Americans send jets after Russian nuke sub in Malta-Sicily channel

P8 Boeing jets circle near Malta to pick up traces of Russian submarine

P8 Boeing
P8 Boeing

A Russian attack submarine or cruise missile submarine is believed to be operating in the waters between Malta and Sicily, according to a naval intelligence publication.

“It is unclear how long the submarine has been operating there,” Naval News reported yesterday.

“The most straightforward explanation is that it deployed there to replace the Slava class cruiser Marshal Ustinov which left the Mediterranean on August 24. While Ustinov is sailing provocatively between the United Kingdom and Ireland, the submarine may have slipped into the Med.”

“In a sense, the cruiser is providing a distraction.”

Italian newspaper La Repubblica said the submarine spent hours on Friday during which an intense activity of patrol aircraft of the US Navy followed, with two Boeing P8 jets focused on a small stretch of sea, flying over it in concentric circles in search of the submarine.

The American planes that took off from the Sigonella base chased it for hours, first south of Malta and then in an area between the island and Capo Passero, in Sicily. Only in the evening was the “Red October hunt” interrupted.

While the Russian Navy’s build-up of forces in the Black Sea as part of the invasion of Ukraine is well known, less widely talked about is the related build-up in the Mediterranean which – according to NavalNews – is “seen as the outer defence for the Black Sea operations. Following Russian Doctrine, this may form part of a deterrence against NATO involvement in the war.”

Last week a Russian naval team crossed Gibraltar, which included the Marshal Ustinov, the fighter Admiral Kulakov, and a supply ship headed to the Atlantic, under strict control of NATO frigates and corvettes. They are now located off the coast of Ireland.

The blatant sortie – they did not turn off the transmitters – could have been a diversion to capture the attention of the Western navies while the Russian nuclear submarine slipped into the Pillars of Hercules.

Nuclear submarines sail underwater, leave no traces, and have no need to emerge, so the only means of identification is the analysis of radio transmissions or the reconnaissance of the antennas of the periscopes.

The aim of such a presence would be to enhance the deterrent deployed by the Kremlin in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the war in Ukraine: most specifically towards the American aircraft carrier Bush, which a few days ago replaced the Truman and is now sailing the Adriatic.

The submarine could be either of three general types: a nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN); an Oscar-II class cruise missile submarine (SSGN), which are armed with 24 powerful Granit (SS-N-19 Shipwreck) supersonic anti-ship missiles; or one of the Russian Navy’s latest Severodvinsk-class SSGNs, which carry much more modern cruise missiles capable of both anti-ship and land-attack missions and are also quieter and considered more potent.