WASHINGTON, April 17 (UPI) — A Russian fighter jet barrel-rolled over a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea earlier this week, in what United States officials are calling “erratic and aggressive maneuvers.”
The Russian jet flew within 50 feet of the Air Force RC-135’s wing tip on April 14, Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for U.S. European Command said, CNN reported. Russia disputes the explanation of the event.
The Russian SU-27 reportedly began the barrel roll from the left side of the Air Force jet, then went over the top of it to end on the right side of the aircraft, “in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” Hernandez said.
He said the actions of a single pilot “have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between the countries,” adding that the United States is protesting with the Russian government.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said reports of the incident were “not consistent with reality” and the Russian aircraft’s maneuvers were “performed strictly in accordance with the international regulations on the use of airspace.”
Russian Ministry spokesman Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the Russian aircraft was dispatched after air defense facilities spotted an unknown target approaching the Russian border at high speed over the Baltic Sea.
The jet was identified as an American reconnaissance aircraft and after visual contact, the U.S. plane “changed its course to the opposite direction, away from the Russian border,” Konashenkov said.
Just days ago, Russian fighter jets flew close to the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Baltic Sea, Voice of America news reported. The crew aboard that warship was shocked to see the apparently unarmed SU-24 planes fly as close as 30 feet from the destroyer, the report said, close enough to create a wake in the water.