A Russian spy ship was dispatched to Hawaii to monitor the Rim of the Pacific Exercise.
The Russian Navy Balzam-class auxiliary general intelligence ship recently arrived in international waters off the coast of Hawaii, U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Clint Ramsden told USNI News.
“Obviously, we are aware that it is there, and we’ve taken all precautions necessary to protect our critical information,” Ramsden said. “Its presence has not affected the conduct of the exercise.”
It was common for Russian spy ships to be present off the coast of the United States and monitor exercises that the U.S. conducted, but recently they have not done so.
“It used to be that AGIs would deploy regularly off their ports and we would encounter them and they would operate very safely and professionally — mostly looking for signals intelligence,” Bryan Clark, a naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments told USNI News.
Given the participation of 25 countries, almost 50 ships, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel operating during the exercise, it would make sense for the Russians to listen in, Clark said. “It’s unusual now, only because they haven’t done it in a while.”
The last time a Russian spy ship was present in Hawaii, it was 2004 at the same time RIMPAC was taking place.
Ramsden added that the last time Russia took part in RIMPAC was 2012 and they declined to participate in the exercise in 2014.
Russia’s spy ship is outside of the U.S. 12-nautical-mile territorial waters, but within the U.S. 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, but Pacific Fleet declined to say where the ship was located.
During RIMPAC 2014, China was invited into Pearl Harbor to take part in the exercise for the first time. China sent an uninvited spy ship and parked it near Hawaii despite having four other additional ships being invited to the exercise.