A Russian fighter jet intercepted a U.S. Navy surveillance plane in an “unsafe” manner in international airspace over the Black Sea on Monday, the Navy said.
“While the Russian military is within its right to exercise within international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible,” U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa said in a statement. “We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Unsafe actions increase the risk of miscalculation and potential for midair collisions.”
During the incident, a Russian Su-27 flew directly in front of a U.S. EP-3 Aries at a high speed “which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the statement said. The crew of the U.S. plane reported feeling turbulence during the pass, the statement added.
The Russian fighter also made a second pass by the U.S. plane, applying its afterburner while conducting a banking maneuver, according to the statement. That caused the crew of the U.S. plane to feel vibrations, the statement said.
In a press briefing, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon added that the “entire aircraft shook” when the Russian jet engaged its afterburners.
Pahon did not have an estimate of how close the Russian jet got to the U.S. plane, but said it was “really, really close.”
The Russians did not establish radio contact during the incident, he said.
“There’s just absolutely no reason for this type of behavior,” Pahon told reporters. “Our aircraft was operating in international airspace conducting a routine mission, and the Russian aircraft kind of came out of nowhere and did not one, but two passes close to our aircraft.”
The encounter lasted about 25 minutes, according to the Navy statement.
“The U.S. aircraft was operating in accordance with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity,” the statement said.
The Navy also released a brief video of the encounter.
U.S. and Russian jets previously had an “unsafe” encounter over the Black Sea in January. In that incident, the U.S. Navy accused a Russian Su-27 of flying within 5 feet of a U.S. EP-3 Aries.
The United States also accused Russia of an “unprofessional” intercept over the Baltic Sea in May.
BY REBECCA KHEEL – 11/05/18