U.S. Coast Guard Spots Russian and Chinese Warships Off Aleutians

A crewmember aboard Kimball watches a Chinese PLA Navy vessel off Kiska (USCG)

Published Sep 26, 2022 7:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

Last week, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter crew spotted a Chinese cruiser off the coast of Kiska, an uninhabited island in the western Aleutian chain. It turned out to be accompanied by multiple Chinese and Russian naval vessels, all operating inside the U.S. exclusive economic zone. 

Kimball's crew identified the cruiser as the Renhai, pennant CG 101. It was accompanied by two more Chinese warships and four Russian Navy vessels, including a destroyer. All were in formation with Renhai as a combined surface action group. 

The location of the sighting was about 75 miles to the north of Kiska. This is outside of U.S. territorial seas, but well within the U.S. EEZ.

After this group encountered USCGC Kimball, it dispersed. Kimball will remain in the area to watch for further movements, according to 7th Coast Guard District. “While the formation has operated in accordance with international rules and norms,” said Rear Adm. Nathan Moore, Seventeenth Coast Guard District commander, “we will meet presence-with-presence to ensure there are no disruptions to U.S. interests in the maritime environment around Alaska.”

Last fall, Coast Guard cutters in the Bering Sea and North Pacific also encountered Chinese naval vessels, including a surface action group with a cruiser and a destroyer about 50 miles off the Aleutian chain. The USCG dispatched an icebreaker and two national security cutters (Bertholf and Kimball) to escort the flotilla. 

Russia's Pacific Fleet and the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) have increased joint operations and movements in the North Pacific since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. In June, substantial Russian and Chinese surface action groups transited around Japan's home islands, drawing the attention of the Japanese Ministry of Defense.