18:38 GMT +323 April 2018
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    Black Sea Navy Fleet and the Caspian Flotilla took part in Kavkaz-2016' strategic troops exercise

    US Sending Spy Planes to 'Snoop on Crimea's Defenses and Black Sea Drills'

    © Sputnik / Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation
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    The United States has been increasingly active in the Black Sea, sending surveillance planes close to Russia's borders in what has been an attempt to spy on the massive Kavkaz (Caucasus) 2016 drills that have seen Crimea's newest military equipment and defense capabilities in action, experts say.

    Defense analyst Andrey Leonkov, an expert at the Arsenal Otechestva ((the Armory of the Fatherland) military magazine told RT that these war-games are "of utmost interest for our overseas partners."

    The United States "is studying frequencies that [the Russian military] uses for radio communications; they are trying to intercept and decode transmissions. The Americans are probing the combat readiness of our troops. They are trying to understand what means of deterrence have been redeployed to Crimea," he explained.

    Black Sea Navy Fleet and the Caspian Flotilla took part in Kavkaz-2016 strategic troops exercise
    © Photo : Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation
    The US military has not been happy with what it has seen so far, he added.

    On September 7, several Boeing P-8 Poseidon surveillance planes made two attempts to approach the Russian airspace over the Black Sea, forcing the Russian military to send the Sukhoi Su-27s to intercept the US Navy's aircraft.

    A day later, a Boeing RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft and two P-8 Poseidon planes were seen on a patrol close to Crimea. The US Air Force and the US Navy conducted three similar missions on September 7 and 9. The Pentagon made two patrol flights on September 6.

    This used to be common practice during the Cold War, but in the 1990s, Russia disbanded more than 20 regiments of aerial surveillance. The US did not make similar cuts. Instead it has expanded its surveillance fleet by adding drones. The Pentagon, according to Leonkov, is trying to use these capabilities to the maximum.

    Defense analyst Sergei Khatylev called the Pentagon's interest in the Kavkaz 2016 drills "understandable."

    On the one hand, the US is interested in how Russia's Black Sea fleet operates and "what surveillance equipment and radio-technical capabilities the Russian Navy has in its arsenal," he said.

    Amphibious vehicles drive in formation as the large landing ship Caesar Kunikov fires missiles during the Navy Day celebrations in Sevastopol, Crimea
    © REUTERS / Pavel Rebrov
    Amphibious vehicles drive in formation as the large landing ship Caesar Kunikov fires missiles during the Navy Day celebrations in Sevastopol, Crimea

    NATO is also interested in Crimea's comprehensive defense system, including land-based troops, special forces and aerial defense, he added. Russia has upgraded the peninsula's military capabilities in the region and deployed brand new military equipment there.

    "The Americans want to know their technical characteristics, capabilities and approach routes," Khatylev explained.

    The ships of the Black Sea Navy Fleet and the Caspian Flotilla during the Kavkaz-2016 field and CP exercise
    © Photo : Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation
    Political analyst Andrey Koshkin suggested that US spy missions close to Russia's borders were meant "to provoke our fighter pilots and exert pressure."

    "The activities of the US Air Force and militaries of other NATO members started in 2014 when Crimea reunified with Russia. This is the moment when partnership gradually turned into opponency which has been fueled by the United States," he told RT.

    Related:

    Russian SU-27 Jet Intercepts US Navy Spy Plane Over Black Sea
    Some 60 Attaches From 40 Countries Observe Kavkaz-2016 Drills in Crimea
    Over 120,000 Russian Troops Take Part in Kavkaz-2016 Drills
    Russian Troops Work Out All Combat Operations to Repel Aggression at Kavkaz-2016
    Tags:
    defense capability, military drills, surveillance, RC-135, P-8 Poseidon, Sukhoi Su-27, Kavkaz-2016, Crimea, United States, Russia, Black Sea
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