A Russian nuclear attack submarine sailed undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for weeks, a report said Tuesday, its travel in strategic U.S. waters discovered only after it left.
The Washington Free Beacon, citing unnamed sources, said the voyage was only the second time since 2009 that a Russian attack sub has ventured so close to U.S. shores.
"The stealth underwater incursion in the Gulf took place at the same time Russian strategic bombers made incursions into restricted U.S. airspace near Alaska and California in June and July, and highlights a growing military assertiveness by Moscow," the publication reported on its Web site.
The Russian patrol managed to expose deficiencies in U.S. anti-submarine warfare capabilities, American officials said, according to the report. Some of those forces responsible for anti-submarine warfare and detection are targeted for cuts over the Obama administration's plan to slice nearly $500 billion from the Pentagon's budget over the next 10 years.
The Navy is responsible for detecting and tracking foreign submarines. The service uses undersea sensors and satellites to locate and track them, the Beacon reported.
The report said the Russian submarine was an Akula class, a nuclear-powered attack vessel initially developed by the former Soviet Union in the 1980s to counter the U.S. Navy's Los Angeles class subs.
"The Akula class is the follow on to the Victor III and remains the most capable Russian attack submarine until the newer Yasen class is commissioned," said a description from the Web site WeaponSystems.net.
According to the Beacon, one U.S. official said the Russian submarine operated off the U.S. coast for a month.
"The Akula was built for one reason and one reason only: To kill U.S. Navy ballistic missile submarines and their crews," one U.S. official told the Beacon. "It’s a very stealthy boat so it can sneak around and avoid detection and hope to get past any protective screen a boomer might have in place."
A "boomer" is Navy vernacular for a strategic nuclear submarine.
"Sending a nuclear-propelled submarine into the Gulf of Mexico-Caribbean region is another manifestation of President Putin demonstrating that Russia is still a player on the world’s political-military stage," said Normal Polmar, a naval analyst and submarine warfare specialist.
"Like the recent deployment of a task force led by a nuclear cruiser into the Caribbean, the Russian Navy provides him with a means of ‘showing the flag’ that is not possible with Russian air and ground forces," he said.
Navy officials had no comment on the report, said the Beacon.