America's Atlantic Fleet Reactivated to Counter Russia's Subs Has an Impossible Mission

Armed with a new class of long-range missiles Russia's subs can no longer realistically be countered, certainly not in the way they were during the Cold War

In the news since last week is the revival of the US Navy's 2nd Fleet, as reported by Fox. 

NORFOLK, Va. –  The U.S. Navy formally re-established its 2nd Fleet on Friday, intensifying its focus on the North Atlantic Ocean where the Russian military is operating at a pace not seen since the end of the Cold War. The change is mostly organizational. It revives an Admiral-level command dedicated to overseeing American warships as they deploy between the U.S. East Coast and the Barents Sea, off of the coasts of Norway and Russia. The revived fleet also reflects a broader change in U.S. military strategy. The nation's primary concern is shifting from terrorism in the Middle East to America's growing competition with Russia and China.

Putting all this BS mambo-jumbo about "democracy" and values aside here we may all come together in admitting that in one assessment US Navy is absolutely correct--the era of a great power competition is back. Speaking in purely military, not ideological terms, the 2nd Fleet will have to, as was stated:

Having a 2nd Fleet allows the U.S. to work more closely and effectively with its NATO allies, retired U.S. Navy Admiral Gary Roughead said in an interview. And they will be better prepared to respond to potential Russian aggression.

So, what this "potential Russian aggression" is? Very simple, and hear me out, unlike US Army or USAF which are known to be "defending" the United States anywhere but near the United States, the US Navy IS an actual defender of the nation and North America. It doesn't mean that US Navy doesn't participate in good ol' American business of bombing weak nations into the stone age, but operationally and strategically US Navy is, indeed, the force which is tasked with defense of US proper, including from this hypothetical Russian aggression. 

The potential "Russian aggression" has a very specific name--Russia's submarine forces, ranging from upgraded project 949A (Oscar II-class SSGN) capable of carrying up to 72 Kalibr-family missiles, to the Project 885 (Yasen-class SSGN) capable of another 32 missile mix, including Oniks, which is also capable of TLAM function but with a shorter range than 3M14. 2nd Fleet will have a gigantic area of responsibility if it wants to counter Russian subs which, inevitably, will go into the areas suitable for launch at targets inside the US and, knowing those ranges, one can easily imagine where a line going parallel in roughly 2400 kilometers from the US East Coast will be. It is a very large area and it will require a rather impressive operational sweep to keep it under some control against very silent Russian subs. 

While there is a lot of talk about Sea Control, the funny thing here is that in this particular case 2nd Fleet will be more in a Sea Denial, rather than Sea Control, mode. One of the reasons for that being the fact that famous GIUK Gap, a proverbial choke point of the Cold War 1.0 and of late Tom Clancy's wet dreams, loses all of its appeal for a number of key reasons most important of them being:

1. Russia is not fighting this "Fourth Battle of Atlantic" as some top brass in US Navy declared. It is a load of propagandist contrived crap. As the crow flies, the distance from Murmansk to the East Coast of Iceland is about 1,200 miles. 1,200 x 1.6=1920 kilometers. Do you get my drift? Now ask yourself a question why suddenly Norway came into focus. 

2. This means NO serious surface NATO component (in case of, God forbids, things going "hot") will survive the "breaking through" salvo of Kinzhals, X-32s and, well--you get the picture...

3. That means a much freer passage of Russian subs into the Atlantic Ocean than it was the case during the Cold War 1.0 when massive NATO ASW and other surface and submarine forces were operating in this Gap. 

4. Russia is not really fighting this war because Gorshkov Soviet Navy's Flank Strategy (Med in the South and Baltic and Atlantic  in the North) is not necessary anymore--Russia is not intent on "invading" Europe nor support her "socialist" (nowadays all NATO members) flanks by means of interdicting Atlantic SLOCs, considered crucial for Western Europe to resist those nasty Russkies about to invade (from 1945 through 1989) Western Europe. 

Russian subs are needed in Atlantic to keep a revolver to the temple in case of not hypothetical but a very real aggression from the US. Obviously all kinds of combinations are possible here, including (who knows--I just speculate, don't take it too seriously) a possibility of Avangard being deployed on some of Russian Navy's strategic missile subs, together with a growing fleet of strategic bombers capable of carrying a very long range missiles. So, from this point of view US Navy does face an actual strategic task to hunt down those Russkies to prevent, at least from the ocean, a very probable retaliatory salvo if someone in Washington will go completely mad. Russia is not going to attack unless attacked first. That means a lot of ASW and a lot of other operational and, most importantly, psychological adjustments for US Navy, which in this case finds itself in a very unusual role--facing real no-go exclusion zones and a range of missile threats inconceivable even 10 years ago. Will 2nd Fleet be up to the task? I guess we'll see. I hope good movies will come out of it, if we all survive...

Our commenting rules: You can say pretty much anything except the F word. If you are abusive, obscene, or a paid troll, we will ban you. Full statement from the Editor, Charles Bausman.