Moscow has dispatched a specialized spy ship off the coast of Hawaii with the likely mission to monitor the U.S. Navy led Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise, USNI News has learned.

A Russian Navy Bal’zam-class, “auxiliary general intelligence ship recently arrived in international waters off Hawaii where exercise Rim of the Pacific is taking place,” U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Clint Ramsden told USNI News this week.
“The ship’s presence has not affected the conduct of the exercise and we’ve taken all precautions necessary to protect our critical information.”

While it wasn’t unusual at all in during the Cold War for Russian spy ships to linger off the coast of the U.S. to suck up signals intelligence information or monitor exercises like RIMPAC, the Russians have been lax in their surveillance until recently.

“It used to be that AGIs would deploy regularly off their ports and we would encounter them and they would operate very safely and professionally — mostly looking for signals intelligence,” Bryan Clark, a naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and former aide to retired Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, told USNI News.

Following the March 2014 seizure of the Crimean region of Ukraine, the Russian Navy has operated more aggressively returning to levels not seen since the Cold War.

Given the participation of 25 countries, almost 50 of ships, more than 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel operating during the exercise, it would make sense for the Russians to listen in, Clark said.

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Featured Image – Undated photo of Russian spy ship Pribaltika (SSV-80) with its old hull number CCB-80. Sources confirmed the ship is operating off the coast of Hawaii.