Here’s why the US Navy didn’t shoot down the Russian fighter jets that buzzed a US destroyer

Russian fighter US ship
A Russian Su-24 attack aircraft making very-low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook on April 12, 2016. US Navy

On Tuesday, two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes past the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea, and while the move was unnerving and aggressive, it’s not the kind of event the Navy responds to with force.

“You don’t get to kill people just because they’re being annoying,” retired frigate and cruiser Commanding Officer Captain Rick Hoffman told the NavyTimes about the incident.

“We’re not at war with Russia,” Capt. Rick Hoffman said.

“It would be one thing to be operating and have a threatening attack profile from someone who might not recognise me — that’s not the case here.”

As a former commander of a cruiser, which protects aircraft carriers and amphibious assault vehicles from airborne attacks, Hoffman knows how to deal with threatening aircraft.

The Russian planes, Su-24s had no visible weapons during the passes and at no point did the USS Donald Cook detect that the Russians were trying to lock onto them with a missile.

Though the passes likely violated a 1973 agreement between the US and Russia, and were a clear act of aggression, downing a plane likely means the death of the pilot, which was simply not warranted given the situation.

According to Hoffman, this stunt most likely took place to generate propaganda for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

“It would be real interesting to see what shows up in the Russian papers in the morning, how they play it,” Hoffman said.

“It’s not that different from North Korea. He does something and then he plays it domestically however he needs to play it for the purposes of getting his people energised.”

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