The Moscow Times:
Russia inducted a new-generation spy ship into the Northern Fleet on Sunday during navy day celebrations. The new vessel will be tasked with monitoring U.S. anti-missile defenses on the high seas, a navy spokesman said.
The ship is known as the Yury Ivanov, the lead boat of the Project 18280 intelligence ships designed for the Russian navy. A second vessel of the same class will be launched next year, according to the United Shipbuilding Corporation, news agency RIA Novosti reported last week.
The ship was commissioned into the Russian navy during a large naval parade attended by President Vladimir Putin in Russia’s Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad on Sunday.
Light on armaments, heavy on sensors and advanced electronic equipment, spy ships are purpose-built to loiter and listen to what foreign vessels are up to. The Yury Ivanov will be specifically equipped to track U.S. anti-missile defenses, which are being outfitted on American warships.
Each of Russia’s four major fleets has one or two spy ships in their ranks, but these were built in the 1980s and are ill-equipped to counter the newer U.S. vessels. Each fleet is expected to receive an Ivanov-class ship over the next several years.
U.S. missile defenses have repeatedly caused friction in U.S.-Russia relations. Moscow considers the defenses an existential threat to its nuclear deterrence, which the Defense Ministry sees as its strongest guarantor of national security.
The U.S. is pursuing a sea-based missile defense strategy that will see the number of vessels fitted with Aegis anti-missile defense systems expand from 33 to 48 by the end of the 2020 fiscal year, according to a report issued by the Congressional Research Service last month.