Russia ‘Torpedoes’ Enemy Submarine In A Major Show Of Naval Might; Sends Clear Signal To NATO Over Increased Threats

To expand combat capability in the Arctic amid perceived threats in the region, Russia’s Northern Fleet’s anti-submarine warfare vessels practiced hunting down and destroying the submarines of a notional enemy.

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A statement from the Fleet’s press office stated on May 29, “A formation of anti-submarine ships from the Kola Flotilla of the Northern Fleet’s Combined Arms Forces employed anti-submarine warfare armaments in the Barents Sea during a scheduled tactical exercise. The ships’ combat teams practiced the objectives of hunting down and tracking a submerged enemy and conducted fire by a practice (training) torpedo against a simulated underwater target.”

Force-on-force tactics were used during the drills, TASS News Agency reported. The exercises comprised two groups: one featured a naval strike force comprising the massive anti-submarine warfare ships Severomorsk, Vice Admiral Kulakov, and Admiral Levchenko, while the other involved a nuclear-powered submarine and a diesel sub.

“The firing passed successfully, and the submerged enemy was notionally destroyed. After the firing, the surfaced torpedoes were found and retrieved from the water by a torpedo recovery boat, which supported the exercise,” the Fleet’s press office added.

According to the report, Vice Admiral Kulakov’s crew practiced firing the Rastrub-B shipborne anti-submarine missile system during the exercise’s practical phase, which has been specially designed for the protection of surface ships against enemy submarines, attacking torpedoes, and combat swimmers.

Russian destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov - Wikipedia
Russian destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov – Wikipedia

Russia has intensified its military activity in the Arctic region in recent times. Last month, the Northern Fleet kicked off large-scale drills including 1,800 soldiers, up to 15 ships, and 40 aircraft, aiming to “protect the security of Russia’s merchant marine and sea lanes such as the Northeast Passage.”

The Northeast Passage is a marine route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans over Russia’s northern, snowy coast. The route is now easier to reach, and its strategic and economic significance has grown due to climate change and the melting of glaciers.

The more these routes become accessible, the more they will allow the region to be crowded by external powers. This is one of the reasons why, experts believe, Russia has been making concerted efforts to strengthen its hold on the region, which it has already militarized to a large extent.

Last year, in September, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that  Russian nuclear-powered submarines fired cruise missiles into the Arctic as part of military exercises meant to assess Moscow’s state of preparation for a potential confrontation in its cold northern waters.

The exercises, known as Umka-2022, were conducted in the Chukchi Sea, an area of the eastern Arctic Ocean that divides Russia from the US state of Alaska. Russia’s “Bastion” coastal missile system also fired missiles at sea-based targets at a distance of 300 kilometers from the Chukchi peninsula, Russia’s most eastern territory, in addition to the missile launches from nuclear-powered submarines.

Russia has been bolstering its military capabilities in the Arctic for years, creating concerns in the West as Moscow views its huge Arctic region as an essential strategic priority. Earlier, NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg had said that the NATO alliance faced a “strategic challenge” due to Russia’s military expansion in the Arctic.

Russia Could Deploy Nuclear Vessels In the Arctic 

An intelligence report from Norway published earlier this year claims that Russia may soon send nuclear-armed ships into the Arctic, a first in about thirty years.

The report warns that although Russia already poses a severe operational threat to NATO and Norway with its anti-satellite missiles, submarines, and cyber capabilities, nuclear-armed ships will pose a greater danger.

“As the importance of nuclear weapons and strategic deterrent forces increases, the Northern Fleet’s defense of the military bases in Kola, the Northern Bastion, and the Barents Sea is also becoming more important,” the Norwegian Intelligence Service said in its annual report.

The report created the impression that this was the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War that Russia possessed tactical nuclear weapons aboard its warships.

Yasen-class submarine - Wikipedia
Yasen-class submarine – Wikipedia

However, military experts later explained that, in effect, Moscow relied on ships theoretically capable of transporting nuclear weapons rather than deploying ships armed with tactical nuclear weapons.

Neither NATO nor the United States had any reports of an unusual nuke-based deployment in the region.

The Norwegian intelligence also stated that there were chances of a small skirmish snowballing into a large conflict involving Norway, NATO, and the United States.

However, the intelligence agency stated in its assessment that while Russia will continue to maintain, update, and enhance its nuclear arsenal, no significant changes to its nuclear doctrine are anticipated shortly.

Moreover, the Kola Peninsula only has one-fifth of the Russian Armed Forces’ pre-invasion strength. However, there’s a growing chance of a nuclear deterrent in the Arctic as Russia intensifies war in Ukraine.