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Russia increasing submarine capabilities in Mediterranean, Atlantic, US admiral warns

Vice Adm. James Foggo III salutes his task force commanders during a change of command ceremony at Naval Support Activity, Naples Oct. 28, 2016. (Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Stumberg/U.S. Navy)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia is augmenting its underwater battle capabilities in a direct challenge to U.S. and NATO forces in the Atlantic and Mediterranean arenas, a top U.S. admiral has warned.

Admiral James Foggo, who heads NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, told Pentagon reporters in Washington late on October 5 that Russia is investing heavily in its submarine fleet and wants to build an “asymmetric” threat to the United States and NATO.

While the Russian navy knows it cannot compete with the number of U.S. and NATO aircraft carriers and other larger surface vessels, he said, “they have continued to do research and development and recapitalize the undersea domain.”

Foggo said he was concerned that Russian submarines can fire Kalibr cruise missiles that “if launched from any of the seas around Europe…can reach any one of the capitals of Europe.”

He said Russia currently has six Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarines in the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

When asked if the Navy knows where all Russian subs are at any given time, Foggo, who used to command an attack submarine, declined to elaborate.

“I can tell you that we hold an acoustic advantage and we will continue to do that,” he said, referring to the listening technologies that allow sailors to locate subs.

Foggo also gave a preview of upcoming NATO military exercises in Norway which he will command and which will be the biggest such drills since 2002.

He said the exercises will be designed to simulate the alliance’s response to a theoretical Russian attack on Norway.

Foggo said Russia has been invited to send observers to the Trident Juncture exercises, which are due to begin on October 25, and he urged Moscow to accept the invitation to learn more about NATO’s capabilities.

“There’s a strong deterrent message here,” he said.

The Pentagon said the exercises will involve 45,000 troops from the United States and other NATO member countries, plus Sweden and Finland, which cooperate with the alliance but are not members. Also involved will be about 150 aircraft, more than 60 ships, and 10,000 military vehicles, it said.