The U.S. Coast Guard is warning boaters that a Russian surveillance ship has been operating in “an unsafe manner” off the coast of South Carolina, according to reports.
The RFN Viktor Leonov has been navigating through international waters along the Southeast coastline this week, mostly near South Carolina and Florida in an area managed by USCG Sector Jacksonville, South Carolina television station WBDE reported.
A U.S. Northern Command spokesperson told the Washington Times that they were aware of Russia’s activities, and NORAD and USNORTHCOM were monitoring them as is routine in these situations. The Times also reported that the Russian ship’s visit may have been timed to coincide with SpaceX’s Monday launch of a communications satellite from a Florida launchpad.
CNN reports that the destroyer USS Mahan (DDG-72, pictured above) was shadowing the Leonov.
Russian Navy ships have been spotted conducting surveillance off the U.S. coast in the past, taking interest in major East Coast naval bases like Norfolk, Va., Mayport, Fla., and Kings Bay, Ga. In fact, the Leonov has been seen off the East Coast every year since 2015, according to CNN.
The Coast Guard says the ship is operating unsafely because it is ignoring hails by commercial vessels and not running lights in reduced visibility areas, as well as moving erratically, according to the reports.
The Leonov is one of seven Vishnya-class ships in the Russian Navy built for intelligence collection. It uses an array of sensors to conduct signals intelligence, transmitting the data via two large radomes. It is armed with some defensive weapons.