U.S. shad­ows Rus­sian ship near nuke sub­ma­rine bases

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY BILL GERTZ

U.S. in­tel­li­gence ships, air­craft and satel­lites are closely watch­ing a Rus­sian mil­i­tary ves­sel in the At­lantic that has been sail­ing near a U.S. nu­clear mis­sile sub­ma­rine base and un­der­wa­ter transit routes, ac­cord­ing to Pen­tagon of­fi­cials.

The Rus­sian re­search ship Yan­tar has been tracked from the north­ern At­lantic near Canada since late Au­gust as it makes its way south to­ward Cuba.

De­fense of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with re­ports on the Rus­sian ship say the Yan­tar is be­lieved to be gath­er­ing in­tel­li­gence on un­der­wa­ter sen­sors and other equip­ment used by U.S. nu­clear sub­marines based at Kings Bay, Ge­or­gia. The sub­marines, their transit lanes and train­ing ar­eas stretch from the coastal base through the At­lantic to Europe.

In­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts be­lieve the ship, one of Rus­sia’s new­est mil­i­tary re­search ves­sels com­mis­sioned this year, is part of a larger strate­gic in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing op­er­a­tion against U.S. nu­clear mis­sile sub­marines and other tar­gets.

One of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity ow­ing to the sen­si­tiv­ity of the in­for­ma­tion, said the ship is a con­cern be­cause it is equipped with deepsea sur­veil­lance craft and ca­ble-cut­ting equip­ment.

In ad­di­tion to cut­ting or tap­ping into un­der­sea ca­bles, the Yan­tar’s gear also could be used to res­cue sub­marines if they be­come en­tan­gled in un­der­wa­ter ca­bles.

A sec­ond de­fense of­fi­cial said the Yan­tar’s mis­sion is not only to pre­pare to dis­rupt un­der­wa­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The ship is also part of a Rus­sian un­der­wa­ter re­con­nais­sance pro­gram to iden­tify un­der­sea com­mu­ni­ca­tions trunk lines and nodes.

A ma­jor tar­get of the pro­gram is the Depart­ment of De­fense In­for­ma­tion Net­work, known as DoDIN. Moscow is seek­ing to map the global in­for­ma­tion net­work that is vi­tal for U.S. war fight­ers and pol­i­cy­mak­ers and is a key tar­get of Rus­sian in­for­ma­tion war­fare ef­forts.

The net­work in­cludes ded­i­cated mil­i­tary links as well as leased com­mu­ni­ca­tions and com­puter sys­tems.

Another con­cern re­lated to the seabased in­tel­li­gence ac­tiv­i­ties is that Rus­sia has been adopt­ing new war-fight­ing tech­niques that the Pen­tagon has dubbed hy­brid war­fare.

Hy­brid con­flict com­bines tra­di­tional mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties with in­for­ma­tion war­fare tech­niques, such as cy­ber­at­tacks. The dis­abling of un­der­sea In­ter­net ca­bles could be a part of fu­ture hy­brid war­fare at­tacks as na­tions be­come in­creas­ingly re­liant on global in­for­ma­tion net­works, of­fi­cials said.

Non­govern­ment mil­i­tary an­a­lysts iden­ti­fied the Yan­tar off the coast of Nova Sco­tia around Aug. 24.

More re­cently, an un­der­wa­ter mil­i­tary blog called 7 Feet Be­neath the Keel re­ported the Yan­tar’s lo­ca­tion Tues­day as 90 miles north of the Turks and Caicos Is­lands in the At­lantic Ocean, some 769 miles from Kings Bay.

A Pen­tagon spokesman said the mil­i­tary is aware of the ship. “We re­spect the free­dom of all na­tions to op­er­ate mil­i­tary ves­sels in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law,” the spokesman said.

The Yan­tar — Rus­sian for “am­ber” — was built in a Baltic Sea ship­yard of the same name and launched in the spring, the state-run Sput­nik news agency re­ported May 23. The ship will be used for deep-sea re­search and res­cue oper­a­tions.

The ship is part of Rus­sia’s North­ern Fleet and is equipped with two deep-sea re­motely pi­loted sub­mersibles.

“The ship car­ries the latest, most in­no­va­tive equip­ment for acous­tic, bi­o­log­i­cal, phys­i­cal, and geo­phys­i­cal sur­veys,” the re­port said.

“The Yan­tar is equipped with a unique on-board sci­en­tific re­search com­plex which en­ables it to col­lect data on the ocean en­vi­ron­ment, both in mo­tion and on hold. There are no sim­i­lar com­plexes any­where,” said Alexei Burilichev, di­rec­tor of deep­wa­ter re­search at the Rus­sian De­fense Min­istry, Sput­nik re­ported.

St­ef­fan Watkins, a Cana­dian-based open-source in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst who mon­i­tors Rus­sian ship move­ments, said the Rus­sian navy sends such aux­il­iary ves­sels to the re­gion once or twice a year to check on ex­ist­ing U.S. un­der­wa­ter sen­sors or ca­bles that have been de­tected pre­vi­ously. The ships also search for new equip­ment on the sea floor that would re­veal U.S. oper­a­tions.

St­ef­fan Watkins, an open-source in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst who mon­i­tors Rus­sian ship move­ments, said the Rus­sian navy sends ves­sels such as Yan­tar to the re­gion to check on ex­ist­ing U.S. un­der­wa­ter sen­sors or ca­bles that have been de­tected pre­vi­ously. The ships also search for new equip­ment on the sea floor that would re­veal U.S. oper­a­tions.

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