November 15, 2018

The Canadian Forces may be ignoring a nuclear waste problem they may have in Goose Bay.

The United States Strategic Air Command stored multiple offensive nuclear weapon assemblies in the woods near Goose Air Base from 1950 to at least 1954, per John Clearwater, who wrote the book on nuclear weapons in Canada. Several even, including U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Canada, and Canadian Nuclear Weapons. In 1954 the United States military completed construction on the proper double-barbed wire fenced Weapons Storage Area in the Southeast part of the base, giving any "Special Weapons" a concrete hardened new home. They used the same design you can still see at multiple bases in Span and Morocco; same earth covered magazines, separate storage for the fissile "pits" (the part that sits as the core of the nuclear weapon), same administration buildings, same warehouses for parts, etc - the design was repeated worldwide. (I've written about this before here, and compiled a lot of information with the help of people local to the base - thank you all!)

Fissile pit storage buildings were unique in US military architecture. US Strategic Air Command "Special Weapon" design (until the early 1960s) had removable fissile pits, and once sealed pit weapons were fielded, the maintenance intensive "open pit" weapons were withdrawn, stockpiled, and decommissioned. A sealed pit is maintenance-free and allows the weapon to sit idle, without routine maintenance (polishing) while deployed at an Operational Storage Site.

Vintage site plans of Goose Air Base show the pre-1954 weapons storage site in the woods at the Northwest end of the base, and it is labelled "USAF Special Storage Area". You may recall nuclear weapons of the time were referred to as "Special Weapons". There are the ruins of a dog kennel, guard buildings, and laboratories for the maintenance of the bomb by technicians on loan from Sandia National Labs, and double barbed wire fences.The fences have been kept up, since the base still uses the area, and are lately using it for a firing range.

If no maintenance was ever going to be done at the 1950-1954 labs in the woods, there would be no reason to build a "lab" right beside the Operational Storage Site. It's also possible that they built the lab in case they had to perform maintenance, but never did.

In the process of doing maintenance on a fissile pit, which is like a shiny heavy metal grapefruit, small amounts of low yield waste are produced - dust. Fissile pit maintenance has to do with polishing any oxidation off. After the procedure, Kimwipes, smocks, paper masks, gloves, etc. would all be put into metal canisters, and buried down a bore hole in the back yard. Literally. Any dust that rubbed off the pit onto the floor would be painted into the floor with a heavy paint that would keep the dust trapped. Painting radioactive dust into the floor instead of sweeping it up isn't a bad idea, it's just short lived - if the paint starts to chip, you have a problem, which was exactly what happened in Fort Bliss. An old timer pointed out to the officials at Fort Bliss that before re-purposing the old Snake Pit buildings, maybe they should check for radiation in the floor. (!)

This slide deck should show you how seriously the US Military takes this threat; they went all out trying to find the contamination at Fort Bliss (Deck dated 2016)
https://www.bliss.army.mil/dpw/Environmental/documents/2016%20RAB%20-%20Presentations.pdf

All activities involving nuclear weapons were, and are still, highly classified matters of national security. Unlike common knowledge about where the local drive-in theater was in the 1950s, very few people knew anything about nuclear weapons maintenance / operations who lived nearby, unless they had a need to know. From reviewing hundreds of pages of documentation from 5 Wing Goose Bay, and Parks Canada, regarding the former Strategic Air Command Weapons Storage Area at CFB Goose Bay, nobody has any institutional knowledge about the 1954 and 1958 Weapons Storage Areas built specifically to store nuclear weapons, or what came before them.

What will satisfy me that the Canadian Forces have taken this seriously and done all they can do to prove there is absolutely no nuclear waste buried near where the United States stored "The Bomb" between 1950 and 1954?

I'd like a survey for Alpha ( α ), Beta ( β ) and Gamma ( γ radiation to be performed with the aid of the United States Corps of Engineers, who have dealt with these sites many times before, and considering it's their mess, I think its appropriate to drag them back to Goose Bay to take a closer look at what they left behind - IF they left anything behind. The low-yield waste that would have been left behind would emit Alpha and Beta radiation; the risk to the local community would be slight. All the same, I would like the Government of Canada to be 100% confident that when the Americans pulled out of Goose Bay they only left a nightmare of hydrocarbon contamination, and not radiological contamination too.

The United States keeps quite good account of where their nuclear weapons are, and where they have been. All nuclear weapons and weapons assemblies have serial numbers and can be traced through their life cycle. Canadians do not know when and how many nuclear weapons were in Canada, and for how long. Ultimately I would like a complete account of every single nuclear (and non-nuclear) weapon that has been transported in Canada, including US-leased bases, with their serial numbers. If there were no fissile pits from 1950-1971 (with a focus on 1950-1954) in Goose Bay, then there is no way there could have been low yield nuclear waste there, and it would save everyone a lot of time knowing that up-front.



November 13, 2018

Tracking US Navy nuclear submarines using publicly available information

US Navy official photo (exact credit unknown)
US Navy official web page (Screenshot 2017-06-09)

(2018-12-16 Edit) The purpose of the secrecy around the locations of US Navy SSNs, SSGNs, and SSBNs is operational security; OPSEC.  You don't want to tell an adversary where the submarines are, so you don't jeopardize their mission.  The safety of those submarines, and their submariners, is of paramount importance to everyone. My objective in highlighting the following is to raise awareness that the supposed secrecy surrounding those deployments does not to hide their area of deployment from the Chinese Navy, North Korean Navy, or the Russian Navy; it hides or obfuscates their deployments from the collective knowledge of the American people, who happen to pay for the US Navy though their taxes. The technique I'm going to show you suggests that they are not hiding, and know it. I speculate they are not spoken openly about for political, rather than OPSEC, reasons.

The US Navy themselves post to official US Navy web pages and social media about US Navy submarine deployments; the screenshots embedded are proof of that, in case you hadn't noticed these posts before, or are not following the US Navy on social media.  Unlike the leaks to Fox News from Pentagon sources and other news organisations around the positions of the Russian Navy AGI Viktor Leonov, which were derived from US Navy intelligence sources and clearly Secret, if not Top Secret, these are public displays of the US Navy's ability to project power to the other side of the globe. The transponders being on, and the press releases, are all shows of force.

US Navy official Twitter account (posted 2017-06-07)
I do not want anyone to think the transponders on these subs are being used naively or in any incompetent fashion by the US Navy, or they're "forgetting" that they turn them on and off; all of this is extremely well known by the commanding officer of the submarine and the rest of the crew. The decisions related to who to tell or not tell in the public sphere are solely made at the Pentagon.  Submarines are stealthy by nature, and have the capability to remain hidden for an extended trip into hostile waters; that these submarines are turning up on AIS indicates the US Navy feels it doesn't have to hide these particular submarines at these specific times.  You'll notice very few SSBN "Boomers" on the list, since they do not show up very often at all; their areas of operation are more secret than the attack submarines. I presume this difference is directly related to their vital role in the nuclear triad; they must stay hidden.  This difference again demonstrates it isn't that the US Navy can't keep a secret, SSN deployments just aren't universally as secret as they may seem to be.

locations where US Navy submarines have last beaconed using AIS-T
(screenshot 2017-06-09 MarineTraffic.com)
Much like the NORAD interceptions of Russian Long Range Aviation flights, or Russian Open Skies Treaty overflights of the United States, the military is under no obligation to share information about these operations with the public, and by policy doesn't.  NORAD does not announce when they intercept Russian Long Range Aviation flights; the only time you hear them on the news is when information is leaked by someone (read: officials at the Pentagon). The USAF doesn't announce when Russian Open Skies Treaty overflights are going on.  Those flights are not secret, as evidenced by their transponders being on, and as they are announced in advance in the Russian news media.  Again, the silence is political.

The following spreadsheet should help you match the Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI), which the submarine transponder identifies itself as, with the true name of the submarine. They usually identify themselves with a generic name like "submarine" or "us submarine"; with a little data aggregation we can fix that.  Special thanks to @lala_zet (どうもありがとうございました) who posted their MMSI / name correlations as well. The MMSI-name correlations I didn't have, I copied, and the ones I had previously, I was able to confirm.

Some of the below, but not all, can be tracked on MarineTraffic.com, if this interests you. The corresponding MMSIs can only be considered "best-guess" in terms of accuracy.


USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN-730) MMSI:
USS Alabama (SSBN-731) MMSI:
USS Alaska (SSBN-732) MMSI:
USS Nevada (SSBN-733) MMSI:
USS Tennessee (SSBN-734) MMSI:
USS Pennsylvania (SSBN-735) MMSI:
USS West Virginia (SSBN-736) MMSI:
USS Kentucky (SSBN-737) MMSI:
USS Maryland (SSBN-738) MMSI:
USS Nebraska (SSBN-739) MMSI:
USS Rhode Island (SSBN-740) MMSI:369970218
USS Maine (SSBN-741) MMSI:
USS Wyoming (SSBN-742) MMSI:369970231
USS Louisiana (SSBN-743) MMSI:369970198
USS Ohio (SSGN-726) MMSI:
USS Michigan (SSGN-727) MMSI:369970203
USS Florida (SSGN-728) MMSI:369970157
USS Georgia (SSGN-729) MMSI:369970181
USS Seawolf (SSN-21) MMSI:
USS Connecticut (SSN-22) MMSI:369970178
USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) MMSI:369970192
USS Bremerton (SSN-698) MMSI:369970170
USS Jacksonville (SSN-699) MMSI:
USS Buffalo (SSN-715) MMSI:
USS Olympia (SSN-717) MMSI:369970212
USS Providence (SSN-719) MMSI:369970008
USS Pittsburgh (SSN-720) MMSI:369970216
USS Chicago (SSN-721) MMSI:
USS Key West (SSN-722) MMSI:366874512
USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723) MMSI:369970211
USS Louisville (SSN-724) MMSI:
USS Helena (SSN-725) MMSI:369970185
USS Newport News (SSN-750) MMSI:369970208
USS San Juan (SSN-751) MMSI:369970217
USS Pasadena (SSN-752) MMSI:369970213
USS Albany (SSN-753) MMSI:369970163
USS Topeka (SSN-754) MMSI:369970227
USS Scranton (SSN-756) MMSI:369970221
USS Alexandria (SSN-757) MMSI:369970165
USS Asheville (SSN-758) MMSI:
USS Jefferson City (SSN-759) MMSI:
USS Annapolis (SSN-760) MMSI:369970166
USS Springfield (SSN-761) MMSI:369970223
USS Columbus (SSN-762) MMSI:369970177
USS Santa Fe (SSN-763) MMSI:369970220
USS Boise (SSN-764) MMSI:369970169
USS Montpelier (SSN-765) MMSI:
USS Charlotte (SSN-766) MMSI:369970172
USS Hampton (SSN-767) MMSI:369970183
USS Hartford (SSN-768) MMSI:369970184
USS Toledo (SSN-769) MMSI:369970226
USS Tucson (SSN-770) MMSI:369970228
USS Columbia (SSN-771) MMSI:369970176
USS Greeneville (SSN-772) MMSI:369970182
USS Cheyenne (SSN-773) MMSI:369970173
USS Virginia (SSN-774) MMSI:369970229
USS Texas (SSN-775) MMSI:369970225
USS Hawaii (SSN-776) MMSI:369970158
USS North Carolina (SSN-777) MMSI:369970159
USS New Hampshire (SSN-778) MMSI:
USS New Mexico (SSN-779) MMSI:369970012
USS Missouri (SSN-780) MMSI:368926259
USS California (SSN-781) MMSI:369970327
USS Mississippi (SSN-782) MMSI:369970328
USS Minnesota (SSN-783) MMSI:369970641
USS North Dakota (SSN-784) MMSI:369970642
USS John Warner (SSN-785) MMSI:369970640
USS Illinois (SSN-786) MMSI:369970957
USS Washington (SSN-787) MMSI:369970958
USS Colorado (SSN-788) MMSI:369970201
USS Indiana (SSN-789) MMSI:369970960
USS South Dakota (SSN-790) MMSI:368926327

(2018-12-16 Edit)

November 03, 2018

We will bury you (in data) - Russian Navy Yantar backgrounder and Summer 2016 Trip Report.

I read the modern propaganda being parroted on social media. Twitter accounts allege to have seen or heard things on the news, with no precise source, but claim it sounded "right", and according to their bias, they believe it to be true. This cycle repeats itself almost daily. It's disappointing, and disheartening, especially when the media is routinely misled by sources who so boldly mislead them. Some (even many) journalists aren't aware at the time, and sometimes are never aware that they've been lied to. Unsuspecting people will parrot the information they get from the media, who are just reporting what they were told, from sometimes-trustworthy and believed-to-be reputable sources, with no idea they're complicit in perpetuating a lie. Thankfully, this isn't the 1950s anymore, and the power to fact-check many topics that were previously exclusive to the government with spy satellites and covert operations is now in the hands of the people. Today, anyone can find someone in Vladivostok and ask them to take a picture of a ship in front of them using their iPhone. It's a whole different world, and the public needs to aggressively fact-check the stories that are being fed to the media by both military and political factions worldwide.

I would like everyone to fact-check the Canadians, fact-check the Russians, fact-check the Americans; fact-check every side. Publish your findings for everyone to read, with facts and references that can be checked. There is nothing more patriotic than proving to the world that your government isn't lying to you. But what if they are, and you expose it..? Well, that's not your fault, now is it?

One of my least favourite pieces of propaganda is the rumour being spread that the Russian Navy AGOR Yantar is tapping and/or preparing to cut/detonate commercial telecom cables that stretch across the Atlantic. I didn't want to get into exactly how this came about, but "anonymous officials" have been less than truthful. I believe US Government leaked statements, through "anonymous" officials, about the ship being capable of cutting cables; the DoD was concerned about their secret military cables that run across the ocean to remote deployments and bases. Somewhere along the way, with or without help from "government officials", the media switched the narrative to direct focus toward commercial telecom cables. "The Internet", they said, was what Russia was after, all of a sudden.

David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt of the New York Times reported October 25th, 2015 that the Russian Navy AGOR Yantar "cruised slowly off the East Coast of the United States on its way to Cuba — where one major cable lands near the American naval station at Guantánamo Bay".

Green = >12.5 Knots, Yantar's top speed is ~14-15
Map Data from MarineTraffic.com
Illustration by Steffan Watkins
(using Google Fusion Tables & Google Maps API)
Slowly? While "slowly" is subjective, there is nothing subjective about the AIS data the ship was transmitting for most of the transit from near Halifax Nova Scotia to Havana Cuba, which shows the ship was at full speed, and with the wind at their backs they even got up past 16 knots. How did Mr Sanger and Mr Schmitt arrive at the conclusion the ship sailed slowly, anywhere? Anonymous government officials? Unfortunately neither Mr Sanger or Mr Schmit fact-checked these claims with OSINT data (to be fair, I didn't check in October 2015 either)

"Off the East Coast" is a frequently used term, that is hugely subjective. Everyone has a different interpretation regarding what constitutes "off the coast". Legally, sovereign territorial waters extend only 12 nautical miles, and the EEZ extends 200 nautical miles; so where was Yantar?  Until they approached Cuba at the end of their transit, their closest point was hundreds of miles away from the coast. Once again, government officials chose to mislead Mr Sanger and Mr Schmitt, rather than provide a verifiable number that could be fact-checked to give an illusion of their proximity to the US coast that simply didn't exist.

Maybe the anonymous government officials didn't want to give the New York Times "Top Secret" US Navy intelligence about the ship's location, but... I just gave you a map. How did I do that? The Russian Navy vessel Yantar is a research vessel, classified as an AGOR, a relatively ordinary, but new and advanced, Russian Navy oceanographic research ship; and while ultimately I'm sure Yantar is doing more than looking for whales, their location isn't a secret to anyone outside The Pentagon. They're broadcasting their location both to AIS satellite based receivers, and terrestrial receivers, for the entire world to watch. They beacon their precise location frequently, every few minutes to local marine traffic over Marine VHF.

Mr Sanger and Mr Schmitt correctly stated the vessel was headed to Havana, but they left fact-based reporting behind when they linked the Russian ship's movements to the Guantanamo Bay cable that comes ashore at the base in Guantanamo Bay. Yantar was never anywhere near Guantanamo Bay's cable demarcation point, or even the South side of Cuba, where Guantanamo Bay is, nor did they stop where the cable was expected to have been laid by USNS Zeus. I speculate this was either a misunderstanding, or deliberate misinformation being sewn by the "anonymous" government officials.

Mr Sanger and Mr Schmitt continued and quoted US Navy Admiral Mark Ferguson, commander of US Naval Forces in Europe. 
"Citing public remarks by the Russian Navy chief, Adm. Viktor Chirkov, Admiral Ferguson said the intensity of Russian submarine patrols had risen by almost 50 percent over the last year. Russia has increased its operating tempo to levels not seen in over a decade." [MISLEADING]
-Russian Ships Near Data Cables Are Too Close for U.S. Comfort, New York Times, October 25, 2015.
If those truisms sound familiar to you, I already went over how both the US Navy and Russian Navy have a symbiotic relationship regarding their bravado, threats, and posturing (here). In short; the Russians promote their successes, and the US increase their already ridiculous military budget to counter their claims, regardless of how hollow, validating the Russian Navy's ego, enabling further peacocking. It's true that the Russian Navy operations are at their highest since the Cold War. That's a truism because there were no submarine patrols when the Soviet Navy fell apart, and any number of patrols now is higher than none.
"Intensity" of Russian submarine patrols is up "Almost" 50% the Admiral said in 2015. That's likely a reference to days at sea, which I explain in the previous blog post too, and we already know those numbers are, at best, 20% of Cold War levels, using declassified CIA data.
Let me paraphrase then, using OSINT to fill-in the blanks that US Navy Admiral Mark Ferguson, commander of US Naval Forces in Europe, left out of his statement:

Russian submarine patrols spent 50% more time at sea, over the year before, raising the number of days spent at sea to almost 20% of what they were during The Cold War, according to declassified CIA assessments of Soviet Navy out of area deployments from the 1980s. -Steffan Watkins, paraphrasing US Navy Adm Ferguson

See how that statement loses a lot of air when you un-cloak the numbers behind it?

Over a month before the New York Times ran their much-quoted piece, seasoned journalist and senior editor of the Washington Free Beacon Bill Gertz published his bombshell piece September 3rd 2015, after being contacted by anonymous Pentagon officials about the same story. For unknown reasons there was no credit given to Mr Gertz in the New York Times piece, so let me review the truth (and un-truths) he was given by the Pentagon officials who were, evidently, trying to get the story out in the media.

"U.S. intelligence (is) closely watching a Russian military vessel in the Atlantic that has been sailing near a U.S. nuclear missile submarine base and underwater transit routes, according to Pentagon officials." [FALSE]&[TRUE]
-U.S. Shadowing Russian Ship in Atlantic Near Nuclear Submarine Areas, Washington Free Beacon, September 3, 2015
See map above; they could have been watching underwater transit routes to and from King's Bay, but they were (arguably) not "near" King's Bay as Mr Gertz' source stated; that's a stretch. Notice that the New York Times didn't mention reconnaissance of paths that US nuclear ballistic submarines transit in their piece over a month later?
"Defense officials (..) say the Yantar is believed to be gathering intelligence on underwater sensors and other equipment used by U.S. nuclear submarines based at Kings Bay, Georgia.[TRUE]
-U.S. Shadowing Russian Ship in Atlantic Near Nuclear Submarine Areas, Washington Free Beacon, September 3, 2015
That's another very important statement the New York Times piece seemed to miss; they are gathering intelligence on US sensors; SOSUS's successors, IUSS, etc.  That seems like the sort of thing any adversary would want to know; where are the hydrophone arrays?
What new technology is being deployed to detect Russian submarines?

"A major target of the program is the Department of Defense Information Network, known as DoDIN. Moscow is seeking to map the global information network that is vital for U.S. warfighters" 
[TRUE]
-U.S. Shadowing Russian Ship in Atlantic Near Nuclear Submarine Areas, Washington Free Beacon, September 3, 2015
Again, it seems the New York Times piece, published over a month later, didn't want to re-publish that the Russian Navy vessel Yantar was reported by Pentagon officials to be looking for US military cables and sensors. Bill Gertz' original piece, over a month before the New York Times published basically the same story, doesn't mention the Russians coming over to attack the Internet at all, so I can't see where they got that idea, unless an anonymous official wasn't trying to distract them from the truth that Mr Gertz published over a month before.

I understand that journalists do not want to accidentally become part of the story, but in my view, "the story" is now why the New York Times changed and omitted so much relevant information from Bill Gertz' original piece, published over a month before, about the exact same topic. I presume the New York Times reached out to Pentagon officials, to confirm the story, but Pentagon officials refused to confirm the most important details from The Washington Free Beacon's piece, so the New York Times didn't run those parts. They obviously read the piece on the exact same topic from their competing news outlet. Isn't it the original Washington Free Beacon piece we should be paying closer attention to, since it has the superset of information? I strongly suspect Bill Gertz was given a bonafied leak that the Pentagon didn't want out in the open. The NYT piece, even unknowingly, encourages speculation about "other" types of cables that aren't DoD related, and obscures the vulnerability of DoD undersea cable infrastructure that exists. I believe that's the crux of the whole issue; there's a vulnerability, the Russians know it, and they're mapping it out.

Russian Navy AGOR Yantar - Summer 2016 Trip Report

All of the above came as a result of the inaugural voyage of Russian Navy AGOR Yantar during their initial shake-down in 2015, where their stated purpose was to test their equipment.  Fast-forward to Summer 2016, when Yantar was operating for ~3 months in the Northern Atlantic and near the GIUK gap; which has provided  several new interesting places to investigate. My analysis focuses on where the Yantar stops. Ships don't loiter in one spot in the middle of a sea or ocean for a day or two on a whim. You can realistically assume that if a ship, which was built for, and carries Russian Navy's most advanced deep sea equipment, is stationary for more than a few hours, that something of note is going on. While Yantar is equipped with lights for night-time work, when reviewing the data, time of day is important to determine if they have stopped somewhere and are waiting for first light before conducting operations. Using GPS-based AIS-data to try and guess what a ship is doing is just that; guessing. I could be wrong with my assessment of any of these locations, but these are my best guesses based on as much information I could find. If you have a better idea, lay it on me!

While writing a piece for Jane's Intelligence Review I studied the entire 2015 tour (+more), and saw scant evidence that any of their stops were over commercial telecom cables, which throws shade on reports that the Yantar's movements are related to tapping or cutting commercial telecom cables. Did I mention those cables are already charted on nautical charts? They're already mapped and known to the shipping industry, in an effort to avoid them being caught by ships' anchors. On that alone people should realize the publicized "The Ruskies are coming for your Internet" story does not hold water. While Yantar is absolutely conducting operations on behalf of the GUGI, which is the department that would do deep sea covert operations. Any covert action would be done covertly with mini-subs, deployed from a stretched-submarine, that acts as a mothership - not Yantar - which is a big steel very-not-stealthy ship. I believe it's perfectly reasonable to believe the Yantar is tasked with reconnaissance to enable future undersea operations. Also, I don't think it's that hard for our military to tell the public those details flat out, rather than trying to make up excuses for why Yantar is an interesting ship to follow.

Using historical AIS-T (terrestrial) and AIS-S (satellite) data from MarineTraffic.com, we can see between May and July 2016 Yantar departed their home port in Olenya Guba|Оленья Губа and stopped in several places that were... interesting.


At each of the big red push pins the Yantar came to a stop. The more pushpins around the spot they stopped, the more times an AIS signal from that location was received by a satellite overhead. The colour of the dots indicates how fast they were going.





Vicinity of the Soviet Navy Submarine K-159
~69.36142, 33.93928
Several stops were made in the Barents Sea immediately outside Murmansk, and one of those was at a site where a Russian Navy submarine (K-159) was lost while being towed to be scrapped, with its two nuclear reactors aboard, killing 9 of the 10 member salvage team aboard the submarine. That story was reported by The Barents Observer here. The environmental survey / report is here.
Close to the site of the Kursk disaster.


They also stopped near the site of the ill-fated Kursk's destruction, despite it not being there anymore. Maybe looking for something they left behind? Were there pieces of the Kursk that were not recovered that they wanted to check in on?





Vicinity of the German Battleship Scharnhorst?
71.9814, 26.96789



Around 2016-06-23 Yantar slowed and may have stopped around 71.9814, 26.96789, which is closer to the wreck of the German Battleship Scharnhorst's official position than the other spot to the NW where they stopped on their way out. There are no indications the two locations are related, but the only item of note in the area that I know of is the Battleship. If it isn't related, then it could be a military undersea cable or sensor, but neither are mapped, suggesting they are not commercially owned.





Arrived: 2016-05-26 for ~12hrs
Location: ~72.54836, 25.08537

Off the Northern coast of continental Norway, this area is composed of sand, clay, and stone, with a depth of around 800-900ft. There are no known cables or wrecks that I was able to find mentioned. The closest bathymetric survey was a German, somewhat nearby, in 1993 (M26-2).

I'm pretty confident it isn't anything pipeline, gas line, or telecom cable related.



The Southern tip of Svalbard, Norway, showing the area the Russian Navy Yantar stopped and examined. Nothing charted.


Three distinct places where Yantar had stopped and hovered.
Between 2016-05-27 and 2016-05-28 ~76.31613, 15.17415 Yantar stopped just outside Norwegian territorial waters, off the Southern tip of Svalbard, and concentrating on three distinct sites; what was it they were focused on? The depth is around 900ft/275m at those locations.

There are no wrecks, cables, pipelines, or geological features there that I could find any reference to. I can find nothing note worthy to stop and look at, but they most certainly didn't stop for a "swimex". As the nautical chart shows, no remarkable undersea features are known to be there. NATO comms cable? Cable running to an undersea sensor? Maybe undersea sensors themselves? I don't know. This is selection by elimination.










Yantar then moved over to the middle of the Fram Strait between Norway and Greenland(Denmark); the very middle. Same story. Granted, the three sources of nautical charts I have on hand don't have a lot of data in that area, but there is nothing that suggests a commercial telecom cable would be in that area, or gas line, or any civilian infrastructure, obstruction, or geological feature. However, that location is in the middle of a choke point, and would be a perfect place to put a sensor; hydrophone or otherwise. Can I prove there is a hydrophone array between Svalbard and Greenland? Of course not. If it isn't a sensor of some kind, what was it? Secret cables? A wreck, or three? At least 3 of their other stops were in proximity to sunken nuclear subs, so I wonder, what submarine losses could have happened covertly? Could these be older wrecks? Could they have been looking for some good crab fishing while they were in the neighbourhood?

They stopped at at least three locations in the same vicinity, and travelled in slow deliberate lines. I believe the red dotted line we're seeing is a search for a cable, rather than a geographically known single point or object, like a sensor or wreck. Cables have a little play and travel, since they get pulled up to be repaired and laid down more or less in the same place again.
Let me use an analogy for the search that explains why the pattern of movement is important; If you had a carpeted living room, with an extension cord hidden in the pile of the carpet, you could walk barefoot where you believe the extension cord is, and find where it is with your toes. To find the cable quickest, you'd walk perpendicular to the cable's presumed direction.
At least, that's what I think that's what we're seeing from the transponder's path. Notice the line of red dots, and the crescent of red dots? It was not a full criss-cross zig-zag like a search pattern for something lost on the bottom.

I believe they are looking for multiple undersea cables that are not charted. I suspect they know cables go from A to B, and are therefore searching in a perpendicular line to the cable's run, in the vicinity they expect the cable.  Hopefully that makes sense without a better graphic to explain it. Compared with the pushpins where the Yantar went directly to a location, and seemed to stop over something, it seems like they're doing more of a sweeping search path for something at those three pushpins in the trench on the map.



In the vicinity of ~71.1265, -10.5407
Jan Mayen is a Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean, but I do not know if it has a current military significance, like providing power for local hydrophones or sensors, but the Yantar stopped on 2016-06-04 at ~71.1265, -10.5407, which is only ~60km from land, and seems to be northeast and very close to a significant sea mount that raises the depth from thousands of feet to only hundreds. Rumour has it hydrophones were positioned in geographically favourable positions for their acoustics. Mounts, cliffs, etc. were reportedly used to position hydrophones at the correct depth to get the best acoustic "view". While it's complete conjecture, it is interesting that NE would be the direction you'd expect Russian submarines to be coming from.

Stopping at a pinch point,
where conventional wisdom would put a hydrophone.
Iceland is one of the founding nations of NATO, and critical to the security of the North Atlantic. At least one set of SOSUS hydrophones was placed NW of the island, and at least one set was placed SE of the island, according to Soviet Navy sources.

Iceland is an island (in case you're unfamiliar with it) and Yantar slowed down and stopped on opposite sides of the island, seeming taking an interest in the NE shore, the shore that faces where Russian Navy subs might potentially be coming from, over the top of Norway. The places they stopped were locations between Iceland, Greenland, and continental Europe; almost like a fence. At the NW side of Iceland they slowed and eventually stopped over an area again ~800-900ft in depth. I'm getting the impression the depth of the water is significant to this investigation.

Right in the middle of the Davis Sill,
a great spot for a hydrophone or sensor?
63.41641,-56.30731
After Iceland, the next stop was getting close to home. Yantar stopped over the Davis Sill; a rise between the Davis Strait and the Labrador Sea, that arguably forces deeply submerged submarines closer to the surface, or sail closer to the bottom, depending how you look at it. This is both a pinch-point, and a location of reduced depth; perfect for identification of submerged submarine using hydrophones, or other sensors. IMO. However, they stopped over a spot which had a depth of ~1400m, but no bathymetric surveys seem to have been done at that exact point, so I'm unsure if there could be a sea mount making the depth less than the surrounding area. Pure speculation. What's in the middle of the Davis Strait that the Russian Navy sailed all the way there to check out? They're a long way from home, and it's undeniably specific; that was no "while we're here" pit-stop. Historically they are very close to a former Cold War sub-hunting base on the West coast of Greenland. It would be an excellent place to put a sensor, I'd think.

Unknown significance
~70.2537,17.2082
Unknown significance
70.25372,17.20824

On the way back from the Davis Strait, Yantar stopped in the Norwegian EEZ, where there is a sandy bottom and a depth of ~820ft. I can't see any significance to this location; no cables, wrecks, etc.












Location of Soviet Navy Mike-Class Submarine K-278 Komsomolets

Finally, something I can put my finger on. They stopped at the location of the Soviet Navy Mike-Class Submarine K-278 Komsomolets, a known wreck that still may have two nuclear torpedoes, if the Americans haven't stolen them, and a fueled reactor. From what I read, the Norwegians are quite concerned with this wreck, and regular surveys are performed by environmental agencies.

I understand that the US Navy, NORAD, and NATO are rather sensitive about publishing where they put their undersea sub-hunting sensors, so I thought... what about the Soviets? Thankfully, there's a lot of expertise out there, and a lot of old documentation from the Cold War that the "Soviets" don't really care about anymore. One such graphic has shown up via two online sources, but I'm very interested in finding the original (for a better scan) or to find more Soviet Navy intelligence files regarding NATO SOSUS/IUSS sensor locations. Why? Because things don't change. From my experience, a mountain top today is just as high and has just as good a view for a long range radar as it did 50 years ago; applying the same idea to the ocean, I would think an old fashioned SOSUS hydrophone array might be obsolete now, but they were all positioned in geographically advantageous positions; I expect those places would be re-used for new sensor systems, which is why I'd like to monitor them for surface activity going forward. Better still, I don't think I'm alone in this pursuit; I'll continue to monitor Russian Navy auxiliary movements and see if they give away the locations of cables or sensor networks, as suggested by their stops at otherwise uninteresting spots.

Soviet diagram of SOSUS locations (original Soviet source unknown) 
Ultimately this circles back to the stories that are being told in the media about Yantar's purpose, claims that it's after telecom cables, that it's after the internet, that the Russians are going to cut the internet and destroy the financial markets. None of the places Yantar stopped stopped in the Summer of 2016 has any connection to the internet or telecom cables. While Yantar could cut cables with the claws of its ROV, it's an overt vessel, and ill-suited for covert operations - cable cutting or tapping would both be covert operations. Yantar's pattern of movement and operations show no signs that they're targeting telecom cables. I believe strongly that they are conducting underwater reconnaissance; helping allies like Iran and Syria with their cable issues, surveying NATO sensor arrays, surveying covert secret cables that are lying around the ocean's floor, checking on lost nuclear weapons on the ocean's bottom, etc.

"Muh, NATO said.."
If you still think Yantar is looking for telecom cables, The Internet, I challenge you to go back and read the quotes from the NATO/NORAD/DoD/USNavy sources to do with the Yantar specifically, and pay particular attention when they speak of Yantar and cables. No military source mentions commercial telecom cables; they all mention cables (wink wink, military cables), and they mention communications (wink wink, NATO/DoD comms), but they do not mention the Internet. The internet story is something the New York Times published in October of 2015, and as far as I understand, misunderstood from the get-go, or were deliberately misled by officials who wanted to cover up what Bill Gertz' article revealed. The September 2015 leak by Pentagon sources to the Washington Free Beacon said nothing about "internet" cables, but did speak of the threat to Secret DoD cables, which makes the earlier article more reputable and accurate.


Credit:

I could not have done this analysis without the help of MarineTraffic.com, and I am very appreciative of the help they have provided. Thank you.

References:

https://infoscience.epfl.ch/record/181564/files/LABA_COVERPOSTER.pdf
https://maps.ngdc.noaa.gov/viewers/bathymetry/
https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/gazetteer/

October 13, 2018

A One-size-fits-all Generic "Russian Navy vessel has crossed the English Channel" blog post

After the last Russian Navy ship that crossed the English Channel, I realized that I was sounding a lot like a broken record, so I figured I'd write a one-size-fits-all blog post regarding Russian (sometimes Russian Navy) ships crossing the English Channel, North or South-bound.

On any given day a Russian-flagged vessel, possibly Russian Navy, is about to, or has already, crossed the English Channel. It could be a research ship, tug, oiler, transport ship, cruiser, submarine, destroyer, corvette, AGI, or other. It might be armed, or unarmed. By policy, the Royal Navy will likely escort the ship through the channel, even though the Royal Navy and NATO have no indications they have any intention of launching a surprise attack on the UK. NATO ships frequently shadow Russian flotillas, but are not mentioned by the Royal Navy, and if the Royal Navy doesn't dispatch a vessel to shadow them, they will likely not mention it to the press unless asked.

This is based on my evidence-based observations; there are patterns that appear over time. I routinely see Twitter accounts portraying themselves as UK citizens saying "This isn't news! They do it all the time!" and I disagree. It's very much news, because they do it all the time.  The UK Ministry of Defence is not compelled to share all operations with the citizens of the UK, or the world, obviously, and it is my view they classify far more than they need. If there are year-to-year metrics published about Russian ships crossing the channel or Russian ships being intercepted while crossing the Channel, I haven't found them yet. All of these numbers and statistics are being used by the UK Secretary of Defence to justify increased defence spending. Without making the data available to scrutiny. We have no evidence to support claims of increased "Russian Navy" aggression around British waters, as has been claimed, and past statements have proven the Honourable Secretary of Defence tends to spin statistics in somewhat misleading ways.

The military's communication team is Public Affairs (PA), the PA's office is at least partially responsible for portraying the military in a favourable light. Their job is not primarily to keep the UK public informed of everything that is occurring in the British Armed Forces on a day-to-day basis. That doesn't mean they don't inform the people, but they are not unbiased, and everything they publish should be at least a little scrutinized to make sure something hasn't been missed.

I've previously spoken poorly of the British tabloid-press, but I have to hand it to the team at The Daily Star UK. While it would seem unlikely from to the paper's reputation for unbridled shameless sensationalism, they've been reporting very accurately on Russian ship movements through the channel. I know they're not the go-to name you think of when you think of Russian Navy analysis, but they're doing real journalism; talking to sources, consulting open source information - it's not all boobs and aliens (but don't worry, they still have those stories too)


But the Russians are in UK Waters!


Russian Navy vessels are infrequently in UK territorial waters, and only when they are they're crossing The English Channel, which they have every right to, so saying they are breaching some sort of territorial boundary is simply untrue. A repeated narrative you may have picked up on are these exclamations (I believe they're goaded on by statements from the British Defence Secretary); the Russians are comingThe Russians are "in British waters"The Russians could strike at any moment with the warships they have surrounding the British Isles.  These narratives are all twaddle. British territorial waters, like everyone's, extend 12 Nautical Miles out to sea. A Russian Navy vessel could drop anchor 30 nautical miles of the UK and there wouldn't be anything wrong with it.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea clearly states that the Russians have every right to cross the English Channel, provided it's a peaceful transit, and the Royal Navy have every right to follow them as they do so, to make sure they don't do anything shifty.  Russian Navy vessels passing the UK on their way to deployments in the Atlantic or Mediterranean are commonplace, and not an indication of immanent hostilities. If you find someone spreading that disinformation, call them out on it. Why call them out? Not worth your time? Don't want to argue with someone?  I sure wish someone had been debunking pre-2016 US election rumours, rather than giving the lunatic fringe a soap box 24x7
(I'm looking at you Fox News)

I hope the news media pays closer attention to propaganda being pushed by the Russians, as well as Western/NATO governments, and demands facts from their defence departments, rather than taking vague statements at face value.

September 27, 2018

You saw a ship on the news, but how do YOU find it using OSINT?

I've had some requests to walk people through, with more detail, how to look up ship-related information, and I'm not hiding any methods, the whole idea is for YOU to be able to loo up your own information for free (or for cheap), and not need to launch your own spy satellite.
(but if you have the chance, you really should - I'm looking at you Elon)

There are many, many, ways to skin this cat. I'm just going to go over one way as an example - this is by no means an exhaustive how-to. There are marine ship registries, forums, accident reports, all sorts of other resources - but I'm going to show you MarineTraffic.com and focus on AIS.

Let's take an article which was in the news and walk you through the process. The first thing is to figure out what is the subset of vessels, out of the tens of thousands presently at sea, that you're interested in. You need to scope out the breadth of your investigation. Here is a good start;

St Helena's cherished lifeline ship to return as anti-piracy armory
Joe Brock - APRIL 17, 2018 / 10:38 PM (original here)
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The RMS St. Helena, Britain’s last working postal ship, was for nearly three decades the main source of contact between one of humanity’s remotest islands and the outside world.
Now the ship, cherished by the 4,500 residents of British-ruled St. Helena, will start a new life as a floating armory, packed with automatic weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles, all stored for maritime security operatives.
Renamed the MNG Tahiti, the 340-foot ship will undergo some tweaks before sailing to the Gulf of Oman where it will be used to ferry guns and guards to passing vessels navigating stretches of water lurking with pirates, its new operator said on Tuesday.
“The ship is good to go with a few adjustments,” said Mark Gray, a former British Royal Marine and founder of floating armory firm MNG Maritime. “By the middle of the year we hope to have her operating.”
Tahiti Shipping, a subsidiary of MNG Maritime, bought the ship for an undisclosed fee on Tuesday, the St. Helena government said in a statement.
The construction last year of a commercial airport on the isolated island in the middle of the South Atlantic rendered the 156-passenger ship obsolete, prompting St. Helena authorities to put it up for sale and begin planning a gala farewell.
Before weekly flights to South Africa began in October, a five-night voyage to Cape Town on the RMS St. Helena was the only major transport route off an island made famous as the windswept outpost where French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte died.
The yellow-funnelled ship was purpose-built by the British government in 1989 to service the island and is the last of a royal mail fleet that once connected the far-flung tentacles of the old British Empire.
Its final voyage was marked with a public holiday on St. Helena, with flag-waving crowds gathering on the rocky coastline to catch one last glimpse of the ship that had delivered them everything from car parts to Christmas turkeys.
A flotilla of fishing vessels and yachts flanked the ship with those on board popping champagne corks as plumes of balloons were released into the sky to cheers from St. Helena residents, known locally as “Saints”.
“I fully appreciate the role this vessel has played in all Saints’ lives,” MNG Maritime’s Gray said. “It is not a responsibility we take on lightly. We will continue to treat her in the manner to which she has become accustomed.”
Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Mark Heinrich (Reuters)
After reading that, do you have more questions than you started with? I sure do. First, how many ships like this does MNG Maritime and their subsidiaries have? What about other floating armouries? ...and where are they? Someone must have already made a list, hopefully with IMO or MMSI numbers which definitively identify the ships that might have duplicate names.

Web search engines like Google and Duck Duck Go will help you greatly, since none of these operations are in any way secret or covert, they are publicly discussed and licensed. These are extremely heavily armed vessels moored in strategic locations around choke points where there is high pirate activity.

Here is a fantastic resource:

"Stockpiles at Sea, Floating Armouries in the Indian Ocean"
written by Ioannis Chapsos and Paul Holtom
http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/A-Yearbook/2015/eng/Small-Arms-Survey-2015-Chapter-08-EN.pdf

Google some more more and you'll soon find this:
https://seenthis.net/messages/688184

From those, you should have a list of a few dozen Vessels of Interest (see what I did there?)

Put all the vessel information you can find in a spreadsheet; with a little luck copy & paste works.

I'm going to use the IMO numbers because they're tied to the ship, whereas the MMSI number change with the registration and ownership. Sometimes you have access to one, or the other - always record both, and the callsign if you have it. Keeping a spreadsheet of the ships you've put information together about is essential. I recommend using Google Docs.

Now we come to the MarineTraffic.com portion of our lesson; 

Create an account, and if you're really into this, pay your yearly pound of flesh and get access to more than the free account offers.  First of all, you need a "fleet" of 50. Their basic account would provide you that. The "fleet" concept groups vessels in whatever category you would like, and allows you to control them in bulk groups easily.

Here are all the IMOs from the aforementioned floating armouries:

8112823
6524230
7027502
8965593
5278432
8107713
8107036
7313432
5427784
8701105
8129084
7406215
9606194
8131386
7412018
7624635
8413174
7353432
7709253
8206105
7911777
7115567
9050101
4908729
8410691
8912572
8333283
8301216
7932006
8003175
7319242
7636339
7392854
8333506

First, search for one of those ships, any one



Click the result, it will open up a details page on that ship


You want to make a new fleet, so click the down arrow beside "Add to default fleet" and scroll to the bottom, select "Add to new fleet". Name it something obvious, like "Floating Armouries"

Now, click the little person icon at the top right, and pull down to "My Fleets"


Select the Floating Armouries fleet you created previously. Notice the "import" line? That's what you want! That's why having a spreadsheet with the list of ships you're tracking is very handy.


Now you're presented with a big empty box for IMO or MMSI numbers; paste the whole list in that box. Any duplicates will disappear, so don't be too careful.



Import, and voila - you have a MarineTraffic fleet with all the Floating Armouries in it.



Then, you can show only the vessels in your fleet at the map view, and exclude all the others so you're not distracted.


You're ready to follow these, or other ships that match your interests, around the globe.


Did I cheat by using a pre-made list that someone else already published in a PDF? Yes. Absolutely. OSINT is all about that sort of "cheating". Use what others have already blazed the trail with, and add to that. There is no reason to start from scratch, but remember to both protect your sources, and credit them - those two things may seem at odds, because they are. I've offended people both by crediting, and not crediting them. I try to error on the side of giving credit publicly, unless someone tells me not to.

Happy hunting!

September 15, 2018

In 2009 the US Navy announced they identified two Russian submarines beyond the US EEZ.

NATO Name: Akula aka Project 971 "Щука-Б"
Unknown photo credit 
The Russian Navy submarine hysteria being propagated from questionable sources and whisper campaigns over social media are out of control. The latest tactic I've noticed isn't a new one, but it's being spun a new way. Here are the original, reputable, reports of the incident from 2009, which is presently being hyped by unknown anonymous actors, clearly in bad faith, as something that's happened in the recent past, and evidence of the resurgent Russian Navy's hostility, or something.
(Apologies to the authors, highlighted bits to draw your eye and make this quicker for everyone, this is not a criticism of the NYT, WaPo, Reuters, or CNSNews):
Russian Subs Patrolling Off East Coast of U.S.
By MARK MAZZETTI and THOM SHANKER (New York Times) 2009-08-04
https://nyti.ms/2kTXJcn
WASHINGTON — A pair of nuclear-powered Russian attack submarines has been patrolling off the eastern seaboard of the United States in recent days, a rare mission that has raised concerns inside the Pentagon and intelligence agencies about a more assertive stance by the Russian military.
The episode has echoes of the cold war era, when the United States and the Soviet Union regularly parked submarines off each other’s coasts to steal military secrets, track the movements of their underwater fleets — and be poised for war.
But the collapse of the Soviet Union all but eliminated the ability of the Russian Navy to operate far from home ports, making the current submarine patrols thousands of miles from Russia more surprising for military officials and defense policy experts.
“I don’t think they’ve put two first-line nuclear subs off the U.S. coast in about 15 years,” said Norman Polmar, a naval historian and submarine warfare expert.
The submarines are of the Akula class, a counterpart to the Los Angeles class attack subs of the United States Navy, and not one of the larger submarines that can launch intercontinental nuclear missiles.According to Defense Department officials, one of the Russian submarines remained in international waters on Tuesday about 200 miles off the coast of the United States. The location of the second remained unclear. One senior official said the second submarine traveled south in recent days toward Cuba, while another senior official with access to reports on the surveillance mission said it had sailed away in a northerly direction.
The Pentagon and intelligence officials spoke anonymously to describe the effort to track the Russian submarines, which has not been publicly announced.
President Obama spoke by telephone with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia on Tuesday, but it was not clear whether the subject of the submarines came up, although another source of friction between the two countries did. Mr. Medvedev called Mr. Obama to wish him a happy birthday and the White House said the president used the opportunity to urge Russia to work through diplomatic channels to resolve rising tensions with Georgia.
The submarine patrols come as Moscow tries to shake off the embarrassment of the latest failed test of the Bulava missile, a long-range weapon that was test fired from a submarine in the Arctic on July 15. The failed missile test was the sixth since 2005, and some experts see Russia’s assertiveness elsewhere as a gambit by the military to prove its continued relevance.
I highlighted the important bits; and to paraphrase, there were two Russian submarines, in the Atlantic ocean, outside US territorial waters, and beyond the EEZ, exactly where they wanted them to be.

Another source, the Wall Street Journal:
Russian Subs Seen Off U.S. East Coast
By Peter Spiegel Updated 2009-08-05 11:59 p.m. ET (Wall Street Journal)
WASHINGTON -- Two Russian attack submarines were detected patrolling the waters off the East Coast of the U.S. in recent days, including one that came as close as 200 miles offshore, according to U.S. military officials.
Although Pentagon officials monitoring the subs' movements didn't consider them threatening, one senior military official said the patrols were unusual, given the weakened state of the Russian navy and the failure of Moscow to conduct such missions in years.
"Is it unusual? Yes, but we don't view it as provocative at all," the official said, adding that both subs remained in international waters at all times. The patrols were reported on the Web site of the New York Times.
During the Cold War, subs from both the U.S. and the Soviet Union regularly patrolled the North Atlantic in an elaborate game of naval brinkmanship intended to track rival fleets and position themselves strategically in case of war.
The senior military official said the two Russian vessels were nuclear-powered Akula class submarines, which were used during the Cold War to track North Atlantic Treaty Organization vessels and, in the event of war, attack enemy subs and ships with torpedoes and missiles. Only larger ballistic-missile subs are used for nuclear-weapons launches.
The Times reported that one of the subs had recently made port in Cuba, but the official said the U.S. has no confirmation of that move and that the second sub is believed instead to have remained close to Greenland.
The submarine patrols are the latest series of recent military operations by the Russians -- many of which Moscow dropped in the years following the Cold War -- which analysts believe are an attempt to reassert the stature of its military.
Last year, a Russian long-range strategic bomber buzzed the U.S. aircraft carrier Nimitz and its accompanying flotilla as the Pearl Harbor-based strike group was patrolling the Pacific.
Two years ago, the Royal Air Force scrambled fighters to intercept Russian strategic "Bear" bombers that were flying patrols close to British airspace.

Reuters had the story too:
Russian general shrugs off U.S. submarine worries
Dmitry Solovyov - 2009-08-05 8:05 AM
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A senior Russian general on Wednesday shrugged off Washington’s concern about Cold War-style patrols of Russian nuclear submarines off the U.S. coast, saying it was business as usual for Moscow to keep its navy in shape.
“I don’t know if it’s news to anyone,” Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Russia’s deputy chief of general staff, told a news conference. “The navy should not stay idle at its moorings.”
He was commenting on a report in the New York Times on Tuesday which said two nuclear-powered Russian attack submarines had been patrolling off the Eastern seaboard of the United States in a mission that was rare for post-Cold War times.
The newspaper said the submarines had not taken any provocative action beyond their presence outside U.S. territorial waters, but Pentagon officials voiced wariness over Russia’s motivation for ordering such an unusual mission.
Nogovitsyn said: “As for their statements, we can also talk about them (U.S. submarines), where they occur from time to time.
“So this (Russian patrols) is a normal process, and those making such statements understand this pretty well.”

Russia, keen to play a more assertive role on the world stage, relies heavily on its still formidable nuclear triad of land-based missiles, nuclear submarines and strategic bombers.
In 2007 it resumed Cold War-style flights of nuclear-capable bombers across the Atlantic.
“This is our right — we felt bored making circles along our internal routes,” Nogovitsyn, a military pilot, said of the decision to resume flights of strategic bombers along NATO borders.
“And you remember how much clamor this caused at the time — just because we started going out on combat patrols,” he said. “But I must tell you that the battle potential of our strategic aviation has only seriously risen since then.”
Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Patrick Graham

CNSNews managed to compile the most complete picture, because their article was three days after the story broke, but I think it still provides a very good view, from the time.
U.S. Unconcerned About Russian Subs off East Coast; Moscow Says Patrol Is Routine
By Patrick Goodenough | August 6, 2009 | 5:03 AM EDT
https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/us-unconcerned-about-russian-subs-east-coast-moscow-says-patrol-routine
(CNSNews.com) – The Russian and United States militaries both played down the significance of two Russian attack submarines patrolling in international waters off the East Coast of the U.S., although the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that it had been years since Russian subs had extended their reach into the region.

“It is the first time … in roughly a decade that we’ve seen this kind of behavior,” Defense Department Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

The New York Times reported that a pair of nuclear-powered submarines – an Akula-class attack boat and a newer Akula-II variant – had been patrolling off the eastern seaboard in recent days.

Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement the submarines were being monitored during transit.

Morrell made it clear the Defense Department was not worried by the incident.

“While it is interesting and noteworthy that they are in this part of the world, it doesn’t pose any threat and it doesn’t cause any concern. So we watch it, we’re mindful of it, but it doesn’t necessitate anything more than that.”

Morrell said as long as the Russian vessels remained in international waters and behaved in a responsible way, they were free to do so.

“Have we had our submarines, our ships off the Russian coast from time to time? Sure. We operate in international waters freely, and they are entitled to do so as well.”

U.S. territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from the shore.

Morrell noted President Obama’s desire to “re-set” relations with Moscow and his comments stressing that the days of Cold War rivalry were past. The U.S. military did not “automatically see threatening motives” in the Russian action, the spokesman added.

In Moscow, the RIA Novosti news agency quoted an unnamed “high-ranking Russian Navy source” as disputing the notion that the presence of the subs so far from home was particularly unusual.

“Even during the fleet’s most difficult times in the mid-1990s, Russian submarines put to sea on active alert for patrols,” the official said. “This practice continues to this day.”

A former top Russian Navy officer told Interfax that the presence of submarines from both countries near each other’s waters was routine.

“U.S. submarines nearly enter our territorial waters near the Kola Peninsula [near Murmansk in Russia’s far north-west] when they receive such a task, and we always detect this,” said Admiral Igor Kasatonov, former first deputy commander of the Navy.


A senior military official told a news conference that the submarine patrol was “normal” part of training to improve crews’ skills.
“Our navy should not be idling its time away, and it is not only about fighting piracy or other international campaigns,” said Gen. Anatoly Nagovitsyn, deputy chief of the General Staff.

“Two Russian Nuclear Submarines Make USA Shake With Fear,” ran the headline on Pravda.ru, a tabloid-style news Web site run by former employees of the newspaper that was the Communist Party mouthpiece during the Soviet era.

Assertive

The Akula II class submarine, called Shchuka-B (Shchuka means Pike) by the Russians, is designed to deploy both torpedoes and nuclear-capable cruise missiles. Only three or four are believed to have been built.

After a period of decline following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country’s military has become active in recent years, a development driven by former president – now prime minister – Vladimir Putin in a bid to reassert Russia’s global influence amid tensions with the West over NATO expansion and missile defense.

In 2007, Putin announced the resumption of Cold War-style long-range flights of strategic bombers that had been halted in the early 1990s.

Last year, two Tupolev Tu-95 bombers buzzed the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean on two occasions, and in September, two Tu-160s landed in Venezuela for military drills.

The Russian Navy has also begun extending its reach and late last year deployed warships to the Western Hemisphere for the first time since the Cold War ended. A taskforce led by a nuclear-powered missile cruiser visited Venezuela for joint exercises and one of the vessels traversed the Panama Canal.

Morrell acknowledged that the past year or two had seen “a greater projection of not just Russian naval power but air power …  clearly there is an effort on their part to project force around the world, or at least to take excursions around the world.”

Tug visit link?

The New York Times report cited a U.S. official saying that one of the submarines was believed to have sailed south towards Cuba.

A little-noticed RIA Novosti report said a salvage tug from Russia’s Northern Fleet, the Altay, would visit Havana this week, in only the second visit by a Russian Navy ship since the end of the Cold War. (Last December’s mission to Venezuela included a Havana port call.)

The visit by the Altay, described by Russian weapons researchers as 4,000-ton, 300 foot long vessel with more than 70 crew, may be linked to the submarine journey –a precautionary measure in case problems arise.

Since the Russian Navy began extending its international presence further from home ports, salvage tugs have routinely accompanied its ships.

A task force sent to the coast of Somalia in late June for an anti-piracy mission included a tug, as did a destroyer-led Northern Fleet group which visited Syria last January.

The flotilla that sailed to Venezuela and Cuba late last year was also accompanied by a tug – and the State Department suggested derisively that its presence suggested there were concerns about ships breaking down: “It was very interesting that they found some ships that could actually make it that far down to Venezuela,” remarked spokesman Sean McCormack at the time.

The Russian Navy has struggled to jettison a reputation for badly-maintained, poorly-equipped ships.

Last November, a deadly accident occurred onboard an Akula II submarine undergoing sea trials in the Sea of Japan ahead of commissioning. Twenty people, sailors and civilian technicians, died after inhaling poisonous gas when the on-board fire suppression system of the Nerpa was activated. The vessel, which was built to be leased to the Indian Navy, sustained no structural damage, and began new trials late last month.

The Nerpa accident was the latest in a series that have dogged the Russian Navy over the past decade.

Nine crewmen perished when a decommissioned nuclear submarine sank in 2003 in the Barents Sea, and in 2006 two crew members aboard an attack submarine anchored in the same area died in a fire.

In the worst accident, an explosion sank the nuclear submarine Kursk in the Barents Sea in 2000, with all 118 sailors lost. The Altay, the tug reportedly visiting Cuba this week, was involved in the operation to salvage the Kursk.

Here we have an undated version of the same story, planted at "Alternet". Alternet positions itself as a alternative news site, where you get the *real* news.
Russian subs near US coast pose no threat: Pentagon
https://www.alternet.org/rss/breaking_news/78858/russian_subs_near_us_coast_pose_no_threat%3A_pentagon
(no date, no author)
Russian submarines patrolling off the US east coast are not cause for concern and pose no threat to the United States, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
 "A Russian Akula class nuclear submarine. Russian submarines patrolling off the US east coast are not cause for concern and pose no threat to the United States, the Pentagon said on Wednesday."
"So long as they are operating in international waters -- as, frankly, we do around the world -- and are behaving in a responsible way, they are certainly free to do so and it doesn't cause any alarm within this building," press secretary Geoff Morrell said at a Pentagon news conference.
US Northern Command issued a brief statement earlier that it was monitoring the submarines, which Morrell said were several hundred miles (kilometers) off the eastern coastline.
Morrell said he was unsure if Moscow gave Washington advance notice but the US military "had the means to derive where they were going."
Morrell played down the episode, saying: "While it is interesting and noteworthy that they are in this part of the world, it doesn't pose any threat and it doesn't cause any concern."
He acknowledged that US submarines have operated off the Russian coast "from time to time" as well, in international waters.
The New York Times first reported the presence of two Russian nuclear-powered, Akula class submarines off the American coast, the first such move in years that carried echoes of Cold War tensions.
The speedy Akula vessels, which can carry cruise missiles, are attack submarines used for spying, guarding warships and tracking nuclear bombers.
Russia neither confirmed or denied that its submarines were patrolling near US territory, but suggested there was undue "hysteria" in this case.
"Activities of Russian submarines in the world's oceans outside their own waters do not violate international maritime law and are within normal practice," a military-diplomatic source told ITAR-TASS news agency.
Russia regularly makes its position on international issues known through unnamed sources quoted by state media, and the country's three main news agencies ran nearly identical reactions to the report, quoting a military-diplomatic source.
"The Russian navy systematically pinpoints the location of NATO submarines, including US Navy submarines, in direct proximity to the territorial waters of the Russian Federation," Interfax news agency quoted the source as saying.
"This however has never been a reason to make a lot of noise in the press," the source said, adding: "Consequently, any hysteria in such a case is inappropriate."
During the Cold war, Moscow and Washington routinely sent submarines near each country's coastline to gather intelligence and track fleet movements.
The patrols near the US Atlantic coastline follow Moscow's symbolic shows of force in the past year, with Russian warships carrying out exercises with Venezuela and Russian bombers buzzing a US aircraft carrier in the Pacific.
President Barack Obama has sought to defuse tensions with Moscow over US plans for a missile defense system in Central Europe.
I ran into the above article being quoted by anonymous unidentified individuals on Twitter who were using it as "PROOF" that there were Russian submarines spotted very recently in American waters; recent, as in yesterday, last week, or last month - it was always in the immanent past, and the article, being undated, allowed that misinformation to trundle on.  Were these people misinformed and continuing to pass on their misinformation? Were these malicious state sponsored actors trying to push disinformation? I have no idea, but it did come up several times, and nobody ever referenced the original 2009 articles - it was always a sketchy source, portrayed as recent.

Let me introduce you to disinformation-central; a web site named "Ask Deb", which portrays itself as a helpful how-to site, where you can get a recipe for a bundt cake, or commentary on claims of Russian submarines off the East Coast - you know, the usual.


Why Are Russian Submarines Patrolling the United States Coast?
Posted on March 16, 2018 by Deb in Bizarre, News
https://www.askdeb.com/news/why-are-russian-submarines-patrolling-the-united-states-coast/ 
If reading that headline gave you an 80s flashback, you’re not alone. People are surprised to find out that two Russian attack submarines have been spotted this week within a stone’s throw, submarine-wise, of the United States. (FALSE) The sighting of the two nuclear subs represents the first major sighting of Russian submarines since the days of the Cold War (FALSE)
The Pentagon has confirmed — two Russian attack submarines have been “patrolling the waters” off the East Coast of the United States in the past week (FALSE), including one submarine that came as close as 200 miles offshore. Although Pentagon officials (who have been monitoring the sub’s movements) didn’t consider the sub’s presence as a threat, one senior military official said the patrols were “unusual”. We have to remember that Russia today is not the same as it was twenty or thirty years ago. Their navy is weak, and there haven’t been submarine missions like this in decades.
The Pentagon has determined that the sub’s presence is not “provocative”, and officials were quick to point out that both nuclear subs stayed in “international waters” during the entirety of their partrol.
This story “broke” early this week when the sightings were reported via an online edition of the New York Times. (FALSE)
For those with a short memory, or who were born after the Cold War, these patrols were once quite normal. In fact, during the course of the Cold War, submarines from both the U.S. and the Soviet Union made regular patrols in the North Atlantic. It was a kind of game — an elaborate burlesque show of naval capability in which both sides showed off their skills at tracking and targeting rival positions. The patrols in the North Atlantic were also meant to indicate to the other side that both sides would be ready in case of war.
The same senior military official quoted saying that the patrols are not an act of aggression released the following info on the Russian boats — both vessels are nuclear powered “Akula class” submarines. These are the same subs that were used during the hottest part of the Cold War to track NATO ships. “Akula class” subs would likely have been the first line of a Russian offensive had that war gone fully hot. “Akula class” boats have the ability to attack with both torpedoes and missiles. While we refer to them as “nuclear subs”, don’t be alarmed — this class of sub only relies of nuclear energy for its power. It takes much larger ballistic missile firing submarines to launch nuclear weapons.
There are a few unconfirmed aspects of the New York Times story — for instance, the Times reported that one of the pair of submarines most recent move was to put in port in Cuba. The Pentagon specifically mentioned that there is no confirmation of that fact, and that the US military instead believes that submarine hung back near the coast of Greenland.
So why are the Russians sending out nuclear submarines now? (FALSE) The fact that we’re even asking that question may give us the answer. The Russian navy is the laughingstock of powerful navies — after the Cold War, Russia couldn’t support the kind of military force they’d built up, and many programs were scrapped. The recent showy submarine patrols are just the latest in a series of military operations by the Russians designed to show that they’re not dead in the water. (JFC)
Last year, for instance, a Russian long range strategic bomber came out of nowhere and “buzzed” the U.S. aircraft carrier Nimitz and its escorts while that particular strike group was making a regular patrol of the Pacific Ocean. (FALSE) Two years ago, the British Royal Air Force went so far as to scramble fighters in order to intercept Russian strategic bombers that were flying patrols a bit too close to UK territorial air space.
(TRUE, by accident - it happens yearly) An American naval expert quoted in the New York TImes article said it was “probably 15 years since Russia had put two nuclear subs in such proximity to their former Cold War rivals.” (FALSE)This morning, the Russian military establishment finally responded to the news. (FALSE) An unnamed Russian official says patrols in international waters are “routine”, and that there was no need for “hysteria”. Another senior Russian general has shrugged off Washington’s concerns, according to the New York Times, saying it was “business as usual” for Moscow to keep its navy in shape. The specific quote — “I don’t know if it’s news to anyone,” Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Russia’s deputy chief of general staff, said. “The navy should not stay idle at its moorings.”
In 2007, Russia (which is ready to play a more serious role on the world stage) resumed Cold War era flights of nuclear ready bombers across the Atlantic Ocean. Consider this movement into the ocean part of the plan.(FALSE) Russia relies heavily on its so called “nuclear triad” — land based missiles, nuclear submarines and strategic bombers.
Before anyone panics, remember — the submarines have not taken any “provocative action” besides their mere presence, and that presence is in international waters.

The Tu-95 "buzzing" the Nimitz incident happened n 2007 (here) and frankly I don't think I need to review each point and debunk it; it's clearly ripped off the events of 2009, and frames the events as happening in 2018, claiming it's news, which it isn't. I could not find any valid contact information to get AskDeb to remove this twaddle, but their Twitter account has been permanently suspended, I suspect for pushing disinformation and propaganda.

By stealing whole sections of prior articles, and using a healthy dose of truisms and history to lend them credibility, is a good way to make a plausible article. I believe these are traits of an information operation to gain the reader's trust, and have them blend memories in their head. People may remember something about bombers, Alaska, submarines... this fills in those banks, originally sewn by reputable sources, and now filled with completely made up details that support a false narrative of things that didn't happen at all, or didn't happen as they have been portrayed in the correct time frame.

What can we do to stop this?

We have to all be critical thinkers, and use reputable sources. Despite the occasional hard time I give journalists working for the mainstream media, they are far more accurate at reporting the news than a random site such as "AskDeb". Listen to the mainstream media, even if they have their issues, they are more reputable and more accurate than most of the alternative sources. Really.
https://ria.ru/defense_safety/20170908/1502111265.html