China, Russia Send Spy Ships to Keep Tabs on USS Carl Vinson off North Korea
China and Russia have sent their most sophisticated spy ships to keep track of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and its Carrier Strike Group when this U.S. Navy Nimitz-class aircraft carrier starts lingering off the eastern coast of North Korea in the Sea of Japan.
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American media citing U.S. Navy sources said both China and Russia appear bent on hounding the USS Carl Vinson even as tensions in the Korean Peninsula remain close to flash point owing to North Korea's refusal to extinguish its nuclear weapons development program, and the United States' declaration all options are open -- including military -- in the effort to eliminate the north's nuclear program.
While media reports failed to identify the spy ships involved, it's an incredible coincidence that all three of China's most modern signals intelligence spy ships are now out to sea at the same time.
And as for the Russians, they have two spy ships attached to the Pacific Fleet based at Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.
The three most modern radar spy ships in the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) -- all belonging to the Yuanwang class -- left Chinese ports one after the other from March 27 to April 10 to allegedly keep track of the launch of a new Chinese spacecraft on April 20.
Yuanwang-5, Yuanwang-6 and Yuanwang-7 are currently steaming towards undisclosed locations and will use their modern radars to ostensibly track the progress of the Tianzhou 1 unmanned cargo spacecraft after this spacecraft's launch on April 20.
The Yuanwangs are officially classified as maritime tracking ships, and are each equipped with large dish antennae for tracking Chinese launch vehicles and satellites. The equipment aboard these ships, however, are also used to capture electronic transmissions by their targets, chiefly the U.S. military.
These ships are dual-use platforms serving military and scientific ends. One western analyst described the Yuanwangs as "spy ships" and estimated that up to 70 percent of the work done by the Yuanwang fleet consists in gathering signals intelligence, which is one of the more sophisticated forms of spying, from targets such as the U.S.
Signals intelligence or SIGINT is intelligence-gathering by interception of communications signals between people or from electronic signals.
Chinese state-run media revealed the Yuanwang fleet, which consists of five operational ships, will carry out 19 maritime "space monitoring" missions this year.
The two Russian spy ships assigned to Asia are the SSV-208 Kurily and the SSV-535 Kareliya, both of which are Vishnya-class intelligence gathering ships. They're designed for signals intelligence gathering and are equipped with an extensive array of sensors.
Intercepted signals are transmitted to Russian military headquarters via satellite link antennas inside two large radomes.