New Destroyer Task Force Established To Hunt Russian Submarines In The Atlantic

Those convoy escort operations were part of a larger Allied naval campaign that became known as the Battle of the Atlantic, or sometimes the Second Battle of the Atlantic to acknowledge similar operations during World War I. Soviet and Western naval activity in this ocean during the Cold War has been referred to on occasion as the Third Battle of the Atlantic. U.S. military officials have more recently dubbed the latest increase in Russian naval activity in this region, and Western responses to it, as the Fourth Battle of the Atlantic

At present, the Thomas Hudner and USS Donald Cook (DDG-75), the latter of which only returned to the United States earlier this year after years of being forward-deployed in Spain, are the only ships assigned to Greyhound. The USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), which is presently part of the multinational carrier strike group centered on the U.K. Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth, is set to join the unit when it returns home in January. Later next year, the USS Cole (DDG-67) and Gravely (DDG-107) will arrive at the task group, while Donald Cook will leave to begin a planned maintenance period, at which point the force will have the expected four destroyers.

“The idea is we put in the ships that already have deployments under their belt and are most ready and most experienced,” Rear Admiral McLane told reporters during a call afterward, according to USNI News. The hope is that the rotational task group will also help streamline the scheduling of training opportunities, including larger exercises involving other assets besides Arleigh Burkes. Anti-submarine warfare, in general, is a complex mission set, as you can read more about in this past War Zone feature.

“We can align everybody up to take advantage of whatever training opportunities may exist, as well as tactical development exercises like in the past Black Widow, and then training opportunities like submarine command course operations,” Rear Admiral Brian Davies, the commander of Submarine Group 2 and the deputy commander of U.S. 2nd Fleet, also told reporters. “We can align those assets to go after these training environments that may exist.”

The Navy reactivated 2nd Fleet in 2018 specifically in response to concerns about increased Russian naval activity, particularly submarine operations, in the North Atlantic. Exercise Black Widow, which Davies mentioned here, is a relatively new annual submarine and anti-submarine warfare drill in the Atlantic, the first iteration of which was conducted in 2020. The second one just wrapped up in August. Various Navy ships and submarines, as well as aircraft, such as P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes and MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, have taken part in these exercises, which have also seen the service’s new submarine aggressor squadron, or AGGRON, help provide realistic subsurface opponents. You can read more about AGGRON, which was established in 2019, here.

Of course, Greyhound isn’t just about training. The Navy clearly expects the task group to help the service respond faster and more effectively to potential submarine threats, especially to the U.S. homeland.

“The strategic threat to the homeland has entered a new era and our key competitors have deployed and continue to advance a range of capabilities to hold the homeland at risk,” Rear Admiral McLane had said at the ceremony earlier this week. “So instead of having to go out and find an asset to go and hunt, say, a high-end Russian submarine, we have these assets pre-assigned and they’re able to practice in this team-to-teams approach that we like to talk about when it comes to the arc of undersea warfare.”

As already noted, all of this is well in line with a steady stream of public statements from the U.S. military about the potential threats that increasingly advanced Russian submarines present to American interests in the Atlantic and the immediate security of the country. “Within a five-year period, they’ll have eight to nine of those submarines, which will be a persistent proximate threat off of our East and West Coasts that we haven’t had ever in the past,” U.S. Air Force General Glen VanHerck, head of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), said at a Congressional hearing earlier this year.

VanHerck was speaking specifically about Russia’s nuclear-powered Yasen-class guided-missile submarines, and the new subclass of Yasen-Ms, which reportedly have a number of improved features. He said that these boats, which you read more about here, are “on par with ours.” 

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