After significantly cutting the size of its military in recent years, Great Britain was forced to call on France and Canada to help look for a Russian sub they believed was patrolling off the Scottish coast, according to a report in the Telegraph.
According to the report, the Russian sub was spotted more than a week ago and has yet to be found amid fears that it might be trying to spy on the UK’s Trident program — a sub-based nuclear warhead delivery system stationed in Scotland.
The French support for the hunt — an Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft — has being searching for the Russian sub, along with a British frigate and attack class submarine, for the past 10 days, according to the report. Over the weekend a Canadian aircraft joined the search.
The British scrapped their own sub hunting aircraft — known as the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod — after the landmark 2010 Defense Review wherein the British drastically reduced manpower and equipment across the United Kingdom’s entire military. Before that program was cut, a number of newer variant Nimrods were slotted to be based out of a Royal Air Force base in Kinloss in Moray, Scotland, according to another Telegraph report. The program was canceled, in part, because of safety concerns.
The lack of sub-chasing aircraft is a far cry from the days of World War II, where, with the help of the United States, the British pioneered tactics to protect allied merchant shipping from German U-boat attacks. Using RAF bases across the country, U.S. and British forces conducted long-range patrols with radar-mounted aircraft that were able to hit U-boats cruising on the surface before they had a chance to submerge. During the Cold War, the British capability was just as robust.
Recently, Russian submarine activity has raised Cold War-era concerns. Last month, The New York Times reported that Russian subs and spy ships had been spotted along undersea fiber-optic cable routes, while Sweden has repeatedly claimed its waters were violated by Russian subs in recent years.