Russian spy ship near Navy bases on East Coast

While the buzzing of the destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) and Russia’s deployment of the SSC-8 cruise missile drew a lot of attention, another Russian action has gone somewhat unnoticed.

According to the Hartford Courant, a Russian naval vessel is operating off the coast of Connecticut. The vessel, described as a “spy ship,” has been operating up and down the East Coast.

The Karelia, a Vishnya-class intelligence ship similar to the Viktor Leonov, sails near the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser USS Texas (CGN 39). (Photo: Dept. of Defense)

A FoxNews.com report identified the Russian ship as the Viktor Leonov, noting that it was also been loitering around Norfolk Naval Station, the largest naval base in the world.

“The presence of this spy ship has to be regarded very seriously because Russia is an increasingly aggressive adversary. It reflects a clear need to harden our defenses against electronic surveillance and cyber espionage,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a press release.

The Viktor Leonov is a Vishnya-class intelligence ship. According to GlobalSecurity.org, Vishnya-class vessels are very lightly armed with two SA-N-8 missile launchers and two AK-630 close-in weapon systems. The ship has a top speed of 16 knots, and is loaded with gear for carrying out signals intelligence (SIGINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT).

Aircrew from Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron One Four (HS-14) is embarked aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) lowers memorabilia from the Kitty Hawk Strike Group to a Vishnya-class AGI ship, Kurily (SSV-208), as a goodwill gesture. The Viktor Leonov is a sister ship to the one pictured here. (US Navy photo)

The Soviet Union built seven of these vessels in the 1980s, and all remain in service with the Russian Navy until 2020, when they will be replaced by a new class of vessels. The Leonov carried out a similar operation in early 2015 with much less fanfare.

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