Russian spy ship sunk by sheep barge; sheep (and sailors) unhurt

A veteran of the Cold War and a recent participant in Russian operations off Syria has been sent to the bottom of the Black Sea by a boat full of sheep. The 47-year-old Russian intelligence collection ship, the Liman, sank on April 27 after a collision in the Black Sea with a Togo-flagged livestock carrier carrying sheep from Romania to Jordan. The sheep-carrying Youzarsif H suffered only slight damage to its bow, but the Liman suffered a rupture in its hull below the waterline.

Designated by the Russian Navy as a “medium reconnaissance ship” (“Средний разведывательный корабль”), the Liman was smaller than more recently constructed, purpose-built intelligence ships like the Leonov (the spy ship that traveled up the US East Coast in February). Originally built as a hydrographic survey ship in 1970, it was converted in 1989 into a signals-intelligence collection ship, a class of vessels known in US naval parlance as AGIs (auxiliary, general intelligence). The conversion added passive underwater acoustic sensors along with electronic warfare equipment for collecting radio and radar signals.

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