A Russian tug has been operating off Florida for some weeks. What is it doing over so far from home?
The Russian “Nikolay Chiker” is an ocean tug that has often deployed alongside Russian Navy’s high value assets. According to Information Dissemination, the ship accompanied Russia’s spy ship Viktor Leonov to Cuba last month, before moving off Florida, where it was parked on Mar. 15, ahead of the launch of Dragon spacecraft (Space Shuttle Orbiter replacement) on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket scheduled of Mar. 16 from the SLC-40 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
However, the SpaceX launch was delayed and, since then, the ship has moved back and forth along U.S. East coast: it headed southbound, has made a port visit to Curacao, then it has operated in the Caribbean Sea and eventually returned more or less where it was on Mar. 15 and it is right now: off Cape Canaveral.
The fact that the tug moved off Cape Kennedy in the days of the scheduled launch of SpaceX and returned there in anticipation of the new launch window suggests that the “Nikolay Chiker” is somehow interested in observing the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft on the company’s third commercial resupply mission and fourth visit to the space station.
However, there’s someone who suggested that the ocean tug is actually supporting Russian nuclear attack submarines monitoring U.S. Navy East coast bases.
Hard to say.
For sure the Russian tug is not there by accident. During the Cold War, Russian and Americans have monitored each others special special operations, military exercises, invasions, maiden flights etc. This is not changed with the collapse of the USSR. On the contrary, close encounters (as the one in the Black Sea) and reciprocal snooping are probably going to increase.
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