A Russian spy ship has once again been spotted just off the coast of the United States, this time near a ballistic missile submarine base in Georgia, according to Navy officials, The Washington Free Beacon recently reported. The Viktor Leonov had been operating some 20 nautical miles offshore for the past several days.
This particular Russian spy ship has been monitored numerous times over the last several months. In January, it cruised within 30 miles of the Virginia coast, and just a few weeks ago, the ship ventured near a U.S. submarine base in Connecticut.
“We are tracking the Viktor Leonov’s presence off the East Coast, much like we are aware of all vessels approaching the United States,” said Navy Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a Navy spokesman. “We respect the right and freedoms of all nations to operate in international waters in accordance with international law.”
The Leonov has been known for conducting annual reconnaissance near various U.S. military facilities off the East Coast, and its most recent target was the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay off the coast of Georgia, which is home to U.S nuclear missile submarines.
On the spy ship’s capabilities, Steffan Watkins, a Canadian security analyst who closely tracks Russian ship movements, said that “the most obvious purpose of the ship being off the coast is collecting signals intelligence.”
“The ship is outfitted with more than antennas above the water line,” he added. “Viktor Leonov is reported to have magnetic anomaly sensors, acoustic gear to profile American vessels, and have the capability to map the ocean’s floor.”
While the ship’s activities appear to be relatively routine, its presence came just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Moscow’s new “invincible” nuclear weapons aimed at the United States. The weapons were featured in a video presentation during a speech that showed a simulated nuclear attack on Florida.
Russia’s increased military efforts have continued to be a cause for concern for the Pentagon and President Donald Trump.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Defense released its Nuclear Posture Review that revealed previously unknown Russian undersea nuclear torpedoes. Known as the “Status-6” system, the program is fired underwater and can potentially travel thousands of miles before striking U.S. coastal targets such as military bases or major cities.
Last year, when the Leonov was spotted off the U.S. coast, President Trump told reporters when commenting on Russian election meddling that “the greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles off shore right out of the water.”