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    US Navy Concerned Over 'Russian Spy Ship' Monitoring Drills Near Hawaii

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    Military experts in the United States are concerned that Russia has deployed a "specialized spy ship" off the coast of Hawaii to monitor the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016 drills, the website of the US Naval Institute reported.

    A Russian Navy Bal’zam-class, "auxiliary general intelligence ship recently arrived in international waters off Hawaii where exercise Rim of the Pacific is taking place," US Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Clint Ramsden told USNI News.

    Currently, a large naval exercise involving 25 countries is underway in the area. Nearly 50 warships and over 200 aircraft have been concentrated near Hawaii for the drills.

    "The ship’s presence has not affected the conduct of the exercise and we’ve taken all precautions necessary to protect our critical information," Lt. Ramsden added.

    RIMPAC is the world’s largest naval exercise. It has been organized in the Pacific since 1971, annually or biennially. They are led by the Pacific Command of the US Navy. Russia took part in the drills once, in 2012.

    The goal of the exercise is to bolster cooperation capabilities between the navies of the Pacific countries to ensure maritime security. After the Ukrainian crisis broke out the US suspended military cooperation with Moscow. Russia did not participate in the 2014 RIMPAC drills, but China was involved. This year’s exercises also involved China.

    "While it wasn’t unusual at all during the Cold War for Russian spy ships to linger off the coast of the US to suck up signals intelligence information or monitor exercises like RIMPAC, the Russians have been lax in their surveillance until recently," the article read.

    "I can’t understand why the Americans are so surprised. This is normal because Russian and American ships always monitor each other. Our ship didn’t interfere in the drills. The US military also observes drills of the Russian Army," Vladimir Evseyev, director of the Institute of CIS Countries, told Gazeta.ru.

    The RIMPAC command did not provide additional information on the ship. However, sources of the US Navy Institute suggested that this might be the SSV-80 Pribaltika intelligence ship of the Russian Pacific Fleet.

    The Pribaltika is a large intelligence ship of project 1826. It was built in 1984 in Kaliningrad.

    It has a displacement of up to 4,600 tons, a length of 105 meters. The ship can reach speeds of up to 20 knots. It has a crew of 189.

    The ship carries special equipment allowing for intercepting and analyzing radio signals. Then, information is transmitted to ground command points or to flagships.

    The ship is also equipped with Strela-2M guided missile launchers and an AK-630 six-barrel artillery system.

    "Only the Russian Defense Minister can confirm this information," Vladimir Komoedov, former commander of the Black Sea Fleet, said.

    "But the drills are held in neutral waters, so no one could ban Russian ships from being there," he added.

    During the Cold War, this was routine practice. Soviet warships often observed the RIMPAC drills.

    Washington has already expressed concerns about Russian naval ships near the US coast. For example, ahead of US-Cuban talks on January 21-24, 2015 the Russian spy ship Viktor Leonov docked in Havana. The goals of his visit to the island were not reported. The US was concerned that the ship would monitor the talks.

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    Tags:
    military drills, military, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) missile defense drills, US Navy, Russia, United States
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