Author Topic: Russian submarines are prowling around vital undersea cables. It’s making NATO n  (Read 4565 times)

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Offline Eye In The Sky

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Russian submarines are prowling around vital undersea cables. It’s making NATO nervous.

BRUSSELS — Russian submarines have dramatically stepped up activity around undersea data cables in the North Atlantic, part of a more aggressive naval posture that has driven NATO to revive a Cold War-era command, according to senior military officials.

The apparent Russian focus on the cables, which provide Internet and other communications connections to North America and Europe, could give the Kremlin the power to sever or tap into vital data lines, the officials said. Russian submarine activity has increased to levels unseen since the Cold War, they said, sparking hunts in recent months for the elusive watercraft.

"We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don't believe we have ever seen," said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, the commander of NATO's submarine forces. "Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations' undersea infrastructure."

NATO has responded with plans to reestablish a command post, shuttered after the Cold War, to help secure the North Atlantic. NATO allies are also rushing to boost anti-submarine warfare capabilities and to develop advanced submarine- ­detecting planes.

Britain's top military commander also warned that Russia could imperil the cables that form the backbone of the modern global economy. The privately owned lines, laid along the some of the same corridors as the first transatlantic telegraph wire in 1858, carry nearly all of the communications on the Internet, facilitating trillions of dollars of daily trade. If severed, they could snarl the Web. If tapped, they could give Russia a valuable picture of the tide of the world's Internet traffic.

"It's a pattern of activity, and it's a vulnerability," said British Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach, in an interview.

"Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted, which would immediately and potentially catastrophically affect both our economy and other ways of living if they were disrupted?" Peach said in a speech in London this month.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment about the cables.

The Russian sea activity comes as the Kremlin has also pressed against NATO in the air and on land. Russian jets routinely clip NATO airspace in the Baltics, and troops drilled near NATO territory in September.

Russia has moved to modernize its once-decrepit Soviet-era fleet of submarines, bringing online or overhauling 13 craft since 2014. That pace, coming after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula set off a new era of confrontation with the West, has spurred NATO efforts to counter them. Russia has about 60 full-size submarines, while the United States has 66.

Among Russia's capabilities, Lennon said, are deep-sea research vessels, including an old converted ballistic submarine that carries smaller submarines.

"They can do oceanographic research, underwater intelligence gathering," he said. "And what we have observed is an increased activity of that in the vicinity of undersea cables. We know that these auxiliary submarines are designed to work on the ocean floor, and they're transported by the mother ship, and we believe they may be equipped to manipulate objects on the ocean floor."

That capability could give Russia the ability to sever the cables or tap into them. The insulated fiber-optic cables are fragile, and ships have damaged them accidentally by dragging their anchors along the seabed. That damage happens near the shore, where it is relatively easy to fix, not in the deeper Atlantic, where the cost of mischief could be far greater.

Lennon declined to say whether NATO believes Russia has actually touched the cables. Russian military leaders have acknowledged that the Kremlin is active undersea at levels not seen since the end of the Cold War, when Russia was forced to curtail its submarine program in the face of economic turmoil and disorganization.

"Last year we reached the same level as before the post-Soviet period, in terms of running hours," said Adm. Vladimir Korolev, the commander of the Russian Navy, earlier this year. "This is more than 3,000 days at sea for the Russian submarine fleet. This is an excellent sign."

The activity has forced a revival of Western sub-hunting skills that lay largely dormant since the end of the Cold War. Lennon said NATO allies have long practiced submarine-hunting. But until the last few years, there were few practical needs for close tracking, military officials said.

In recent months, the U.S. Navy has flown sorties in the areas where Russia is known to operate its submarines, according to aircraft trackers that use publicly available transponder data. On Thursday, for example, one of the planes shot off from Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, headed eastward into the Mediterranean. It flew the same mission a day earlier.

The trackers have captured at least 10 missions carried out by U.S. submarine-tracking planes this month, excluding trips when the planes simply appeared to be in transit from one base to another. November was even busier, with at least 17 missions captured by the trackers.

NATO does not comment on specific submarine-tracking flights and declined to release data, citing the classified nature of the missions. But NATO officials say that their submarine-tracking activities have significantly increased in the region.

Submarines are particularly potent war-fighting craft because they can generally only be heard, not seen, underwater. They can serve as a retaliatory strike force in case of nuclear war, threaten military resupply efforts and expand the range of conventional firepower available for use in ­lower-level conflicts.

The vessels are a good fit for the Kremlin's strategy of making do with less than its rivals, analysts say: Russia's foes need vast resources to track a single undersea craft, making the submarines' cost-to-mischief ratio attractive. Even as Russia remains a vastly weaker military force than NATO, the Kremlin has been able to pack an outsize punch in its confrontation with the West through the seizure of Crimea, support for the Syrian regime and, according to U.S. intelligence, its attempts to influence the U.S. election.

"You go off and you try to add expense for anything that we're doing, or you put things at risk that are of value to us, and submarines give them the capability to do it," a senior NATO official said of the Russian approach, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence assessments.

Russian military planners can say, "I can build fewer of them, I can have better quality, and I can put at risk and challenge and make it difficult for NATO," the official said.

Still, some analysts say the threat to cables may be overblown.

"Arguably, the Russians wouldn't be doing their jobs if they couldn't threaten underwater cables. Certainly, NATO allies would not be doing theirs if they were unable to counter that," said Adam Thomson, a former British ambassador to NATO.

Russian military planners have publicized their repeated use of submarine-launched Kalibr cruise missiles during their incursion into Syria, which began in fall 2015. (In Syria, the missiles have not always hit their targets, according to U.S. intelligence officials, undermining somewhat the Russian claims of potency.)

NATO's hunts — which have stretched across the Baltic, Mediterranean and Atlantic — have mobilized submarine-tracking frigates, sonar-equipped P8 Poseidon planes and helicopters, and attack submarines that have combed the seas.

"The Russians are operating all over the Atlantic," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. "They are also operating closer to our shores."

Russia's enhanced submarine powers give urgency to NATO's new efforts to ensure that it can get forces to the battlefront if there is a conflict, Stoltenberg said. In addition to the new Atlantic-focused command, the alliance also plans to create another command dedicated to enabling military forces to travel quickly across Europe.

NATO defense ministers approved the creation of the commands at a November meeting. Further details are expected in February. The plans are still being negotiated, but they currently include the North Atlantic command being embedded inside the U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, which would transform into a broader NATO joint force command if there was a conflict, a NATO diplomat said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss plans that have not been finalized.

"Credible deterrence is linked to credible reinforcement capabilities," Stoltenberg said. "We're a transatlantic alliance. You need to be able to cross the Atlantic."
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Online MarkOttawa

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This from 2015:

Quote
Cutting the (undersea) Cable: The Bear and the Net
https://cgai3ds.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/mark-collins-cutting-the-undersea-cable-the-bear-and-the-net/



Mark
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Ça explique, mais ça n'excuse pas.

Offline CBH99

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I highly doubt the Russians would sever communications & information cables on the sea floor, if it were the 'opening moves' of an operation.

In today's world, we can access information just as readily via satellite sources as other sources.  Western intelligence agencies & military organizations would be well aware of what is happening, regardless of whether Russia severs the cables or not.

While it would be an absolutely decisive blow from an economic warfare perspective, the Russians should know it would lead to a military conflict they don't hope to win.  NATO air power alone would dominate those skies in a matter of days, and the Russians are well aware that any military conflict would be deadly for both sides.

Unless unleashing nuclear weapons on North America, they won't be nuking their neighbours next door anytime soon, as the fallout would blow over Russia in a matter of days.

My guess, and that's all this is...information gathering, and potentially letting NATO know they have the power to cut these lines if need be.  Same as we can do to them. 
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Offline Eye In The Sky

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Server?  Maybe not

Tap?  Why not. Yanks did it to them. 
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angus555

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I wonder if it's even possible to tap an undersea fiberop cable without first severing the line somehow?





Offline Inspir

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I wonder if it's even possible to tap an undersea fiberop cable without first severing the line somehow?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiber_tapping

angus555

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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiber_tapping

Good.

I hope the signal attenuation that would happen is obvious enough to detect. With long undersea cables that probably matters more than a shorter hop somewhere over land.

Offline SeaKingTacco

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Why in the hell would you bother tapping a fibre optic nowadays?

Just redirect the Internet traffic through a server you control.

Offline Eye In The Sky

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The real story here is the activity level and number of hulls in the water IMO. 
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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I highly doubt the Russians would sever communications & information cables on the sea floor, if it were the 'opening moves' of an operation.

In today's world, we can access information just as readily via satellite sources as other sources.  Western intelligence agencies & military organizations would be well aware of what is happening, regardless of whether Russia severs the cables or not.

While it would be an absolutely decisive blow from an economic warfare perspective, the Russians should know it would lead to a military conflict they don't hope to win.  NATO air power alone would dominate those skies in a matter of days, and the Russians are well aware that any military conflict would be deadly for both sides.

Unless unleashing nuclear weapons on North America, they won't be nuking their neighbours next door anytime soon, as the fallout would blow over Russia in a matter of days.

My guess, and that's all this is...information gathering, and potentially letting NATO know they have the power to cut these lines if need be.  Same as we can do to them.

I'm not so sure that's true. As late as last year there is a report in a credible source, citing a US FCC reports ~ and the FCC IS is highly credible source ~ which says that 99% of traffic is still carried by undersea fibre cables ... it makes sense if you have ever a) counted the number of satellites and b) done a fixed satellite link budget (satellites in the fixed service carry the lion's share of all SatCom traffic).

That's mentioned in the original article.

As far as I know ~ not my part of the ship, I worked with radio based systems ~ it is easy to tap an undersea cable at the points where it enters and exits the water ... harder, maybe much, much harder to tap it underwater, in some part because the cable is shielded for strength and that metallic shielding attenuates the signal, which is pretty tightly focused to begin with.
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Offline whiskey601

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An actual splice in the fibre would result in measurable signal loss for sure, not to mention the momentary complete loss of signal. And a lot of that traffic is wrapped in multiple levels of encryption that isn't even publicly available, some of it is even quantum safe making even rudimentary traffic analysis an effort that is non-trivial, resource intensive and more likely to be achievable by other means in locations that are not under the sea. And then there is the whole problem of re-transmitting a staggering amount of captured data to a data centre for filtering, processing, etc.  In a few years,  the traffic generated between Europe and North America with database syncing will be in excess of 2 Exabytes (thats 2 quintillion bytes!) Half of that is mobile data traffic synchronized between data bases for disaster recovery, business intelligence etc, primarily Android and iOS traffic. Consider how many government agencies and military organizations are handheld device dependant (over-dependent). [https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/vni-hyperconnectivity-wp.html]

What I would be most concerned with is severing the links in multiple places so that restoration of service is next to impossible in a short period. Planting remote activated explosive charges in multiple locations (hundreds and hundreds of them) would essentially allow the Russians to achieve Checkmate quickly, and might even cause cascading data centre failures even in the land based systems. (think of RIM's BlackBerry network in 2011)

Offline PuckChaser

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Keep in mind Russian would be cutting itself off from a lot of information flow if they were to do that. They'd also be cutting off internet access to their billions of dollars hidden in Euro/NA accounts from the oligarchs that run the country, and that wouldn't be on.

I would be more fearful of China doing something like you propose, as they've basically created a shadow internet run completely behind their firewalls.

Offline whiskey601

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Yes, but then they couldn't send money to keep all their kids in Landrovers and Jaguars while they are over here in University. 

Agreed about the Russians, I think they are probably just foundering on the bottom and bumped into a cable or two.

Offline Eye In The Sky

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Re: Russian submarines are prowling around vital undersea cables.
« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2017, 21:55:50 »
Yes, but then they couldn't send money to keep all their kids in Landrovers and Jaguars while they are over here in University. 

Agreed about the Russians, I think they are probably just foundering on the bottom and bumped into a cable or two.

Then I think you're underestimating their sub surface capabilities, and intentions.  They aren't the bumbling amateurs some people who've thumbed thru some Clancy stuff might believe they are.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20171121-why-russia-is-sending-robotic-submarines-to-the-arctic

https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2017/05/russias-new-military-research-submarine-arctic-waters-will-be-worlds-largest

Typhoons and Oscar IIs are massive and this will be even bigger?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/22/might-show-two-russias-largest-warships-enter-baltic-sea/

Personally, I think anyone who is Canadian should refrain from making any disparaging remarks about Russian naval capabilities; they are putting Yasens and Boreis to sea and what are we doing?

« Last Edit: December 27, 2017, 21:58:36 by Eye In The Sky »
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Offline whiskey601

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What happened to the bow? Budget cut?

jollyjacktar

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It hadn't been installed yet at the time the photo was taken.

Offline whiskey601

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Yes I know. It was a joke.

Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: Russian submarines are prowling around vital undersea cables.
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2018, 21:09:42 »
Then I think you're underestimating their sub surface capabilities, and intentions.  They aren't the bumbling amateurs some people who've thumbed thru some Clancy stuff might believe they are.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20171121-why-russia-is-sending-robotic-submarines-to-the-arctic

https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2017/05/russias-new-military-research-submarine-arctic-waters-will-be-worlds-largest

Typhoons and Oscar IIs are massive and this will be even bigger?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/22/might-show-two-russias-largest-warships-enter-baltic-sea/

Personally, I think anyone who is Canadian should refrain from making any disparaging remarks about Russian naval capabilities; they are putting Yasens and Boreis to sea and what are we doing?



We aren't even remotely in the same league as the Russian military, in any service. 

Offline Underway

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Sure we are.  We have the same number of generals.

Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Sure we are.  We have the same number of generals.

Proportionally we have double the number of Generals when compared to Russia who only have less than 900 for a military that is 15x the size of ours.


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