Why is a Russian spy ship delayed off the coast of Hawaii?

  • A Russian spy ship, the Karelia, it has crossed the Pacific to prowl off the coast of Hawaii.
  • The ship is reportedly off the coast of the Garden Island of Kauai.
  • Kauai is the site of ballistic missile defense testing, andfrom Kareliya presence may indicate an impending test.

A Russian Navy spy ship is thousands of miles from home and in America’s backyard. He Karelia, a signal collecting ship, has set sail from its frozen home port in the Russian Far East to sunny Hawaii. The ship, reportedly sailing off the coast of Kauai, may be attempting to gather information from an upcoming US missile defense test.

The US Coast Guard announced last week I was tracking the ship Karelia, off the coast of the Hawaiian island chain. (The photo at the top is of his sister ship, Victor Leonovnear Havana, Cuba, in 2017.) “The US Coast Guard is currently monitoring the Russian vessel operating in the vicinity of Hawaii,” said Cmdr. Dave Milne, chief of foreign affairs for the Coast Guard. “As part of our daily operations, we track all vessels in the Pacific area through surface and air assets and joint agency capabilities.”

The Coast Guard released a recording of the ship, seen above. The first ship in the video is actually the tanker. pechengawhich is supplying the spy ship. Karelia he appears at the two-second mark, when his bow and AK-630 Gatling guns are visible. The second half of the video is from the back of Karelia, with special attention to their antennae.

Karelia is a Vishnya either Meridian SIGINT-class intelligence collection vessel. Built in Gdansk, Poland, in 1986, Karelia is assigned to the Russian Pacific Fleet, based in Vladivostok. The ship is 309 feet long, has a crew of 151, and displaces 3,100 tons. She is equipped with various electronic arrays designed to intercept communications traffic and other electronic signals. She is also pretty heavily armed with defensive weapons for a spy ship, with two Gatling guns with AK-630 close-in weapons system and two SA-N-8 surface-to-air missile launchers.

The Russian ship was reported on january 19 operating 100 miles from Kauai. That’s within the US exclusive economic zone, but not within territorial waters, so the ship can operate there.

barking sands kauai uss hopper missile interception test

USS destroyer Hopper launches a Standard 3 missile while operating in the Pacific Ocean on July 30. The missile successfully intercepted a short-range, sub-scale ballistic missile launched from the Kauai test facility at the Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii.

Fred Baker/Office of Public Affairs of the Secretary of Defense

Kauai is one of the westernmost islands of Hawaii and home to Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility, on the western side of the island. Barking Sands is where the US military tests ballistic missile interceptors, including the Navy’s SM-3 and SM-6 air defense missiles and the US Army’s SM-3 and SM-6 air defense missiles. Navy. Russia has repeatedly warned that it views US missile defense efforts as a danger to Russian security, as they could, in theory, be expanded to help mitigate a Russian retaliatory strike. However, there is no evidence that the Pentagon is interested in doing so.

In 2021, Karelia was sighted just 13 miles off the coast of Kauai, or one mile outside of US territorial waters. Shortly thereafter, Barking Sands conducted the Aegis Weapon System 31 Event 1 flight test, a test designed to shoot down a simulated medium-range ballistic missile with two SM-6 air defense missiles. The SM-6s were unable to intercept their target.

Might Karelia be stationed off Hawaii in anticipation of a new US missile test? The tests are usually not announced ahead of time, although the Russians somehow have the knack of having a ship in place to collect data ahead of time. How Moscow knows is just one of the mysteries of the Russian-American relationship.

Kyle Mizokami headshot

Writer on Defense and Security topics, lives in San Francisco.