INS Vikramaditya was spied upon by NATO while the aircraft carrier was being put through sea trials in the summer of 2012. Later, the matter was taken up at the diplomatic level too, but the issue was hushed up.
INS Vikramaditya, India’s largest aircraft carrier, is safely in the Indian Navy’s hands now, and will begin its journey home shortly. But in 2012, there was an incident that created a major stir on board the massive ship as it was put through trials at sea off the Russian coast.
INS Vikramaditya was spied upon by NATO forces.
Then Headlines Today Deputy Editor Shiv Aroor, the first Indian journalist on board the aircraft carrier, has accessed exclusive images of that disturbing incident that was even taken up at the diplomatic level.
The images show a NATO maritime spy aircraft repeatedly buzzing over INS Vikramaditya in an attempt to snoop on her communications and combat signatures. Never before revealed, these images captured from the deck of the ship show how the US-built P-3C Orion “buzzed” the ship just a few hundred feet over her deck and circled her in an attempt to harvest classified electronic and acoustic data about the vessel.
The snooping operation created such a stir that the Russian team on board the Vikramaditya summoned a Russian Navy MiG-29K from a shore base to chase away the intruding aircraft.
The spy aircraft beat a hasty retreat once the MiG-29K arrived on the scene.
During the spying mission, the P-3C aircraft dropped two sensor buoys into Vikramaditya’s immediate path in such a way that the ship sailed right through the gap between the two red bobbing devices, allowing the aircraft to record acoustic signatures.
Later, the Russian government sent photographs of the intrusion, including pictures of the sensor buoys, to the US Embassy in Moscow and NATO headquarters, but has received no reply yet.
Both the Indian Navy and the shipyard that modernised the Vikramaditya confirmed the incident but were tightlipped about the details of how much data about the battleship may have been compromised.
The NATO aircraft chose the early summer of 2012 when the sea was calm and the relative silence of neutral waters interfered least with sounds emanating from a ship – ideal conditions for airborne electronic snooping.
In another attempt to listen in on Vikramaditya’s communications and electronic emanations, a Norwegian ship attempted to snoop on the ship shortly after the airborne spying mission.
The vessel, known to have specialised electronic equipment on board that allows the recording of acoustics from a distance, came fairly close to the Vikramaditya.
By that time, command and crew on board the aircraft carrier had made her go near totally silent.
The spygame between NATO and Russia remains intact years after the end of the Cold War, with both sides routinely intercepting and escorting “stray” aircraft, or attempting to snoop on aircraft and ship movements near maritime boundaries.
However, the fact that the snooping incident was on an Indian ship was a surprise.
When our #TopSecret double encrypted Naval Codes were hacked by the Americans during the height of #KargilWar. Read more about it in our book India in Cognitive Dissonance 》 https://t.co/TQfnGHmUTt pic.twitter.com/2Co21mHCGf
— GreatGameIndia (@GreatGameIndia) September 21, 2019
In September 2019, in a breach of national security, INS Vikrant, India’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) was hit by an espionage attack where a hard disk and a multi function control (MFC) processor were stolen from the ship docked at the Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL). It s believed that India’s Naval Warfare Strategy was stolen in the attack. Read more at Espionage At INS Vikrant – India’s First Aircraft Carrier.
GreatGameIndia is a journal on Geopolitics and International Relations
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