The last time a Russian spy ship was spotted in relative proximity to the US, was in September 2015, when shortly after five Chinese naval ships were observed in the Bering Sea, U.S. military satellites identified a Russian spy ship – capable of cutting undersea communications cables and other sensors – off the coast of Kings Bay, Ga., home to the U.S. Navy’s East Coast ballistic missile submarine fleet. Needless to say, the US navy – and Pentagon – were quite displeased: after all it is only Russia that is allowed to be surrounded by NATO forces.
Fast forward to today, when two US officials told Fox News that a Russian spy ship has been spotted patrolling off the East Coast of the United States on Tuesday morning, the first such patrol since President Trump took office. According to Fox News, the Russian spy ship was 70 miles off the coast of Delaware, heading north at 10 knots, according to one official. That location means the ship is in international waters. The U.S. territory line is 12 nautical miles. It was not immediately clear where the Russian spy ship was headed.
The ship, the SSV-175 Viktor Leonov, last sailed near the U.S. in April 2015, an official said. The ship is capable of intercepting communications or signals, as well as measuring U.S. Navy sonar capability. The Russian spy ship is also armed with surface-to-air missiles.
“It’s not a huge concern, but we are keeping our eyes on it,” one official said.
This action by the Russian military follows recent missile test launches by Iran and North Korea.
During the Cold War, Russian intelligence gathering ships routinely parked off U.S. submarine bases along the East Coast and as noted above, in 2015, another Russian spy ship was spotted near the U.S. outside the submarine base in Kings Bay, in the most recent close encounter.
Outside of U.S. intelligence gathering satellites monitoring the Russian spy ship’s voyage north, there are several airborne platforms along the East Coast that could be used by the U.S. military to monitor the Russian ship, according to one official. Currently there are four U.S. Navy warships in the Atlantic off the coast of Norfolk participating in normal training, but none have been tasked with shadowing the Russian spy ship.
There are no U.S. Navy aircraft carriers nearby.
The USS Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier, is currently off the coast of Florida doing carrier qualifications, with young pilots making their first landings. Ike does not currently have strike aircraft.