A Russian SU-27 fighter flew within 10 feet of a U.S. spy plane as it was on patrol over the Black Sea, two U.S. officials confirmed.
A Russian fighter jet carried out an “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept of a U.S. spy plane flying a regular patrol over the Black Sea, coming within 10 feet (3.05 meters) of the American aircraft, two U.S. defense officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
The incident comes at a time of increased tensions between the United States and Russia, who are on opposing sides of the Syrian civil war.
One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the incident lasted about 19 minutes and the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter came within 10 feet of the U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance plane.
“They’re up there for 12 hours and there are lots of interactions. But only one of the incidents was what the pilot determined was unsafe,” said another official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Officials were now talking with the pilot and reviewing the incident to determine whether it would be included in the annual meeting of U.S. and Russian officials about more serious intercepts, the official added.
There have been a number of similar incidents involving Russia and the United States this year. In April, two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea.
More Putin gamesmanship. The Russian president wants to keep the U.S. from knowing what it’s doing in Ukraine. One task of those spy flights is to keep an eye on the Russia-Ukraine border, where there has been a recent buildup of Russian troops. These intimidation tactics have a dual purpose: to prevent the U.S. from getting an unobstructed view of the border and to establish Russian dominance over the Black Sea, which is now acknowledged as a “Russian lake.”
Russia is building a new naval base on the Black Sea to further solidify its position. This, and the intercepts raise the question of just how long Russia will tolerate a NATO presence in the Black Sea.