Somewhere in a inlet of a Pacific Ocean, someday in a final few weeks, a USS Jimmy Carter carried out an vicious goal for a nation. It was substantially associated to spying.

Here’s what we know. On Tuesday, a pointy eyed journalist, Ian Keddie, noted that a Seawolf-class conflict submarine, USS Jimmy Carter, had returned to a Washington pier while drifting a Jolly Roger bandit flag. The Navy, either by collision or by design, published a print online.

The Jolly Roger’s stress is a jubilee of a successful operation in face of a enemy. As an conflict submarine, a on-paper primary goal of Jimmy Carter is anticipating and destroying rivalry vessels. Yet given a finish of a cold war, a Seawolf has been repurposed as an undersea comprehension entertainment machine.

As Joseph Trevithick remarkable in a 2016 article for War is Boring, a USS Jimmy Carter perceived a presidential section reference for an operation in 2013. That means it did something really vicious and really dangerous. We don’t know what that something was, though Trevithick convincingly argues that it was really expected associated to comprehension gathering.

I strongly think a same is loyal of Carter’s many new goal that warranted a Jolly Roger. As my map next shows, there are countless high-value aim areas in strech of Carter’s home port. The red line leads to a Arctic, where Russian submarines like to hang around. The grey line leads to a Pacific Fleet domicile of a Russian navy. The immature line leads to waters off North Korea, and tighten to many of a barb rising sites. The purple line leads to China.

But what competence a latest Jolly Roger bid have entailed?

A few things.

First, a Carter could have been employed to daub into undersea fiber-optic cables used for communications by counter states like China, North Korea, and Russia. This is formidable work, like balancing an invisible needle during a bottom of an sea haystack.

Alternatively, maybe a Carter was entertainment comprehension on a showing and capabilities of Chinese, North Korean, or Russian troops vessels and ports. This comprehension can be used to assistance devise destiny operations, and to safeguard a U.S. is prepared for any surprises those nations competence be preparing. This, of course, is zero new. As Sherry Sontag summarized in her glorious book, Blind Man’s Bluff, submarine-based espionage was a vicious apparatus of U.S. comprehension for a generation of a Cold War. And as I noted final month, North Korea’s submarine capabilities are advancing. Perhaps a Carter was saying only how distant they’ve come?

Or saying as it is designed to insert special operations forces, maybe a Carter was infiltrating or exfiltrating organisation onto or from unfamiliar soil. Such capabilities extend a submarine’s application to belligerent operations low into rivalry territory. That matters, since for all a energy of view satellites and cyber-espionage, there is a operation of specific comprehension missions that obligate boots on a ground. Sending a wordless submarine a few miles off a seashore and afterwards carrying Navy SEALs float ashore is infrequently reduction unsure than infiltrating over land.

Ultimately, it’s unfit to contend what a Jimmy Carter has been adult to. Still, we are propitious her organisation is on the side.