The Pentagon and the Navy have denied it, but this month’s report that a Russian attack submarine prowled near the U.S. without being detected has turned attention back to the art and science of anti-submarine warfare.
The story, which appeared in the conservative “Washington Free Beacon,” reported that “U.S. officials” said the Akula-class sub loitered in the Caribbean for a month without being detected, and this “exposed deficiencies” in the Navy’s ASW capabilities.
The story did not contain enough detail to know what to make of that assessment – whether, for example, the Navy searched for the sub and didn’t find it, or whether it visited and left without a trace. The “Free Beacon” story said American commanders only learned of the sub’s patrol after the fact, but it did not explain how they could learn of it given that they hadn’t been able to detect it in the first place.
The incident is similar to 2009 reports in which the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) confirmed that two Akula boats patrolled off the Eastern U.S. seaboard.
After rumors emerged of the 2009 incident, the Pentagon confirmed the submarine presence quickly. A Navy spokesman told the U.S. Naval Institute, after several checks with NORTHCOM, U.S. Southern Command and the Office of Naval Intelligence, none of the organizations were able to confirm the “Free Beacon” report of the Akula boat operating in the Caribbean.
Though the efficacy of the story has been difficult to prove, there’s no question that the Navy has spent the past years focusing far less on ASW than it did during the Cold War, a realization its leaders lately have sought to correct as best they can.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert wrote in the Naval Institute’s Proceedings earlier this year that the operational realities of operating after the Cold War meant