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US military tracking mysterious Russian ship near Hawaii

A P-3 Orion takes off from Marine Corps Base Hawaii. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Meranda Keller/U.S. Navy)
May 03, 2022

The U.S. military is monitoring a Russian surface vessel of an unspecified type that’s been operating near Hawaii in recent days.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) told Hawaii’s KHON2 news channel on Sunday that “we are monitoring a Russian surface vessel operating in international waters in the vicinity of Hawaii.”

“U.S. Indo-Pacific Command routinely monitors air and maritime traffic in the Western Pacific to ensure security and stability of the region alongside our Allies and partners,” the INDOPACOM statement said. “As part of our normal daily operations, we closely track all vessels in the Indo-Pacific area of operations through maritime patrol aircraft, surface ships, and joint capabilities.”

Retired Lt. Colonel Hal Kempfer told KHON2, “I have no doubt that INDOPACOM is watching this closely, as are a number of other intelligence organizations trying to figure out exactly what it is.”

“They’re not just watching the ship they’re watching everything might be connected to and getting some real detail on what it’s doing, why it might be there, who they’re reporting to,” Kempfer added. “All these things go into a fusion process, an analytical process if you will that tells us is this a threat or is it not a threat.”

Russian naval activity near Hawaii is not uncommon. In January, a Russian surveillance ship sailed around Hawaii for several days.

In May of last year, another Russian surveillance ship, identified as the Vishnya-class auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) ship Kareliya (SSV-535), loitered off the coast of Kauai for several days. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) reportedly chose to delay a missile test in the area while the Russian spy ship hung around the island.

Kempfer told KHON2 that Russian warships would loiter around Hawaii throughout the Cold War era.

“The tactics, techniques, and procedures that we saw the Soviets doing back in the Cold War seem to be resurfacing again under the Russian banner,” Kempfer said. “This looks like one of those issues that I would point to Russian intelligence ships potentially off the shore of Hawaii.”

In June of last year, a larger fleet of Russian surface combatants and aircraft practiced carrying out strikes on an enemy aircraft carrier. Unconfirmed satellite imagery purported to show three U.S. Navy destroyers and a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter escorting some of the Russian warships involved in the drills after they sailed within 35 miles of Hawaii. While not directly connecting its actions to the Russian naval drills, the U.S. Pacific Fleet also announced at the time that Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1 had moved into the Hawaiian Islands Operating Area. The Drive reported at the time that the movement of the U.S. warships near Hawaii might have been intended as a response to the recent Russian war games.