- Created on Tuesday, 04 August 2009 22:53
August is a vacation month. Many North Carolinians will be traveling to the state's beaches. Here's a different conversation starter: gaze out into the ocean and tell those around you, "How about those Russian subs out there in the water." Today's New York Times reports on the Russian Akula class submarines parking themselves near the US east coast.
A pair of nuclear-powered Russian attack submarines have been patrolling off the eastern seaboard of the United States in recent days, a rare mission that has raised concerns inside the Pentagon and intelligence agencies about a more assertive stance by the Russian military.
The episode has echoes of the Cold War era, when the United States and the Soviet Union regularly parked submarines off each other's coasts to steal military secrets, track the movements of their underwater fleets and be poised for war.
But the collapse of the Soviet Union all but eliminated the ability of the Russian Navy to operate far from home ports, making the current submarine patrols thousands of miles from Russia even more surprising for military officials and defense policy experts.
"I don't think they've put two first-line nuclear subs off the U.S. coast in about 15 years," said Norman Polmar, a naval historian and submarine warfare expert.
The submarines are of the Akula class, a counterpart to the Los Angeles class attack subs of the U.S. Navy, and not one of the larger submarines that can launch intercontinental nuclear missiles.
According to Defense Department officials, one of the Russian submarines remained in international waters Tuesday about 200 miles off the U.S. coast.
The location of the second remained unclear. One senior official said the second submarine traveled south in recent days toward Cuba, while another with access to reports on the surveillance mission said it sailed away in a northerly direction.
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