Tigers' Living Under Water

Strategic Subs Said To Show Superiority Over U.S. Rivals

Moscow ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA in Russian, 16 Mar 96 p 8 by Sergey Ptichkin

It is 90 years since the Russian submarine fleet came into being. This year the submariners are celebrating their professional holiday for the first time. Submarines were made a special class of ship by an edict of Nicholas II of 19 March 1906. Until then, the "concealed vessels" - - as they were then called -- were classified as torpedo boats. The torpedo boat Delfin was the Navy's first submarine. Today, strategic submarine cruisers of the "Delfin" class are the pride of the fleet. How are the descendants of the first Russian submarines faring? Many types of Russian submarine bear the names of predatory beasts: the Akula [shark], Barrakuda, Bars [snow leopard], and Volk [wolf].... Their commanders have to resolve extremely difficult problems, the like of which have not been resolved in any academy. And they actually do resolve them!

I once arrived at one of the Navy's best nuclear submarine units and found the chief of staff, Rear Admiral Yuriy Sukhachev, to put it mildly, in an anxious state. A strategic missile submarine cruiser was being prepared for departure on alert duty, and the provisions that had been scraped together from all the base's food stores were in the end barely the equivalent of a... convict's ration in a strict-regime penal colony. It is difficult to say how, but the chief of staff succeeded on that occasion in resolving the problem of the provisions, and the "strategic submariners" set off on their voyage with regular food rations.

This past winter has been unusually hard for the Northern Fleet. Electric power to strategic facilities was switched off for the first time ever, which might have had tragic consequences. Payments of wages to submariners were balanced in some inexplicable manner. Incidentally, officers in the U.S. strategic forces do not believe that their Russian colleagues can go unpaid for months at a time. What naive souls....

Hollywood has put on release another blockbuster, Crimson Tide, in which a U.S. strategic submarine engages a Russian nuclear submarine in a torpedo duel and is, of course, victorious. This is the movies.... But what about real life?

The Russian Navy succeeded with enormous difficulty in organizing a voyage to the Atlantic last year for one of its multipurpose nuclear submarines from the flotilla in question. The Americans were calmly confident that they would detect the "bellowing cow" -- as our submarines are called in their blockbusters -- right from the moment it left base. But it was not a bellowing monster that put out into the ocean but the more or less silent Tigr [tiger] -- this was the submarine's name.

The "Russian cat" silently covered thousands of miles and began to chase the fleet of U.S. submarines, going in and out of sonar contact with the foreign submarines at will. More or less all the ASW forces in the Atlantic were flung into locating the uninvited guest, but.... Having proved complete superiority and accomplished all its tasks, the Tigr calmly returned to base.

A major scandal erupted in the United States after this. They were unable to cope with a single submarine -- what if there had been a whole flotilla? The crews of [Russian] strategic submarine cruisers fire off missiles without any problems in the high latitudes. But U.S. equipment does not allow this in principle, because it is unable to process the Arctic system of coordinates in its cybernetic brain. The flotilla commanded by Vice Admiral Vyacheslav Popov demonstrated that Russian strategic nuclear submarines are capable of firing all their ballistic missiles in a split second. Not a single salvo system -- including the celebrated land-based "Grad" system -- is capable of firing in this way. This is even theoretically impossible for the U.S. Ohios.