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 deep-sea 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.