Moscow Says U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon was heading at a high rate of speed towards Russian airspace before Su-30 intercept


By Dario Leone
Dec 1 2017
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According to Russian media accounts the Poseidon was approaching the Russian coastline at a high rate of speed and only changed course after being intercepted by the Su-30

As we have already explained the Pentagon complained that a Russian Su-30 fighter jet had carried out an unsafe intercept of a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon on Nov. 25 over the Black Sea.

Now according to USNI News Moscow officials say the P-8 was headed for Russian airspace.

Russian media accounts claim the Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was approaching the Russian coastline at a high rate of speed and only changed course after being intercepted by the Su-30.

“On November 25, Russian means of monitoring airspace spotted an air target over an international area of the Black Sea that was approaching the state border at a high speed. A Sukhoi-30 jet of the Southern Military District’s air defense was ordered into the air for interception,” read a government statement published by the Russian newswire TASS.

“The Russian fighter approached the air target and identified it as a US reconnaissance plane P-8A Poseidon.”

The Poseidon, is a modified version of the Boeing 737-800ERX, and has a top airspeed of about 564 miles per hour, according to the Navy. The Flanker instead can reach Mach 2.

The Su-30 crossed within 50 feet, of the Poseidon’s path, moving from right to left with its afterburners engaged and causing the Navy aircraft to fly through the Russian aircraft’s jet wash. The Poseidon endured violent turbulence, but recovered and continued on its mission, ultimately safely landing back at Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella, a Navy spokesperson told USNI News.

Encounters between U.S. surveillance aircraft and Russian fighter jets have become more frequent following the Russian 2014 forced annexation of Crimea and Moscow exerting its military power in the region.

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In May a similar incident occurred when a Russian Su-30 also intercepted a P-8A over the Black Sea. Press reports cite Russian defense ministry sources as saying their plane conducted a “greeting maneuver.” U.S. Navy officials were reported at the time as calling the May intercept “safe and professional.”

On Jun. 19, 2017 an armed Russian Su-27 fighter jet “buzzed” a U.S. Air Force (USAF) RC-135U Combat Sent in the skies over the Baltic Sea. According to the officials the Flanker approached the RC-135U recon jet “rapidly,” and came within five feet of the American aircraft.

In October instead Lieutenant-General Viktor Sevostyanov, Commander of the 4th Air Force and Air Defense Army of Russia’s Southern Military District, complained that U.S. spy planes often fly very close to the Russian border during their flights over the Black Sea.

Global Hawk and RC-135 aircraft take off for reconnaissance from NATO’s forward airbase at Sigonella on the Island of Sicily while P-8A planes start their flights from the Souda airbase [Greece]. The basic routes of their flights run along the Black Sea coast from the western part of the Crimean Peninsula up to the traverse line of Sochi. During the flights, no violations of the state border were registered and the minimum distance from the border is 10-15 km,” Sevostyanov told TASS.

He explained that Russia’s 4th Air Force and Air Defense Army fighter jets scramble not only to intercept and detect the U.S. aircraft involved in this type of mission, but also to shadow them until they are far from Russian border. “In 2017, our planes performed 100 such flights, of which operations to shadow drones accounted for over 70%,” Sevostyanov said.

Moscow Says U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon was heading at a high rate of speed towards Russian airspace before Su-30 intercept

These kind of sorties allow russian fighter pilots to practice “the techniques of intercepts and shadowing and the skills to identify the type of aircraft,” said Sevostyanov.

Photo credit: Erik Hildebrandt / U.S. Navy and Dmitry Terekhov from Odintsovo, Russian Federation (Su-30SM)

Artwork courtesy of

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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