NATO hunting at least one Russian Navy Oscar II Class submarine that is chasing aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea

Several Maritime Patrol Aircraft are involved in a big hunt: one (possibly two) Oscar II-class submarine that Russia has sent after NATO warships.

According to military sources close to The Aviationist, a big hunt is underway in the eastern Med: several MPA aircraft, including U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon jets operating from NAS Sigonella, Sicily, are looking for one, possibly two, Russian Navy submarines operating in the vicinity of a group of warships of the NATO Maritime Group.

What makes the news even more interesting is the fact that the Russian Navy submarine would be an Oscar II Class, that is to say a “carrier killer” sub, designed with the primary mission of countering aircraft carrier battlegroups. Among the NATO vessels in proximity of the Oscar II there is also the French Charles De Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the USS Eisenhower is not too far away either.

Therefore a massive Cold War-style hide-and-seek in underway, keeping both sides quite busy.

Although heavily defended, large flattops are vulnerable to submarines and can’t be considered immune from receiving battle damage or being limited in their fighting ability by a modern sub operating nearby: nuclear or diesel-powered subs have proved to be able to slip in the middle of the multi-billion-dollar aircraft carrier’s defensive screen, while avoiding detection by ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) aircraft, and pretend-sinking U.S. (or allied) carriers and most of their escort vessels.

Those were scripted drills, with the flattops put in the most challenging conditions for training purposes; still, the simulated sinkings once again prove that aircraft carriers’ underwater defenses, albeit excellent, are not impenetrable and subs still pose a significant threat to powerful Carrier Strike Groups.

Especially when the attacker is a quite advanced Oscar II class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine (SSGN) using long-range SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” ASCMs (anti-ship cruise missiles).

Based on the latest reports, 8 Oscar IIs are in active service  built in the 1980s and early 1990s, eight remain in service. Even though deemed to be inferior to those of the Akula II, the acoustic performance of the Oscar II class is believed to be superior to early Akula-class submarine.

In 2016 Russia has started a multiyear plan to modernise all its Project 949A Oscar II-class subs that includes replacing the 24 SS-N-19 missiles with up to 72 newer 3M55 Oniks (SS-N-26 ‘Strobile’) or 3M54 Klub (SS-N-27 ‘Sizzler’) anti ship missiles.

Composite image created by merging tweet from @Mil_Radar and image on





About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. I’m sure that also “western” subs are in the hunt and looking for the Oscars. I wish I was a fly on the wall in a USN SSN looking for the Russians.

  2. A noisy old Oscar? Trailing a CVN? Funny Russians! The USN and NATO knows where it is, and those P-8s, P-3s, Atlantiques are probably getting plenty of practice on it. AEGIS w/SM can handle anything it is stupid enough to try and launch – though I think a Mk48 would score an easy hit aft or amidships the minute they blew their missile hatches. Maybe even if the Russian Skipper even thinks about it!

    • It’s exactly this kind of an attitude that gets one shocked and killed, when a real war brakes out and it proves that the other side didn’t have so “old” and “rusty” Subs as we thought …

          • I am, I studied it extensively and operated against it, and because the U.S. Navy is so much larger and more capable, we have the capability to defeat their “doctrine”. That said, I doubt you have any understanding of how either Navy operates.

  3. These exercises are difficult to manage right. On one hand, NATO needs to hone its skills at locating Russian subs. On the other hand, it does not want to let the Russians know what it’s true capabilities are, lest the Russians develop a counter for them. It’s a bit like the sword fight in Princess Bride where both fighters reveal, one after the other, that they’ve been fighting left-handed but are actually right-handed. “Hey, I’ve got abilities I haven’t been showing,” they are saying as the sword fight intensifies.

    It’s also a bit like the Allied use of Enigma decryption during WWII. Breaking their codes did no good if we didn’t use what we found. On the other hand, using that intelligence too aggressively might lead the Germans to realize that their codes were broken. That was a difficult balancing act.

    Reading Geoffrey Pidgeon’s The Secret Wireless War, I discovered some interesting details about our “wireless war.” First, the Brits began listening to German military’s HF radio traffic because the nation’s radio amateurs pointed out that traffic could be intercepted.

    Second, when the Brits built top-notch intercept stations, they used the best technology available at the time—huge rhombic antennas mounted on 120-foot poles constructed from two 60-foot poles joined together. The German military operating in Eastern Europe, seeing the limited range it had with small mobile antennas, may have believed their signals were not reaching Britain, but they were.

    Third, at HF frequencies, a rhombic antenna is hundreds of feet of wire stretched between four poles. It’s incredibly effective, but that pole/wire combination is almost invisible from the air. The wire can’t be seen and the poles look like parts of power lines. That matters. If the Germans had known how much trouble the Brits were going through to intercept their radio traffic, they would have realized that effort only made sense if the Brits had broken Enigma. Fortunately, that did not happen.

    History has interesting twists. Particularly in military conflict, mistakes and successes repeat themselves over and over again. Great military leaders, whatever their rank, study history. This sub war is much like the game we played in WWI and WWII.

  4. Reading this article above, I remembered the following quote from the movie “The Hunt for Red October”:
    Jeffrey Pelt:
    It would be well for your government to consider that having your ships
    and ours, your aircraft and ours, in such proximity… is inherently
    DANGEROUS. Wars have begun that way, Mr. Ambassador.

  5. Send in a Virginia Class hunter killer or even better a Seawolf… problem solved problem staying solved.

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