Two Russian Su-35 fighter jets made a dangerous interception of U.S. Navy aircraft over international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, the U.S. Navy announced on Wednesday.
In a statement, the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet in Naples accused the Russian of flying in an “unsafe and professional” manner while intercepting a P-8A aircraft.
“On May 26, 2020, a U.S. Navy P-8A aircraft was flying in the Eastern Mediterranean over international waters and was intercepted by two Russian Su-35 aircraft over a period of 65 minutes,” the statement read. “The intercept was determined to be unsafe and unprofessional due to the Russian pilots taking close station on each wing of the P-8A simultaneously, restricting the P-8A’s ability to safely maneuver.”
“The unnecessary actions of the Russian Su-35 pilots were inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules, and jeopardized the safety of flight of both aircraft,” it continued. “Actions like these increase the potential for midair collisions.
The statement added that the maneuver was “inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules, and jeopardized the safety of flight of both aircraft.”
“While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible,” it read. “We expect them to operate 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). Actions like these increase the potential for midair collisions.”
The incident is the third time in two months that Russian pilots have dangerously approached P-8A reconnaissance aircraft in the same area. It is also just one of numerous risky and aggressive interceptions that have taken place over the past few years amid rising military and geopolitical tensions between the two countries.
On April 19th, the U.S. Navy reported that a Russian Su-35 conducted a maneuver leaving only eight meters of separation distance in front of a P-8A, exposing the U.S. aircraft to wake turbulence and jet exhaust. In a separate interception on April 15th, a SU-35 conducted a similar high-speed inverted maneuver just meters from a U.S. reconnaissance plane.
“In all cases, the U.S. aircraft were operating in international airspace, consistent with international law, with due regard for safety of flight, and did not provoke this Russian activity,” the statement concluded.