This post has been updated with a statement from U.S. Nothern Command.
A U.S. destroyer is off the coast of Havana, Cuba, shadowing a detachment of Russian naval ships that includes one of the country’s most advanced surface ships, USNI News has verified.
As of Tuesday morning, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) was roughly 50 nautical miles north of Havana and about 72 miles from Key West, Fla., operating in the Straits of Florida, according to publicly available ship location data reviewed by USNI News.
A day earlier, Russia’s first-in-class frigate Admiral Gorshkov arrived in Havana. Admiral Gorshkov was joined by support vessel Elbrus and salvage tug Nikolay Chiker, according to several media reports.
Navy officials told USNI News they were aware of the Russian detachment’s arrival in Cuba and were monitoring its activities. The same officials referred USNI News to U.S. Northern Command for more information on Dunham.
In a statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday morning, NORTHCOM said, “We are aware of the deployment of the Russian ship Gorshkov and are taking steps to actively track it. We won’t discuss all measures being taken, but NORAD is conducting air operations in defense of the U.S. and Canada and USNORTHCOM has deployed maritime assets to track Gorshkov.”
The first-in-class Admiral Gorshkov departed its homeport of Severomorsk, on the Barents Sea, on Feb. 26. This around-the-world cruise is the ship’s first significant deployment, according to a Russian Navy statement. Admiral Gorshkov made port calls to Djibouti, Sri Lanka and China. The frigate also visited Ecuador before passing through the Panama Canal, according to the Russian Navy.
The Russian Navy did not release information about Admiral Gorshkov’s visit to Cuba, only stating that “the Russian ships will continue to perform tasks in accordance with the long-range cruise plan and make business calls to the ports of some island states in the region.”
During the past decade, Russian naval ships have periodically visited Cuba, according to several media accounts, including a post from PBS News Hour.
In the last several years, the Russian signals intelligence ship Viktor Leonov also has visited Cuba.
The Admiral Gorshkov class of frigates has a displacement of 4,500 tons, a top speed of 29 knots and a crew of about 210, according to an account posted on English-language Russian news site RT Sputnik. The ship features a modern Russian vertical launch system and a variety of anti-ship and land-attack missiles that parallel capabilities of modern U.S. and allied surface combatants.
The ship is the first of a new generation of Russian Navy surface ships that have been developed since the end of the Cold War. Russian surface forces have lagged behind their submarine counterparts, with limited deployments of surface action groups relative to submarines.