U.S. Navy Tracks Russian Vessel off Hawaii Coast Near Missile Range

The U.S. Pacific fleet is closely tracking a Russian Navy surveillance ship which has been operating off the coast of Hawaii near a crucial American missile range.

The U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) reported that the vessel off the coast of Kauai for the last few days was the Russian Navy Vishnya-class auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) ship Kareliya.

The ship is operating just outside of U.S. territorial waters, around 13 nautical miles west of the island.

International waters start at 12 nautical miles from a sovereign coastline.

Kauai is the location of the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, which is used by the Navy and Missile Defense Agency to test-fire missiles.

The site is a range where submarines, surface ships, aircraft and space vehicles can operate and be tracked simultaneously.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the Russian ship had delayed a Missile Defense Agency missile test.

U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. John Gay said in a statement that the U.S. Navy was "aware of the Russian vessel operating in international waters in the vicinity of Hawaii," adding that it would continue "to track it through the duration of its time here."

"Through maritime patrol aircraft, surface ships and joint capabilities, we can closely monitor all vessels in the Indo-Pacific area of operations," Gay said.

Gay did not mention the ship's name.

The ship had not been broadcasting an automatic identification system (AIS) signal, USNI reported, but it had been operating within international law and is not believed to pose a navigation danger.

Kareliya is among seven Russian Navy AGIs that specialize in signals intelligence operations. These are common among rival Navies and involve an adversary's transmissions being intercepted and deciphered.

Commissioned in 1986, the vessel was repaired and upgraded between 2014 and 2017 before it returned to Russia's Pacific Fleet. The fleet is based in the port city of Vladivostok, according to local Russian television station Vestiprim.

The U.S. Navy's observation of the Russian vessel comes as tensions between Moscow and Washington, D.C. continue to mount.

It also follows a number of escort missions by Russian MiG-31 fighter jets of U.S. reconnaissance aircraft over the Pacific Ocean in Russia's far east.

In March, Russia's Navy test-fired a supersonic anti-ship cruise missile from the Moskva in the Black Sea ahead of NATO military exercises.

The Russian and U.S. presidents, Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden will meet in a summit on June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland, in which there is hope that tensions between the countries can be defused.

Newsweek has contacted the U.S. Pacific Fleet and the Missile Defense Agency for comment.

Missile test in Kauai, Hawaii in 2007
A Missile Defense Agency test takes place in Kauai, Hawaii in this illustrative image from 2007. The U.S. Pacific Fleet is watching a Russian vessel that has parked near the missile range. U.S. Navy/Getty Images