U.S. shadows Russian ship near nuke submarine bases
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.