A senior Pentagon official has confirmed that the US ‘oceanographic ships,’ which are operating in waters off the coast of Russia, are actually gathering intelligence on the country.
The US military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, made the remarks in response to a question asked by a Fox News reporter.
He was commenting on a Russian intelligence ship which was spotted off the coast of Kings Bay, Ga., home to the American Navy’s East Coast ballistic missile submarine fleet.
When asked if the US has a similar intelligence ship near Russia, the official said, “Of course we do, what do you think all those ‘oceanographic ships’ are doing, studying whales?”
There are currently six Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, known as “boomers,” at the US sub base in Georgia.
The submarines are each capable of firing 24 Trident intercontinental ballistic missiles, which each holds up to 10 independent nuclear warheads.
In addition, the US Military has two other guided-missile subs capable of firing hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region.
On the Russian intelligence ship, another Pentagon official said the vessel, which is capable of cutting undersea communications cables and other sensors, is now about 300 miles off the coast of the US.
US military satellites have been tracking the Russian ship since August when it was first spotted in the north Atlantic and it slowly began to move toward its next destination, Cuba.
The official said the Pentagon is still tracking the vessel which “remains in international waters”.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has recently described Russia as a "very, very significant threat" to the national security of the United States.
"Vladimir Putin's Russia behaves, in many respects, as -- in some respects and in very important respects, as an antagonist. That is new. That is something, therefore, that we need to adjust to and counter," Carter said at a Pentagon press conference on August 20.
The ties between Washington and Moscow deteriorated after US-backed forces ousted Ukraine’s elected president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
The US and its allies have been accusing Moscow of sending troops into eastern Ukraine in support of the pro-Russian forces, but Moscow has strongly denied involvement in Ukraine's crisis.