President Vladimir Putin has reportedly increased funding for a Cold War-era fleet of midget ‘Piranha’ submarines, which are extremely difficult to detect and raise concerns throughout Europe. Expansion of Russian submarine patrols over the past few months is only the most recent development in Putin’s aggressive posturing towards Europe. Russia’s new assertiveness poses one of the largest threats to U.S. interests, according to officials in Washington.
According to recent reports, the Kremlin may allocate $353 billion in military spending on this submarine program, which includes funding for the versatile Piranhas. The vessels have the ability to operate close to the shore can plant mines and fire torpedoes. Along with only requiring a small crew of nine, the Piranhas also have the ability to transport and deploy up to six combat divers. The Piranhas have a ten day submersion period, allowing them to remain out of sight for significantly longer than other submarines their size.
Undated photo of the Soviet-era Project 865 Piranha-class submarine. (USNI News)
The United Kingdom perceives submarines as a “significant threat” to their national interests, prompting an increase in Royal Air Force spending to counter the problem. The RAF plans to spend approximately $3 billion on a fleet of jets, including Boeing P8 Poseidon, that over the next two years will be able to detect the Russian subs through the use of electromagnetic fields. Budgeting for the planes came after an April report that a fishing boat was nearly sunk after colliding with an unidentified submarine only 18 miles off the coast of the Isle of Man. Additionally, the Swedish military claims they had multiple encounters with a suspected Russian submarine within their sovereign waters.
Moscow has also expanded its submarine capabilities in the Pacific. Improvements to a Russian Navy base on the Kamchatka peninsula are set to be finished in October of this year, allowing new subs ballistic missile submarines to dock in the region. Anatoly Shlemov, the head of the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation’s state defense order department, is quoted as saying that Russia will build two much larger Borei-class fifth-generation submarines as part of Vladimir Putin’s military modernization.
Meanwhile, at a confirmation hearing in Washington on Thursday, Marine General Joseph Dunford characterized Russia’s recent aggression as “nothing short of alarming.” Dunford, who is likely to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, continued by saying that Moscow “could pose an existential threat to the United States.”