The Russian surveillance ship Viktor Leonov has been operating “unsafely” off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina, near US naval bases, the US Coast Guard claimed on December 15th.
“The United States Coast Guard has received reports indicating that the RFN Viktor Leonov (AGI-175) has been operating in an unsafe manner off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia,” read the notice from Coast Guard in Charleston, S.C.
“This unsafe operation includes not energizing running lights while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements.”
The notice went on to advise mariners to, “maintain a sharp lookout and use extreme caution when navigating in proximity to this vessel.”
The US Northern Command spokesperson said that the Russian surveillance ship’s presence was no surprise, and that the US Navy was aware of the regular deployments.
“We are aware of Russia’s naval activities, including the deployment of intelligence collection ships in the region,” a U.S. Northern Command spokesperson told The Washington Times. “While we won’t discuss specific measures being taken, NORAD and USNORTHCOM routinely conduct air and maritime operations to ensure the defense of the United States and Canada.”
The RFN Viktor Leonov was being shadowed by the Norfolk-based U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan.
The Russian vessel also routinely operates in the Caribbean, including Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago.
The U.S. Naval Institute reported on December 17th that the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Ross was being followed by the Russian corvette Vyshny Volochyok while the Ross was operating off the coast of Romania in the Black Sea.
The RFN Viktor Leonov is the same Russian spy ship President Trump threatened to “shoot” in 2017 not long after taking office. The Russian ship returned a year later.
“Hey, the greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water,” Trump said in January 2017. “Everyone in this country is going to say, ‘Oh, it’s so great.’ That’s not great. That’s not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia.”
The Viktor Leonov is a Vishnya-class intelligence ship. The ship is large, purpose built ships designed for signals intelligence gathering via an extensive array of sensors. The data could be transmitted to shore via satellite link antennas housed in two large radomes. The ships are armed with two AK-630 close-in weapon systems and SA-N-8 surface-to-air missile (SAM) launchers, for last resort self-defense.
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