The Russian Navy Has Awakened From Its Slumber
By Kade Hawkins
For several years the US Navy has been warning of the growing threat from China on the sea, in particular the danger it presents to global trade by threatening freedom of navigation in the South China Sea where it has constructed five artificial islands.
It has only been recently that the US has started to take note of the rapid rebuilding of the Russian fleet which now presents the US with not just one but two potential adversaries that are looking to match its power on the sea.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Office of Naval Intelligence stopped publishing its annual report on the Russian fleet. This was due to the fact that the Russian fleet quickly fell into disarray due to lack funding. It no longer posed the same sort of threat it did during the cold war.
For the first time in years, the US Naval intelligence branch has now felt it was time to put the Russian navy back on the radar and has published its report detailing the aggressive rearming of the Russian Navy.
This currently includes 56 submarines, 31 major surface ships and 99 minor surface vessels with an additional seven new warships and two submarines scheduled to enter service in 2016.
When asked about the Russian navy activities, Admiral John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said “their submarine force and their navy are as active as they have been in a long time, 20 years or so.”
This would confirm the comments of Admiral Viktor Chirkov, the head of the Russian navy, who recently said that Russian submarine patrols had increased 50 per cent from 2013.
Of great concern to the US are signs that these submarines are spending a lot of their time monitoring critical telecommunications cables on the Atlantic seabed.
These high-tech fiber-optic cables laid out along the sea floor are capable of moving almost unimaginable amounts of data at ever-increasing speeds. They serve as the lifeline of our increasingly digital economy.
Close to 95% of the world’s communications travel through these underwater cables, including banking transactions, military data transmission, emergency response services, voice and data transfer and essential information for air and sea travel.
If you consider that undersea cables are the No. 1 tool used by U.S. authorities to communicate with troops and allies overseas, you understand why neutralizing this communication would be a prime objective of any foe in war time.
One can only imagine the havoc that would ensue on our economic systems. Wall Street needs constant updates to survive in our global digital economy. Any disruption, even for a short time, could neutralize our financial markets.
Adm. Richardson also said that he believed President Vladimir Putin was trying to propel Russia’s navy back on to the global stage to “make sure that they’re being part of this whole conversation that’s emerging, that they’re seen as . . . serious players”
To demonstrate just how serious the Russian Navy is about its firepower, it surprised the world in October when Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired new Kalibr cruise missiles thousands of miles to hit rebel targets in Syria. And in December a Russian submarine repeated the feat, firing Kalibrs into Syria from the Mediterranean.
Before these missile launches, only the United States had demonstrated the ability to fire long-distance cruise-missile strikes from ships and submarines, against ground targets. Sea-launched cruise missiles are the perfect weapon for allowing military interventions while also avoiding serious risk to its own forces.
What’s particularly striking is that Moscow has been able to build this long-range naval strike capability with much smaller vessels than anyone thought possible. In the U.S. Navy, large destroyers, cruisers, and submarines carry Tomahawk cruise missiles—and those vessels are typically at least 500 feet long and displace as many as 9,000 tons of water.
The four brand-new warships that launched the Kalibrs were much, much smaller—ranging in length from 200 to 330 feet and displacing no more than 1,500 tons of water. Russia has proven that it’s new technologies are allowing smaller ships but with equal firepower to the larger US ships.
The Russian navy also is investing more in experimental weapons systems, such as lasers and rail guns, which rely on electrical energy as well as unmanned underwater drones capable of deploying nuclear warheads in an effort to ready itself for a hybrid conflict where conventional, nuclear and cyber-attack fronts will all be fair game.
Russia has rejoined an exclusive club of global military powers. And that should worry the Pentagon.
At the end of WWII the West took the opportunity to set Germany back on it’s feet as an ally. At the end of the Cold War the opportunity to do the same with Russia was missed…