During the last week, there was a mysterious large-scale operation by American naval patrol aircraft near the shores of Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus and Syria. Poseidon P-8 patrol aircraft were patrolling in an unusual manner, which caught many by surprise.
It turns out that the patrols were because of the entry of a Russian Rostov-on-Don B-237 submarine into the Mediterranean via the Strait of Gibraltar, after it operated near the British islands and in the vicinity of British submarine bases. The Russian submarine was escorted by a Russian auxiliary ship.
The British fleet conducted surveillance of the submarine until it entered the Mediterranean, and from there the command of the surveillance was transferred to the U.S. Sixth Fleet, based in Napoli. A few days ago the submarine disappeared from the command and control screens of the Americans, and since then its whereabouts are unknown.
Several days before the American operation to locate the Russian submarine, there were reports on the internet about a joint patrol by the US and Israeli navies in the eastern Mediterranean. The patrol was not in the framework of a pre-planned exercise. The combination of events has resulted in speculation that the American-Israeli patrol was also connected to the chase after the Russian submarine.
The Russian submarine is a diesel-powered vessel with a displacement of 3,000 tons and a length of about 74 meters. The submarine has the capability of operating for 45 consecutive days at sea, and has a range of 7,500 naval miles from its base. The submarine operates at a maximum depth of about 300 meters and has a 60-person crew. The submarine is fitted with advanced intelligence collection systems.
The submarine is equipped with 18 torpedoes of various types, 24 naval mines and four M54K3 (Kalibr) cruise missiles for attacking targets at sea or on land at a maximum range of 2,500km. The submarine participated in many operations for attacking targets deep inside Iraq and Syria.
Unfortunately (or due to lack of professionalism), the Russian submarine disappeared when an American strike group entered the Mediterranean and started to operate there. The American strike group includes an aircraft carrier, a number of battleships and at least one nuclear submarine. The issue of the Russian submarine has raised concern among the US Navy, mainly over the ability of the submarine to collect detailed intelligence on the operations of the strike group.
The US Navy even used other NATO forces, located near Syria and the British intelligence base in Cyprus, to search for the Russian submarine.
As of the evening of Wednesday, March 17, the Russian sub had yet to be located. Ever since the Cold War, the Americans have been closely and consistently monitoring Russian submarine activities around the world. In this case, it seems that the American concern over not finding the Russian sub, and the large-scale operational activity to locate it, are unusual and surprising.
Apparently the Russian sub has special capabilities, special features or its operational missions in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean spark concern among US Navy intelligence officers, especially at a time when an American strike group is present in the area.