This is why.
Back in May of 2017, the Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine Obninsk fired a torpedo against one of Moscow’s newest nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, Yuri Dolgoruky.
The massive Project 955 Borei missile boat in turn launched a torpedo back at Obninsk, a smaller Project 671RTMK Schuka-class vessel more commonly known as a Victor III in NATO parlance. But unlike in the Tom Clancy’s classic novel The Hunt for Red October, Dolgoruky’s skipper was not planning to defect to the United States along with his crew; rather the torpedo duel was part of a Russian naval exercise.
(This first appeared several years ago.)
"The crews of the strategic missile cruiser Yuri Dolgoruky and the multipurpose nuclear submarine Obninsk performed this exercise in a duel option," the Russian Northern Fleet’s press office told the TASS news agency.
According to TASS, the torpedo shootout was conducted using inert weapons with each vessel launching one weapon. The two torpedoes were later recovered after the exercise.
The present day Russian Navy, which is a shadow of the once mighty Soviet fleet, has focused most of its limited resources on its still powerful submarine fleet. Senior U.S. Navy commanders have said that in recent months, the Russian undersea force has been the most active it has been since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
“If you look across the design of the Russian Federation Navy, where they have put their resources and their research and development efforts has primarily been in the undersea domain and in the submarine force,” Vice Adm. James G. Foggo III, who at the time was simultaneously commander of the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe and NATO’s Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, told The National Interest last year.
Alarik Fritz, a senior analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses who served as Foggo’s advisor, said at the time that Russian submarines are some of the most dangerous threats the U.S. Navy faces anywhere on Earth. “The submarine force that they have is essentially their capital ships,” Fitz said. “They’re a concern for us and they’re highly capable—and they’re a very agile tool of the Russian military.”
Dave Majumdar is the former defense editor for The National Interest.