So Does Russia Have Killer Subs Stalking NATO Carriers off the Coast of Syria?

When we read the report that NATO is "hunting" for one or two Russian Oscar II  submarines in the eastern Mediterranean half of our office had the mind to laugh it off.

After all NATO sources literally say they haven't actually discovered anything so it all sounded a little too much like the ridiculous story where Sweden spent the entire autumn of 2014 searching for an alleged Russian submarine it had convinced itself was skulking around its coast based on a grainy image that could be anything and ultimately found nothing.

Thinking about it more, however, Russia has a fair number of ships in the eastern Med on a combat deployment including its flagship the carrier-cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov. Parked not too far from them however, is an even greater number of not-exactly-friendly American ships. Wouldn't it make sense for Russia employ submarines for added force protection?

Even in peace time a power such as Russia will make an effort to track US carrier groups with its long-range patrol aircraft and submarines and Americans will in turn try to intercept them. If this sort of game of cat and mouse is routine when everything is calm it is highly likely it takes place in a flashpoint zone like Syria as well.

And truly, a ship like the Oscar II guided missile submarine must be among the most critical components of a serious Russian naval deployment. The Russians are parking cruisers off the coast of Syria to boost their air defense capabilities in the region in case somebody gets the idea of shooting down their planes in Syria.

Yet these are large surface ship in an inland sea. They are ridiculously easy to track — and if somebody was stupid enough — to attack. Also since the US naval presence in the region is far greater theoretically the Americans could sink every last one of them. Except here comes the catch — a sub like the Oscar II is much harder to detect and keep tabs on. Moreover it does not even need to come particularly close to attack. It can launch its giant P-700 Granit missiles from a distance of 600 kilometers. It is the perfect deterrent able to deliver instant retaliation.

In fact comparing the survivability of submarines and surface ships in the era of satellite surveillance and super sonic anti-ship missiles makes one wonder if all surface ships are not hopelessly obsolete these days and the future belongs to subs alone.

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