She’s at it again- the Russian Signals intelligence ship Viktor Leonov is trolling the waters around US Navy bases once more, marking her return since being last tracked in March 2018. From the article appearing in the Washington Times:
U.S. officials have said the mission of the Leonov is to gather intelligence on nuclear missile submarines and other Navy facilities.
Interest by U.S. intelligence in the Russian ship has increased since Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed in March 2018 that one of several superweapons being developed by Moscow is a high-speed underwater drone code-named Kanyon by the Pentagon that will be armed with a very large nuclear warhead.
The Leonov is likely conducting operations related to future use of the Kanyon, known as the Status-6 in Russia, that will be capable of destroying entire ports and harbors.
The Leonov, one of the aging Vishnya-class, was purpose built for collecting Signals Intelligence as well as other special missions, such as conducting electronic warfare. While the article speculates that the Leonov is collecting information on the possible future use of Status-6, its more likely that its business as usual collecting anything they can on the current rotation of the SSBN fleet. The ship has been operating in and out of Havana since 2015.
Status-6 on the other hand is an interesting note in the article. Being brought to light a few years ago, the project is to equip a submerged drone with a medium yield nuclear warhead. While its been said that the strategy behind the weapon is to attack harbors, it would make more tactical sense to use such a weapon to attack the Carrier Battle Group.