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Russia’s submarine fleet capable of countering any threats, naval experts say

Russia must maintain its submarine fleet at a proper level amid threats at sea, experts say

MOSCOW, March 19. /TASS/. Russia’s modern submarine fleet is capable of countering any possible threats in the World Ocean through its intensive development and renewal, according to experts polled by TASS on the eve of Submariner Day.

Fleet renewal

The submarine fleet’s constant development and renewal are a guarantee of Russia’s security at all the sea borders, Vice-Admiral Oleg Burtsev, who held the post of the first deputy chief of the Russian Navy’s Main Staff in 2004-2011, said.

"Everything depends on the possibilities of our shipbuilding sector and other branches of industry. This is because the plans of the leadership of our country and our army are to ensure that we are capable of worthily countering any probable enemy from all directions," the vice-admiral stressed.

The Russian submarine fleet "has gotten out of the crisis, in which it was" in the 1990s, Burtsev noted.

Russia is commissioning new-generation Borei-class strategic nuclear-powered submarines armed with Bulava ballistic missiles and building Yasen-class multipurpose submarines furnished with cruise missiles, the vice-admiral said.

"Also, work is underway to modernize the projects that were built among the last in the Soviet Union. For example, this refers to the Project 971 Gepard multipurpose nuclear-powered submarine and Project 949 submarines, which are being heavily upgraded for new weapon systems," Burtsev said.

Russia is also extending the service life of third-generation strategic underwater cruisers (Project 667BDRM), which will enable these submarines to operate reliably until all the eight Borei subs enter service, the vice-admiral pointed out.

"Diesel-electric submarines have also undergone heavy upgrade. We are now receiving the newest Project 636 subs, which are being built for the Pacific Fleet and are already operational in the Black Sea Fleet," Burtsev said.

Response to threats

Russia must maintain its submarine fleet at a proper level amid threats at sea emanating from many nuclear powers possessing nuclear-powered and conventional submarines, Black Sea Fleet ex-commander (1998-2002) Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov believes.

"I believe that the qualitative level of our fleet is quite high now but its quantity is not yet enough. This is because we are confronted not only by the United States with its submarine fleet but also by the United Kingdom and other NATO countries, which have submarine fleets. Besides, the intensive construction of conventional submarines is underway, for example, in Germany," he added.

Russia is also developing breakthrough submarines and underwater vehicles, Burtsev said. Specifically, in his recent State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin highlighted the most advanced underwater drone, on which the domestic defense industry was working.

"We all watched the use of long-range Kalibr cruise missiles by our submarines. I believe that this is a worthy response to Tomahawk missiles installed on US surface ships and submarines," Burtsev noted.

Important area of operation

According to former commander of the Pacific Fleet (2001-2007) Admiral Viktor Fyodorov, the southern direction linked with the protection of Russia’s interests in the Mediterranean and Black Seas is a strategically important area for Russia.

"We have got a good possibility to draw attention to our Black Sea Fleet, which can now develop in a full-fledged manner. We have set up quite a powerful operational grouping in the East Mediterranean, which protects Syria from the flank and takes part in delivering strikes against terrorists," Fyodorov said.

The buildup of the Black Sea Fleet’s combat potential with the most advanced submarines and surface ships armed with Kalibr cruise missiles allows "ensuring the protection of our country from this most important southern direction," the admiral said.

His view is shared by Admiral Komoyedov.

"The fifth squadron of the Soviet Navy (and subsequently the flotilla) was permanently present in the Mediterranean Sea to contain, among other things, the whole fleet (the US Navy’s sixth fleet). In the Mediterranean Sea, everything converges: Africa, the Middle East and Europe. This is a focus area of all politics," Komoyedov said.

Ocean under control

During the Soviet period, the Pacific Fleet was one of the Navy’s strongest taskforces, the experts polled by TASS said. It was the Pacific Fleet that tested the most advanced weapons of strategic submarines and took the mass delivery of new combat ships and underwater cruisers. The Pacific Fleet’s personnel were at the forefront of defense during the Cold War period.

"The Pacific Fleet is the main one for me because during the Soviet period it was one of the most powerful fleets and had its presence not only in the Pacific Ocean. The zone of the Indian Ocean still remains the area of its responsibility. Two squadrons were in operation: the 17th squadron was based in Vietnam and the eighth squadron in the Indian Ocean. Powerful naval taskforces could really accomplish any missions linked with the security of an enormous country," Admiral Fyodorov said.

As the Pacific Fleet commander, Fyodorov numerously took part in various working meetings and workshops of fleet commanders and navy commanders-in-chief from 22 countries of the north-western part of the Pacific Ocean. These countries included the United States, India, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and others. As he recalls, the joint work was purely professional, despite any political developments.

"I established good human relations actually with all the commanders. We did not only discuss various military issues. First of all, these were the issues of security: the fight against terrorism and piracy at sea and the provision of humanitarian aid during earthquakes. We also had many hotlines," Fyodorov said.

Today the fleets of all the countries in the Pacific Region need as never before to restore such form of international cooperation, the admiral believes.

"People should necessarily meet and reach agreement. We respected each other and we had dialogue. I would very much want this trend to restart today. We need qualitative expert assessments, the understanding of professionals in the military sphere, the recognition of mutual interests and the maintenance of parity and security," the ex-commander said.

Golden fund

Not a single super-modern underwater cruiser can do without a well-trained and coherent crew, Admiral Komoyedov said.

"Sailors-submariners are our golden fund. We need to respect it, care about it, nurture it and prepare those who will succeed them," he added.

Submariner Day

The date for celebrating Submariner Day was not chosen accidently. It was on March 19, 1906 (March 6, old style) that Russian Emperor Nicholas II included new combat ships - the submarines - into the classification of naval vessels. The submarines Forel, Som and Osyotr were the first to join the Russian Navy.

After 1917, Submariner Day was not celebrated. It was reinstituted in 1996.