop advanced Technology to search for lurking submarines and apparently achieved significant success in this. This needs to be discussed in more detail, since a technological breakthrough by the United States and the NATO bloc in this area can pose a real threat to the strategic security of our country.
"The first squadron of uninhabited underwater vehicles" (UUVRON-1)
Since 2016, the Pentagon began to actively involve scientists specializing in robotics, namely from Bluefin robotics, owned by General Dynamics, to the ICEX exercises. Autonomous uninhabited underwater vehicles (AUVs) were created, the dimensions of which allow them to be fired through the submarine's torpedo tubes. Underwater drones have been conducting research on the sound conductivity of various layers of water under the ice. It is not difficult to guess why the Americans needed this: in this way it is calculated exactly where it is more convenient to hide from the lurking hunters for Russian SSBNs.
But, alas, this was not the end of the matter. In 2016, a new unit was created in the United States, called the First Squadron of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron 1). What exactly it does can be understood by comparing the available open data.
In 2019, the military division of the Boeing Corporation received an order to build four Echo Voyager unmanned submarines. This is an uninhabited diesel-electric underwater drone weighing 50 tons. Its autonomous cruising range reaches an impressive 6500 miles. According to the developers, Echo Voyager will be able to destroy submarines and ships, conduct electronic warfare. The dimensions of the device allow you to install a fairly powerful sonar system (HAC) in its bow, as well as various weapons in a special compartment. It can be, for example, torpedoes.
Or not torpedoes, but uninhabited autonomous underwater vehicles. AUVs will be able to act as reconnaissance either autonomously or through a remote control hose reel from the Echo Voyager, which will act as a carrier, being tens of kilometers away from the drone. Several of these autonomous submersibles will be able to create an entire reconnaissance network, three-dimensional. Echo Voyager will be able to carry out torpedo strikes on its own or transmit target designation data to controlled "hunters" such as "Virginia" or "Sivulf". Similarly, submarines themselves will be able to remotely control “on a leash” underwater reconnaissance robots, using them, for example, to destroy bottom mines, underwater cables and other targets.
All this is quite realistic and very dangerous, because it makes the Arctic Ocean a very unsafe place for submarines. The question of the stability of the Marine component of strategic nuclear forces is becoming more and more topical.