The Russian Navy has deployed 10 submarines from a range of classes to the northern Atlantic Ocean for large scale military exercises. The drills will involve eight nuclear powered submarines, and shortly follow the deployment of Russian Air Force Tu-160 intercontinental range strategic bombers to South Africa after a thirteen hour flight over the Indian Ocean. The intention of both of these exercises is thought to be a demonstration of the country’s ability to rapidly redeploy assets to project power overseas – including the deployment of survivable high endurance nuclear assets.
Naval drills in the Atlantic will include tests of new weapons systems, and will demonstrate the ability of higher endurance platforms to operate stealthily and remain submerged for long periods allowing them to redeploy undetected. This is particularly valuable due to the importance of penetrating the defensive line formed by Britain, Greenland and Iceland which was heavily fortified to box in the Soviet Navy during the Cold War and has remained highly militarised since.
Demonstrating the ability to break this line would serve as a serious deterrent to potential provocations by the Western Bloc, and would allow Russian warships to operate relatively freely in the Atlantic to carry out strikes on the U.S. mainland and target Western shipping.
Among the warships participating in the exercises, 02 x Sierra II Class submarines deployed have been highlighted by Western analysts as particularly threatening. The heavy platforms are among the most capable attack submarines in the world, and are capable of very high speeds. Their titanium hulls are capable of withstanding the pressure of extreme depths making these ships particularly difficult to detect, and they are among the quietest nuclear submarines deployed anywhere in the world. The use of this costly material meant that this class of submarine were built only in small numbers, but are capable of outperforming almost all competition with a combination of speed, operational depth and firepower few other platforms can match.