The U.S. Navy reported on Monday that a Russian SU-27 jet had intercepted one of its reconnaissance planes in international airspace. The U.S. Navy slammed the Russian aircraft's actions as “irresponsible.”
The Russian SU-27 passed so closely in front of a U.S EP-3 surveillance plane that the crew aboard the U.S. plane reported that they experienced turbulence. The incident reportedly lasted 25 minutes. The EP-3 had its transponder on at the time of the incident.
In a statement, the U.S. Navy said:
On Nov. 5, 2018, a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27. This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, putting at risk the pilots and crew. The intercepting SU-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away. The crew of the EP-3 reported turbulence following the first interaction, and vibrations from the second. The duration of the intercept was approximately 25 minutes.
While the Russian military is within its right to exercise within international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible. 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.
The U.S. aircraft was operating in accordance with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.
In a press briefing following the incident, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said that there was “just absolutely no reason for this type of behavior.”
Does this sound familiar?
This is at least the third instance like this in 2018 alone. A Russian SU-27 jet reportedly flew within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy plane over the Blatic Sea in May. That time, the Navy plane was a Boeing P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane, which is the military version of the Boeing 737 airliner.
In January, there was yet another instance in which a Russian SU-27 intercepted a Navy EP-3 surveillance plane. As the Navy noted after the May encounter, it does not have an official classification for “unprofessional” encounters, so this will be officially recorded as a “safe” encounter.