Military Aviation

“Russian Su-27 performed safe but unprofessional intercept of U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon,” U.S. officials say

During the encounter, that lasted about nine minutes, the Su-27 came within about 20 feet of the Poseidon

On May 2, 2018 a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet performed an “unprofessional” intercept of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane while it was flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, two defense officials told CNN.

According one of the officials during the encounter, that lasted about nine minutes, the Flanker came within about 20 feet of the Poseidon.

The intercept was described by officials as safe but unprofessional. However a U.S. Navy official told CNN that the service does not classify aerial encounters that way. The U.S. Navy in fact classifies aviation intercepts simply as either safe or unsafe.

Lt. Cdr. Zach Harrell, a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Europe, declined to comment on the specific incident, saying, “US Navy ships and aircraft routinely interact with military units from other countries.” He added that the Navy would provide information on unsafe interactions.

The last unsafe intercept of a US Navy aircraft by a Russian jet took place on Jan. 29, 2018 when a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II surveillance aircraft was intercepted at close range by a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter over the Black Sea.

On that occasion the Su-27 came within 5 feet from the EP-3E. The fighter cut through the EP-3’s flight path.

The EP-3E curtailed its mission and returned to base, said a U.S. Navy spokesperson.

The intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes.

After the incident the U.S. Navy released the video footage of the fully armed Su-27 intercepting the EP-3E over the Black Sea. The footage clearly showed the armed fighter coming within five feet of the Aries II during the encounter.

“The video shows the Russian Su-27 intercepting the EP-3 from a very close position, at the same altitude, and with an estimated wingtip-to-wingtip horizontal separation as little as five feet at times,” U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, commander of Task Force 67, said in a statement from U.S. 6th Fleet.

“For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the U.S. Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe. The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action,” said Ellis.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. P-8A Poseidon Air Test and Evaluation Squadron ONE (VX-1) Pioneers, JA955 / 167955. NAS Patuxent River, MD

Photo credit: Fedor Leukhin via Wikipedia

Artwork courtesy of

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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