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Aegis makes submarines more important than ever

By Padraig McGrath | November 5, 2019

On October 29th, the Norwegian news-outlet NRK broke the story that between 8 and 10 Russian submarines, including Sierra II class submarines, had begun naval exercises in the North Atlantic. This is one of the largest Russian naval exercises focused on submarine-warfare since the end of the cold war. It is likely that one of the core purposes of this exercise is to test the stealth-capability of the Russian subs, and of NATO forces’ abilities to track them as they push through the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap (abbreviated “GUIK-gap”), a closely monitored strategic bottleneck. The Sierra II class sub has a titanium hull, enabling it to submerge to greater depths than steel-hulled submarines, and it is also much quieter than most other submarines.

In the event of a conflict, these submarines could be deployed to adopt a defensive posture, in order to protect Russian ports on the Barents Sea or Russia’s strategic holdings in the Arctic, or to threaten the American eastern seaboard. Since activating its 2nd Fleet, the US Navy has significantly increased patrols in the North Atlantic and in the area of the GUIK gap. The United States Navy also operates a detachment of P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft out of the Keflavik base in Iceland.

The following day, October 30th, the Borei-A-class submarine Prince Vladimir test-fired the Bulava ballistic missile from the White Sea to a target in the Kura missile-range in Kamchatka. This is the first ever test of a Bulava missile. The Bulava has a range of about 8,000 kilometres, and each of its independently targeted warheads delivers a payload the equivalent of 150 kilotons of TNT.

Northern Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Alexander Moiseyev stated that the submarine Prince Vladimir is completing its state trials this year, during which all its armaments will be tested, before it is scheduled to enter service in December. The submarine will be operational in the Northern Fleet.

So far, the Sevmash shipyard has delivered 3 Borei-class submarines to the Russian navy, serving in the Northern and Pacific Fleets, with 4 more Project 955 Borei-class submarines under construction. Project 955 Borei-class submarines are designed for improved acoustic stealth, and each of them will carry 16 RSM-56 Bulava missiles as standard, with each missile carrying between 4 and 6 nuclear warheads.

The day after that, October 31st, President Putin was in Kaliningrad, inspecting the Yantar naval shipyard and the corvette “Gremyashchy,” launched in 2017.

In addition, 5 tests of the MIRV-equipped RS-28 Sarmat missile are planned for early 2020, with the Sarmat scheduled to enter service in 2021. This intercontinental ballistic missile is reportedly equipped with multiple hypersonic MIRV’s (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles), designed to evade missile defense systems. According to Russian government sources, the Sarmat can carry up to 15 warheads, has a range of 10,000 kilometres, and is capable of destroying an area the size of Texas.

All of this has been necessitated by the Aegis Ashore missile defence system, operated by the United States in Poland and Romania. However, let’s set the intercontinental ballistic missile issue aside for the purpose of our discussion here, and focus on the submarine issue, which is an under-emphasized aspect of very many geo-strategic bones of contention.

This hardly needs to be explained with regard to Crimea – losing the naval base in Sevastopol would have been detrimental to Russian geo-strategic interests. At present, there is still a standing agreement between Russia and the western alliance that no submarines carrying nuclear weapons are deployed in the Black Sea. However, if the international security environment were to continue to deteriorate, the Russian Defence Ministry would have to re-evaluate that commitment.

From Crimea, let’s move on to Syria. Tartus is a small base, used by the Russian navy primarily for provisioning, but it would suddenly become a radically more valuable strategic asset in the Mediterranean if the Bosphorus were ever blockaded. The western alliance had many, many reasons for prosecuting its proxy-war in Syria, and Tartus is certainly not the first item in that long list, but it is nonetheless one reason among many. The question arises as to what responses might be provoked from the United States if the Russian Defence Ministry ever decided to expand the Tartus base’s operational capabilities. Even if the defence ministry’s military planners were imprudent enough to consider such a move, President Assad would be unlikely to consent, given the resulting risk of re-igniting the Syrian conflict.

One of the problems common to many of the Russian navy’s most strategically important bases is the narrow sea-corridors to which they have access. Submarine-hunting is easier in small and easily monitored bodies of water such as the Baltic (Kaliningrad), the Black Sea (Sevastopol) and the Sea of Japan (Vladivostok). Even the Mediterranean is not expansive enough to allow Russian subs to disappear. It is hardly surprising, then, that the Russian Defence Ministry is commissioning considerable numbers of new generation, stealthier subs in response to the Aegis game-changer.

This also makes the Northern Fleet in Murmansk particularly key to the effectiveness of Russia’s nuclear deterrent, with no American fleet in immediate proximity. Furthermore, the point cannot be over-emphasized that with 17 million square kilometres of resource-rich territory but a population-density of only 8 persons per square kilometre, maintaining the effectiveness of Russia’s nuclear deterrent is an existential necessity.

In this regard, the strategic role of the Aegis Ashore missile defence system deployed by the United States in central Europe is essentially aggressive. There are many economic and geo-political factors feeding into the current lamentable state of Russia’s relationship with its western partners. However, it is very highly arguable that the deployment of Aegis Ashore in central Europe is singularly the biggest driver of the current geo-political and geo-strategic impasse, and consequently also the most influential driver of new Russian weapons-development.

November 5, 2019 - Posted by | Militarism | ,

2 Comments »

  1. The Prince Vladimir! Whatever next—the Romanov?

    Comment by traducteur | November 5, 2019 | Reply

  2. Remember this when THEY question your need for arifle.
    Whenever they nasally whine “You don’t NEED a “Weapon of WAR”” read this to them:
    WE pay for THEIR prepping….. as they attack Our RIGHT to keep a semi-automatic rifle
    I’d like to point out …. In order to “feel safe” the politicians “need” 7,000+ nuclear warheads ,,, at least 11 aircraft carrier battle groups and hundreds more ships , how many multiBillion$ F35s, how many Troops “under arms” and tanks, tanks beyond counting. They employ inhumane ILLEGAL arms such as Depleted Uranium, White Phosphorous, and Napalm. The government is spending $700BILLION every year on GUNS. The Liars swear we are “imminent danger” of being overrun by Barbarian Hordes and that we should be terrified and give Them all the money they want, to buy every concievable weapon . According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), as the largest military in the world by far, the US has spent an average $650 billion every year since 2010. It spends more on defense than the next nine countries combined. Of this amount, $400 billion is earmarked for nuclear weapons between 2017 and 2026, which is an increase of $52 billion from the previous 10-year estimate of $348 billion, according to a Congressional Budget Office report. The US now exports 34% of global arms sales. US arms sales are rising as Russia’s, the next largest arms dealer, are falling. Indeed military spending is big business – the “military-industrial complex”, a term coined by President Eisenhower, is thriving.
    …..But we are “crazy” to want semiauto weapons to defend ourselves …….. then it surrounds it’s self with 24/7 ARMED bodyguards and WALLS, WALLS, WALLS for THEM, but you are a racist bigot for wanting a wall . …. and even THAT is not enough as they constantly tell they need MORE weapons and BIGGER weapons ….. then tells YOU that YOU are crazy for wanting semiauto weapons …… “they” have hidden bunkers, stocked with tons of food, medical supplies, equipment, all paid for by YOU, but you will not be welcome inside ….. but YOU are a NUT-CASE for prepping.
    Actually it just strikes me – — I wonder how many synagogues are well stocked shelters on YOUR TAXES? DHS has been pouring Your money into Jewish “security” leaving you as a Second Class Citizen who just gets and pays the Bills.
    Every year THEY are spending $23,400 (borrowed at interest) PER American on GUNS ….. but YOU are the crazy.

    Comment by David | November 5, 2019 | Reply


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