July 09, 2016

The RV Yantar pops up on AIS, momentarily

Photo Credit: Cees Bustraan / ShipSpotting.com - September 20th, 2015
I'm quite fascinated how commercial and military ships both use AIS-T and AIS-S while in transit.  Of course, when performing operations military ships turn off their AIS beacons to be less noticeable, but once and a while someone hits the wrong button.

Last year when the RV Yantar ("RV" as it is officially a Research Vessel, with SAR capabilities) was headed back to Murmansk, the home of the Russian Northern Fleet, she seemed to go out of AIS-T range somewhere North of Norway in the Barents Sea.  But when she docked at the port in Murmansk on October 28th 2015, she didn't show up on AIS-T.  There are AIS-T receivers in the Port of Murmansk, and other ships show up - just not the Yantar... so, they must have turned off their beacon, while travelling in shipping lanes and docking in a port.  Isn't that weird for a research vessel involved in nothing military or suspicious in nature?  Isn't it?

As I mentioned last year, the Yantar is rumoured to have been commissioned by the GUGI (An acronym for what roughly translates to Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research), the part of the Ministry of Defence of Russia which is responsible for "underwater engineering" - a euphemism meaning spying by means of planting, tampering with or stealing objects underwater (source).  I suspect this is the equivalent of the US National Underwater Reconnaissance Office.  Warefare.be reports the Yantar is part of the 29th Special Squadron of the Northern Fleet, which is the unit that operates the underwater spy submarines and "stretch submarine variants that act as "mother ships" for the Russian Navy.  The 29th Special Squadron is based at Olenya Guba (Оле́нья Губа).

Oh yes, so about the button.  Evidently someone turned on the AIS beacon on the RV Yantar while it was docked on July 6th, 2016.  Where?  In Olenya Guba, of course!  I don't think the ship had been tracked all the way back there before, which is why I was excited!

Location of the RV Yantar / July 6, 2016
Lat/Lon:69.21657 / 33.3624 (UTC)
Speed/Course:0.0 kn / 20°
Image courtesy of MarineTraffic.com

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