Russia’s method of investing in its defense infrastructure is quite different from America’s. The Kremlin knows it can’t build or sustain a military that could directly compete with the U.S., or even China. Thus, develops audacious “doomsday” 100-megaton nuclear weapons and high-profile projects like their fifth-generation fighter that won’t be produced in any substantial numbers.
Behind the veil of robots and laser guns, however, Russia’s military is a dichotomy of new technologies and old; of well-funded programs and utterly ignored ones. Russia seeks to ensure that, while they may not be able to defeat an opponent like the U.S. in direct conflict, they could hurt it bad enough to retain their place on America’s list of boogeymen. Nowhere is this budgetary schizophrenia more apparent than in the Russian Navy.
Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is a farce. The diesel-powered vessel, which shares a hull design with China’s Liaoning carrier, is so unreliable that it travels with a high-powered tugboat to bail it out when its engines fail to propel the vessel. Its three-year modernization effort has been continually delayed and postponed in favor of funding other projects. In some ways, it seems Russia keeps the carrier just for bragging. But like so many other of Kremlin’s defense projects, appearance seems to matter more the capability. That approach, however, doesn’t extend beneath the surface of the oceans, where Russia seems resolute to truly compete with the U.S.
“We know that Russian submarines are in the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confirming our command of the seas and preparing a very complex underwater battlespace to try to give them an edge in any future conflict. And we need to deny them that edge,” said Admiral James Foggo, the head of naval forces in Europe, in a recent appearance on the “On the Horizon” podcast.
Russia recently claimed to have sent nuclear attack submarines undetected into U.S. waters, parking just outside American naval installations along the Eastern coast, before escaping undetected. The United States responded by announcing the return of the Navy’s 2nd Fleet—a force tasked specifically with the defense of the East Coast and North Atlantic. The Fleet had been deactivated in 2011 to focus funds and assets into the GWOT.
“I think Russian submarines today are perhaps some of the most silent and lethal in the world, with the exception of our own – I think we still in the United States Navy hold the edge,” added the admiral.
Last week, Russia launched their newest and perhaps most capable ballistic submarine ever, the Severodvinsk-class K-561 Kazan. At 390 feet long, 50 feet wide, and nearly 30 feet tall, the Kazan is bigger than the American attack subs that would be tasked with hunting it. Further, it will probably be equipped with hypersonic missile platforms, which America currently has no way to defend against. However, American submarines are widely considered to be among the least detectable on the planet.
“It’s a very impressive submarine,” added Admiral Foggo about the Kazan. “If you look across the design of the Russian Federation Navy, they have put their resources and their research and development efforts primarily in the undersea domain and in the submarine force.”