According to reports in state-owned media, Russian nuclear attack submarines successfully approached coastal American military installations without being detected by U.S. defenses, before turning around avoiding detection once again on their way back out to sea.
In an interview with RT, a media organization so notorious for the use of propaganda that it has been forced to register in the United States as a Foreign Agent, a Russian Naval Officer describes a recent military drill in which an unknown number of Akula-class Shchuka-B nuclear-powered attack submarines were ordered to take positions in the vicinity of a number of American military installations on the nation’s coast. The drill is set to be the topic of an upcoming television series scheduled to air on Russia’s official military TV channel.
“This mission has been accomplished, the submarines showed up in the set location in the ocean and returned to base,” the commander of the submarine squadron, Sergey Starshinov, was quoted as saying. He went on to say that their objective throughout the drill was simply to come and go without being detected, stipulating that they came “close enough” to American shores but did not violate US maritime borders, remaining in international waters.
American territorial waters, for the most part, extend 12 nautical miles from the shore, so if the commander is to be taken at his word, the nuclear attack submarines would have come at least that close to American shores.
There are, of course, a number of issues with Russia’s claims of stealthy nuclear submarine activity. While it is entirely possible that Russia may have managed to sneak their Akula class submarines to within 12 nautical miles of American military installations, there is little evidence to substantiate their claims beyond taking the Russian Navy’s internal propaganda at face value. In fact, the very nature of such a “secret mission” dictates that, whether it was successful or never happened at all, there remains no way to confirm or deny their claims without either acknowledging a strategic and tactical failure of American coastal defenses or showing the Russians how U.S. defenses were able to identify and track their stealthy submarines.
If U.S. Coastal Defenses did manage to pick up the approach of Russian submarines, it remains likely that they may not have made their awareness known. As long as the Akula class subs remained in international waters, they were operating within their rights of freedom of navigation. Detecting submarine activity is extremely challenging, particularly when it comes to the far quieter nuclear submarines like the Akula-class, but if the United States has developed the ability to do so, it seems unlikely that they would tip their hand as a result of Russian military exercises in international waters – even if they were encroaching on U.S. waters.