The spy ship is armed with surface-to-air missiles, but its main function is to intercept communications and collect data on U.S. Navy sonar capability.
This was the furthest north the Viktor Leonov had ever traveled up the eastern seaboard. The Russian spy ship was last seen off the East Coast of the U.S. about two years ago, spending time near another U.S. submarine base in Kings Bay, Ga. In January 2015, the ship was seen in Havana, Cuba.
The Pentagon expects the Russian spy ship to sail south along the East Coast and return to the Caribbean.
The deployment of Viktor Leonov reportedly, was months in the making. The ship which is part of Russia’s Northern Fleet based along the Barents Sea, was is reported to have crossed the Atlantic and made a port call in Jamaica in the past few weeks, according to officials.
The latest Russian venture near the U.S. mainland follows other recent Russian provocations including last Friday’s incident in th Baltic sea when four Russian jets buzzed a U.S. Navy destroyer, coming within 200 yards of USS Porter. The Russian jets had their identifying transponders turned off and ignored repeated radio calls from the American warship.
It was the first time Russian jets buzzed a U.S. warship since President Trump assumed office, sources confirmed.
Russia was also deploying for the first time a ground-based nuke-capable cruise missile inside Russia, which violates a decades old arms treaty between Moscow and Washington.
Armed with with surface-to-air missiles the spy ship SSV-175 Viktor Leonov is capable, an official said, of intercepting communications or signals, known as SIGINT, the ship can also measure U.S. Navy sonar capabilities.
“It’s not a huge concern, but we are keeping our eyes on it,” one official said.
This latest action of pushing the boundaries by the Russian military follows recent missile test launches by Iran and North Korea.
In September 2015, another Russian spy ship was spotted near the U.S. outside the submarine base in Kings Bay. In the past, Russian spy ships have cruised off the coast of Kings Bay, Ga., home to a U.S. Navy ballistic missile submarine base. During the Cold War, Russian intelligence gathering ships routinely parked off U.S. submarine bases along the East Coast.
In April 2016, Russian Su-24s buzzed the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea flying as low as 30 feet above the ocean and coming very close to the American warship.