The Su-30 crossed P-8 flight path from right to left with its afterburners engaged. The maritime patrol aircraft had no way of avoiding its jet wash and experienced a 15-degree roll and violent turbulence.
“The US aircraft was operating in international airspace and did nothing to provoke this Russian behavior,” Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, told CNN.
The American crew reported that the fighter crossed its flight path from right to left with its afterburners engaged. The maritime patrol aircraft had no way of avoiding its jet wash.
According to Baldanza the Poseidon experienced “a 15-degree roll and violent turbulence.”
She also added that the Su-30 came as close as 50 feet from the P-8 which had its transponder on during the incident.
A U.S. Navy official told CNN that the intercept lasted about 24 minutes.
“Unsafe actions have the potential to cause serious harm and injury to all air crews involved,” Baldanza said.
Noteworthy it has been several months since the last reported unsafe interaction between US and Russian aircraft. The most recent reported incident occurred on Jun. 19, 2017 when 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.
Prior to that incident there had been several similar encounters in the Black Sea, an area where Russia, the U.S. and NATO operate in close proximity, particularly since Russia boosted its military presence in the region following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Last month 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.
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: Sukhoi and Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond / U.S. Navy
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com