WILLEMSTAD, Curacao, Wednesday September 23, 2015 – A Russian military vessel, which has been tracked by US intelligence over the past two months as it sailed the western Atlantic, docked at a Caribbean port at the weekend, where it was expected to take on supplies.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that the research ship Yantar on Sunday sailed into the port of Willemstad, Curacao, after transiting international waters off the south-eastern United States.
The vessel was tracked from the north Atlantic on August 24 as it sailed south through international waters along the east coast of the United States, according to officials at the Pentagon.
The Yantar is a newly commissioned Russian military research vessel that is believed to be conducting surveillance operations against US ballistic missile submarines based at Kings Bay, Georgia.
— 7FBTK (@7FBTK) September 21, 2015
Launched earlier this year from a Baltic seaport, Yantar is equipped with two deep-water submersibles and cable-cutting gear.
The ship’s activities in the Atlantic over the past several weeks coincided with the deployment of the nuclear missile submarine USS Wyoming to Scotland.
The US Strategic Command said that the Wyoming, home ported at Kings Bay, arrived at the British Naval Base Clyde in Scotland on September 16.
Movements of ballistic missile submarines are normally kept secret by the Navy, and its dispatch to Europe comes amid heightened tensions with Russia over Ukraine and recent nuclear threats by Moscow against the NATO alliance.
A Strategic Command spokesman nevertheless said that the Wyoming visit was routine and not directed at any adversary.
Meanwhile, a defence official said one mission of the sub was “strategic assurance” for American allies in Europe in the face of a growing Russian nuclear threat.
The timing of the Wyoming’s arrival indicates its departure from Kings Bay could have been detected or even anticipated by Russian military intelligence, given the Yantar’s underwater surveillance capabilities.
Russia also has been known to deploy vessels similar to the Yantar in support of its attack submarines. It is not known if any Russian attack submarines were in the Atlantic when the Wyoming crossed the ocean en route to Scotland.
Defence analysts believe the Yantar is conducting underwater mapping and reconnaissance operations that would support future Russian submarine operations in the Atlantic.
Other underwater activities are thought likely to include detecting underwater sensors and other equipment used by the Navy to track foreign submarine activities.
The ship can also be used to identify key communications links used by the military, known as the Department of Defence Information Network or DoDIN.
Moscow is believed to be conducting reconnaissance on US communications and information networks in preparation for information-based attacks in any future conflict.
Russia is said to be engaged in a major strategic nuclear forces build-up that includes modernizing older submarines, as well as building a new class of missile submarines and a new class of attack submarines.
On September 8, The Washington Free Beacon also disclosed that Russia is developing a nuclear-armed drone submarine, code-named Kanyon, which will be capable of wiping out entire port cities with a large-yield nuclear blast.
A Pentagon spokesman said earlier this month that the military was aware of the Yantar’s presence and that “we respect the freedom of all nations to operate military vessels in international waters in accordance with international law.”