HMS Sovereign

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Arctic naval strategy

During the 1970s, the Soviet's naval strategy increased its submarine fleet in homewater ocean areas near and under the ice. The Soviet Navy wanted to prepare the survivability and flexible readiness of their SSN force to launch nuclear strikes, as well as defending the Soviet homeland from sea based attacks. These missions required that the Soviets control a sizeable portion of the Arctic Ocean.

This led to a technical and tactical race between the two superpowers to develop an Arctic naval strategy in the 1980s. Although, there were actually more advantages in controlling this region for those in the West than the Soviets.

Controlling these areas denied places to hide and patrol areas to Soviet submarines. The Polar ice offered a direct, covered submarine route to the USSR. Ballistic and cruise missile arcs to key areas within the USSR were only located a short distance from the Arctic. Naval dominance of the Arctic could create a situation that locked the Soviet Northern Fleet into a defensive posture and neutralise it, eventually destroying it as an effective fighting force. Forcing the Soviet Northern Fleet to patrol the Polar region also meant that the USSR had to extend its defensive perimeter yet further. This would increase the Soviet Navy's force allocation problems, especially for modern SSNs. In addition, under-ice operational capability protected Western submarines against any unexpected Soviet technical breakthrough in non-acoustic detection, with most non-acoustic submarine signatures blocked or attenuated by ice.


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