• The advanced Russian nuclear submarine is said to be operating near Italy
  • The submarine, the Severodvinsk, is believed to be the best attack submarine in the Russian navy with stealth and quietening features
  • Despite its numerical advantage, Russia has seen crippling naval losses in its war with Ukraine

In what is being seen as deterrence against NATO involvement in the Ukraine war and a build-up of Russia's outer defense for its Black Sea operations, a Russian nuclear-powered submarine is reported to be in the Mediterranean with the U.S. Navy patrol jets chasing it for hours on Friday.

According to defense analyst H.I. Sutton, open source intelligence suggests that the Russian nuclear submarine is operating near Italy.

The Russian submarine, believed to be the Severodvinsk, was seen operating in the waters between Malta and Sicily, during which time the U.S. Navy's patrol planes carried out an intense search activity in the area.

Two U.S. Navy's Boeing P8 patrol planes took off from the Sigonella base and chased the submarine for hours, first south of Malta and then in an area between the island and Capo Passero, in Sicily.

The Italian government has confirmed the presence of the submarine in the region. Responding to the reported presence of the submarine in the Mediterranean, Italy said that the "movements of the Russian units in the Mediterranean are known" further noting that "the submarine in question is making a transit in international waters without violating the sovereignty of the riparian states"

Commissioned in 2013, the Severodvinsk is believed to be the best attack submarine in the Russian navy with stealth and quietening features. It is said to be Russia's most powerful and advanced submarine, having unmatched stealth technology, active anti-torpedo defenses and anti-air capability. Severodvinsk can carry up to 40 Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles with a range of 1,600 miles - and any of these could be nuclear-tipped. It is believed that this deployment is related to the tensions mounting with the West over the Ukraine war.

Nuclear submarines are the most powerful, and most survivable, assets in the Russian Navy. It is not clear how long the submarine has been operating in the region. It was probably deployed there to replace the Slava class cruiser Marshal Ustinov, which left the region on Aug. 24, and was spotted sailing toward the U.K. via the Irish Sea.

According to Sutton, the movement of Marshal Ustinov toward the UK and Ireland was probably a distraction while the submarine sneaked into the Mediterranean.

Despite its numerical advantage over Ukraine, Russia has seen crippling naval losses in its war with the country, the most symbolic of which was the Slava Class cruiser Moskva, reportedly hit by two Neptune missiles on April 13, and sunk under tow the next day.

Russian submarine
Representational image. REUTERS/Host Photo Agency/RIA Novosti