CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the following story indicated the Russian Navy has never been invited to the Rim of the Pacific exercise series when in fact the Russian Navy was invited to RIMPAC 2012. The post has been amended to reflect the change.
ABOARD USS AMERICA, NEAR HAWAII — A Russian destroyer shadowed the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) on July 16 and 17 during the Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise, generally staying about one or two nautical miles away but at times coming as close as about 1,000 yards, USNI News observed.
The Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Vinogradov (DD-572) approached America around 5 p.m. local time on July 16 and shadowed the warship all night and well into the next day.
The destroyer appeared at one point to peel away and sail toward USS San Diego (LPD-22) an amphibious transport dock sailing in the same amphibious readiness group (ARG) but then turned back to America.
At the time, America was sailing in international waters, San Diego was closer to U.S. territorial waters.
Though the Russian ship at times had its bow pointed directly at America and was closing in, America commanding Capt. Michael Baze said Russian CO was experienced and acting professionally and was “definitely doing a really good job maneuvering the ship” at such close proximity.
“The fact is that this Udaloy is here, he’s in international waters — like we are — and so he’s enjoying the coast of Hawaii — like we are – but we’re all acting like professional mariners and it’s safe,” he told USNI News on America’s bridge.
“It’s interesting training for our crew because any time we do formations like… it’s navigation training for us.”
Even as the Russians observed the U.S. ship, America’s sailors used binoculars to take in the weapons, crew, awards painted on the side of the hull and the material condition of the Russian destroyer.
Admiral Vinogradov had sailed towards other amphibious ships in the ARG earlier during the exercise but only followed them for a few hours before breaking off. The destroyer’s shadowing of America was the most extended action thus far between Vinogradov and other ships in the multinational exercise to which Russia has been invited to in 2012.
USNI News understands that the Russian ship would be free to operate in international waters as long as it stayed at least 500 yards away from America. Getting close would bring warnings and eventually the U.S. ship could use its weapons to protect itself.
America’s CO Baze stressed that the Russian CO and the ship’s crew operated safely and professionally – despite the close proximity. America continued with its role in exercise, despite the visitor.
The 44,850-ton America is the first in a new class of amphibious warship and commissioned in 2014.
Earlier this month, USNI News reported the Russian Navy sent an uninvited signals intelligence ship to monitor the international exercise.