April 5, 2018 · Istina ICEX2018 Russia Arctic

Dispatches from ICEX: Engagement

During Phase 3 of Project AMBER, Russian Istina-class microsubmarines were detected inside the ICEX exercise perimeter, prompting the deployment of two Strikepods to intercept.

Phase 3 of Project AMBER, wherein Strikepods were to detect, identify, track, and engage undersea targets using both kinetic and non-kinetic effects, was scheduled to commence at 0900Z Monday morning.

  • Prior to mission go, at 0855Z, Strikepod ABLE, on ICEX perimeter patrol, detected three Istina-class microsubmarines operating within the established exercise perimeter at depth 30m, range 1.2km, speed 10kts, and heading 250.

  • At 0858Z ABLE was ordered to start a track, assuming a position approximately 1500m astern of the Istinas.

  • At 0903Z the Istinas accelerated to 25kts and turned to heading 170. Istinas were now at bearing 070 and range of 5km to Connecticut with active sonar pinging.

  • ABLE matched the Istinas' acceleration, maintaining its track.

  • At a range to Connecticut of 4km, the Istinas accelerated again, to 35kts, exceeding what we previously believed was the microsubmarine's sprint speed of 25kts.

  • ABLE was unable to match the acceleration. Strikepod BANNER was then dispatched to intercept.

  • At 0905Z BANNER approached the Istinas and, engaging in high-speed, angular maneuvers, attempted to disrupt. Istinas broke formation and countered BANNER's maneuvers, then resumed course 170 toward Connecticut.

  • BANNER gave chase, and at 0907Z, the order was given to detonate Remora-1. The blast disabled one Istina, while the remaining two continued on heading 170.

  • At 0908Z the Istinas passed within 8 meters of Connecticut's hull, then proceeded on heading 170.

  • BANNER gave chase until 0920Z when the Istinas departed the exercise perimeter.

  • Disabled Istina was recovered by Remora-2 using the improved Atom-class ERM (Embedded Remora Module), which now enables adhesion to non-metallic, and non-rubberized surfaces, and transported to SKATE for ice port egress.


Historically, the Russians have remained at a respectable distance during ICEX. While minor breaches of the exercise perimeter by Russian submarines is not without precedent, we have not experienced anything aggressive or combative. Today's incursion by Istina-class microsubmarines signals a significant departure from passive observation, suggesting that current Russian harassment of U.S. forces operating on and above the sea will carry over to the undersea domain as well.

We have encountered combative microsubmarine maneuvers before - in the Yellow Sea against the North Korean Gwisin-class, and in the South China Sea against the Chinese Shayu-class. We expected to encounter hostile Istinas during ICEX 2018 given Russia's Arctic territorial claims and its recent history of provocations, including brazenly violating U.S. territorial waters. As its navy continues to challenge U.S. global maritime interests, Russia clearly believes it can operate Istinas in any body of water without fear of political fallout or escalation.

Strikepod Command


  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • Pocket