The Russian Navy has a special forces unit to protect coastal bases and naval ships from underwater attacks. The anti-sabotage underwater special forces (generally known as combat swimmers) conduct patrolling operations.
Unlike the Russian Navy’s Special Forces trained for operations behind enemy lines, they are tasked with searching and neutralizing enemy sabotage divers.
Information about their activities is highly confidential. A veteran officer who did not want to be identified told Sputnik about some nuances of such operations. According to the source, one of the most difficult parts of the job was getting out of a submarine.
"Three divers with their full equipment can get into a torpedo tube. When you’re in and the door is locked it feels very unusual. Then the front door opens and seawater pours in. In psychological terms, this procedure is not that easy," the veteran officer told Sputnik.
The source said that combat swimmers do a lot of routine operations, including searching for enemy mines. Divers work in shifts and their schedule depends on the situation around their base. There are situations when a mission lasts for several weeks.
Anti-sabotage units are deployed to all Russian naval bases, including facilities in other countries. It was reported that Russia’s base in the Syrian port of Tartus is guarded by combat swimmers of the Black Sea Fleet. Their tasks include protecting ships from mines and patrolling coastal areas near the base. An anti-sabotage unit usually includes a commander, a senior diver and instructor, reconnaissance divers, bomb specialists and a radio operator.
Combat swimmers undergo regular training courses at a Northern Fleet base in Gadzhiyevo, in the Murmansk region. Drills of the underwater anti-sabotage forces are also held by the Pacific Fleet, the Baltic Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet and in the Caspian Sea.
Combat divers can also be involved in maritime border and counterterrorism operations.
Becoming a combat swimmer requires outstanding physique and steel nerves. Fear of the dark or claustrophobia would immediately write a candidate off. Every candidate undergoes strict selection procedures and then cuts their teeth, passing through several rounds of training, including diving, navigation skills, airborne training and mastering melee, knife and shooting skills.
Combat divers are armed with unique firearms, including special underwater automatic rifles, dual-medium guns, pistols and D-65 anti-sabotage grenade launchers.
Underwater use requires specially designed firearms. For example, the ADS dual-medium rifle is based on the A-91M assault rifle, but its mechanism has two operational modes, "air" and "water," making it suitable for both surface and underwater combat.
For patrolling missions, Russian combat divers use the newest Grachonok (project 21980) anti-sabotage boat. Usually, combat divers operate near their bases, but if necessary can be deployed by plane to an assigned area.