In my three earlier pieces on the British-Russian naval confrontation on the Black Sea, or the information war about whether there was a confrontation, I noted that it appears the Russians spoofed the British destroyer’s position. It now appears they have done it again, just yesterday – to a U.S. destroyer.
The first incident of automatic identification system (AIS) spoofing in the Black Sea took place on June 18 and was reported several days later by USNI News. This spoofing showed the British destroyer HMS Defender together with the Royal Netherlands Navy frigate Evertsen sailing within just two nautical miles of the Russian naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea, according to MarineTraffic.
In reality, live webcam feeds showed that the two warships remained in the harbor the entire time some 180 miles away, in Odessa, where they had arrived earlier in the day.
As reported, after that AIS spoofing event, HMS Defender did indeed sail close to Crimea with the United Kingdom claiming that the warship was “conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”
As I noted though, in an apparent information war, claims and counter-claims followed, including Russia releasing video of supposed warning shots fired from a Russian Border Guard patrol boat. However, as The Drive notes, “Defender was so far away at the time that it may well not have been aware that this fire was being directed at it, which is what the British authorities had claimed at the time.”
Now we have a new spoofing incident involving the USS Ross which is currently in the region to take part in the latest iteration of the annual U.S. Navy-led Sea Breeze exercise. The American destroyer entered the Black Sea on June 26, according to the U.S. Navy. And yesterday, reports The Drive, its position was also spoofed:
… MarineTraffic and VesselFinder, aggregators that provide real-time information on ship movements, showed USS Ross sailing very close to the Crimean coast, causing a big stir in the online open source intelligence community. If true, this would have put the ship closer to the Russian-occupied peninsula than the U.K. Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender had been on June 23. In that instance, the British ship had sailed within around 10 miles of Crimea, prompting a response from Russia’s security forces.
U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Ross currently sailing within Ukrainian territorial waters, quite close to Crimea. pic.twitter.com/PVik1tNJcH
— Doge (@IntelDoge) June 29, 2021
However, while online ship tracking appeared to show that USS Ross was underway very close to Crimea, accompanied by the Ukrainian Matka class hydrofoil patrol boat Priluki, also known by its hull number U153, in reality, the U.S. Navy destroyer was sitting in a harbor. This was initially evidenced by a live webcam feed hosted on YouTube that shows the vessel in the Ukrainian port of Odesa.
AIS (Automated Identification System) tracks which appear to show USS Ross ((DDG-71) off Crimea right now appear to be falsified. A live webcam in Odessa shows her berthed there as expected.#OSINT pic.twitter.com/3E82eikFTs
— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) June 29, 2021
The official Twitter account for the exercise also confirmed that the U.S. destroyer was in the port of Odessa when the online tracking showed it off Crimea.
— Exercise Sea Breeze (@ExSeaBreeze) June 29, 2021
While Russia’s involvement in the spoofing can’t be confirmed, it is the most likely culprit. In the past, there has also been GPS spoofing traced to the Russians in the Black Sea. Ultimately, eroding the trust in this public data among foreign observers and the military could benefit Russia. ADN