- US defence officials say a Russian jet intercepted a US Navy aircraft over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday.
- One official told CNN the Russian Su-27 fighter came within about 20 feet of the US plane.
- Such encounters have been common in the skies over Europe in the past year.
A Russian fighter jet intercepted a US Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, CNN reported, citing two US defence officials.
One official told CNN the Russian Su-27 fighter came within about 20 feet of the US plane.
The intercept was “safe” but “unprofessional,” the Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson described officials as saying.
Lt. Cmdr. Zach Harrell, a spokesman for US Naval Forces Europe, told CNN that “US Navy ships and aircraft routinely interact with military units from other countries.” He did not comment on Tuesday’s incident.
Ships and aircraft from the US and other NATO countries have come into close contact near Europe in recent months, with ships and submarines shadowing one another around the continent and fighter jets squaring off over eastern Europe.
Intercepts by Russian planes of US aircraft have been common. Last week, NATO fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian Su-35 fighters and a Su-24 attack aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.
At the end of January, US Naval Forces Europe said a Russian Su-27 flew within 5 feet of a US Navy EP-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, which is specialised for signals intelligence. The Russian jet also flew across the P-3’s flight path, causing the US plane to fly through the jet’s wash.
The US Navy deemed that interaction “unsafe” and said it “resulted in violent turbulence for the US EP-3 and its crewmembers.”
Moscow responded by telling the US to “either exclude flying near Russian borders in the future or return to the negotiations table and agree on a set of rules for such flights.”
In November, the Pentagon said a Russian Su-30 fighter jet flew as close as 50 feet of a US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, exposing the US aircraft to “violent turbulence.”
Moscow justified the interaction by saying the US plane was on course to enter Russian airspace without authorization.
In June, the US released photos of a Russian Su-27 fighter flying close to the wing of a US Air Force RC-135U reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea; the Pentagon deemed it an “unsafe” interaction.
Russia and NATO countries also traded bomber intercepts early last year. In February, British Typhoon fighters were scrambled to meet Russian nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers northeast of Ireland, and in June, Russia dispatched a Su-27 fighter to escort a US Air Force B-52 bomber over the Baltic Sea.
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