The Russian Bear has emerged from a long hibernation to threaten American and NATO interests with highly capable submarines in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. But neither the United States nor its allies are prepared to meet the Kremlin’s challenge. A generation ago, Soviet submarines roamed the world’s oceans supporting Communist interests and attempting to place themselves in a position to win a final, terrible war. Fast attack submarines searched for American carrier strike groups, transports carrying troops and equipment to Europe, and, most ominously, missile submarines carrying nuclear weapons. To protect these assets, the United States and NATO maintained a fleet of anti-submarine (ASW) frigates, nuclear and diesel powered submarines, and wings of maritime-patrol aircraft that roamed the oceans searching out the Soviet subs. When one was detected coming out of its port in Murmansk, the alliance would begin a marathon tracking operation, the Norwegians turning things over to the Dutch or Americans flying out of Iceland, who in turn passed the job on to the British and then the French, with Americans flying out of Lajes in the Portuguese Azores. These assets would then turn responsibility for tracking the Soviet boat over to assets coming out of Rota, Spain, or Sigonella, Sicily, before the boat turned around and followed its tracks back home as all the NATO elements repeated their performance in reverse.
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