J’Arrive! French Spy Ship Heads Into the Black Sea
Ukraine crisis will give Dupuy de Lome plenty of signals to collect
The French spy ship Dupuy de Lome is in the Black Sea. Which also happens to be an excellent location for snooping on Russian military communications.
“The French intelligence ship is now stationed in the western Black Sea, 30 miles away from the port of Varna,” a Russian military source told RIA Novosti. Varna is home to Bulgaria’s largest seaport.
This is not the first Black Sea trip by the Dupuy de Lome. The warship watchers at Bosphorus Naval News photographed the ship passing through the Turkish Straits on April 11. The ship was ostensibly heading to Bulgaria to participate in exercises.
During the trip, the French vessel followed the U.S. destroyer Donald Cook, which was buzzed by a Russian jet last month. Russian media reports the spy ship was in the Black Sea from April 11 to April 30, during the height of the Crimean crisis that saw the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia.
The 3,100-ton Dupuy de Lome carries a crew of 108. It’s equipped with an array of listening gear to detect and analyze radio and radar signals. The ship is designed to next transmit those signals to France’s Directorate of Military Intelligence.
With Russian forces in the newly-annexed Crimea—including the key Black Sea port of Sevastopol—as well as massing forces along the Ukraine’s eastern border, the Dupuy de Lome likely has access to a rich buffet of signals intelligence.
There’s also another interesting ship at work. In March, the French navy’s diving support ship Alize was reportedly operating in the Black Sea. Alize transports combat divers belonging to France’s DGSE intelligence agency. Combat divers can tap into underwater cables, or conduct reconnaissance and sabotage.
However, one problem is that the passage of military vessels through the Turkish Straits and into the Black Sea is governed by the Montreux Convention of 1936. Aircraft carriers and submarines are forbidden passage into the Black Sea, and non-Black Sea nations can only have a maximum of nine ships totaling no more than 45,000 tons, and those ships cannot remain the Black Sea more than 21 days.
Russia accused the U.S. of violating the Montreux Convention, claiming that the frigate USS Taylor stayed at a Turkish port for 11 days over the limit. The U.S. has promised to abide by the treaty.