Russian jet put US airmen at risk with an ‘irresponsible’ intercept over the Mediterranean Sea, US Navy says

  • A Russian fighter jeopardized the safety of the airmen aboard a US Navy surveillance plane during an “unsafe” intercept near Syria.
  • The Sukhoi Su-35 buzzed the US P-8A Poseidon at high speed in international airspace.
  • Russia has denied any form of misconduct.
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A Russian fighter jeopardized the safety of the airmen aboard a US Navy surveillance plane during an “unsafe” intercept over the Mediterranean Sea late Tuesday, 6th Fleet said in a statement.

A Russian Sukhoi Su-35 intercepted a US Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft off the coast of Syria, making multiple passes near the American plane. The second of the three interactions “was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said.

The intercept lasted 28 minutes.

“This interaction was irresponsible,” 6th Fleet explained, adding that the US expects Russia to abide by international standards. “The U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity,” the Navy further stated.

Russia has denied engaging in any form of misconduct. “All flights by Russian aircraft were conducted in accordance with international rules for the use of airspace,” the Russian defense ministry argued, according to Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency.

Moscow claims that it detected an air target in international waters above the Mediterranean approaching its Tartus naval base, in Syria; Russia has supported Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s brutal civil war. The Su-35 was dispatched from Hmeymim Air Base to identify the aircraft. The Russian defense ministry said that the aircraft returned to base after the US aircraft changed course.

Last year, the US Navy accused the Russian military of conducting two “unsafe” intercepts above the Black Sea.

In one incident in January 2018, a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter closed to within 5 feet of a US Navy EP-3 Aries aircraft before crossing directly in front of it. In November, the Russians again got “really close” to another US aircraft.

“There’s just absolutely no reason for this type of behavior,” a Department of Defense spokesman said at the time.