A Russian Su-27 fighter jet confronted a NATO spy plane flying over the Baltic Sea last November, and the incident was captured by the NATO Orion P-3 surveillance aircraft, flown by the Portuguese Air Force, in an amazing high definition video that gives the clearest look yet at the Cold War-style showdown taking place in the skies over the Baltic for much of last year and into 2015.
According to The Aviationist site, which first posted the video that appeared Friday on YouTube, "the clip clearly shows the fully armed Su-27 approach the surveillance plane from the starboard side (at a safe distance), use the air brake to slow down speed and then break away.
"According to our source, it's pretty standard for the Russian Air Force to launch a single fighter jet to identify and escort NATO surveillance planes," The Aviationist reported.
Russian jets have been buzzing and occasionally even breaching NATO air space in the Baltic region — and elsewhere — at record levels for the post-Cold War period since at least the spring of 2014 when tensions between Russia and NATO sharply escalated over the conflict in Ukraine and Russia's annexation of Crimea.
The Russian flights generally fly with transponders turned off and without filing flight plans, making them a hazard to commercial aviation as well as forcing NATO fighter jets to scramble and send the Russians on their way.
While this is not the first video to emerge from the ongoing aerial conflict, the situation depicted in this video is somewhat different. In this case, apparently, NATO had dispatched a Portuguese Orion P-3, a plane designed to patrol over the seas (the P-3 is pictured below), to conduct surveillance of possible Russian naval operations, rather than the other way around.
The Lockheed-manufactured Orion P-3 can detect ships on the surface, as well as submarines below. In fact, Lockheed-Martin advertises the propeller-powered P-3 as "the ultimate submarine finder," and "the world's premier multi-mission maritime long-endurance aircraft."
The first P-3 planes took to the skies in July of 1962, and just a few months later were called into action to detect Russian ships from the Soviet Union possibly heading to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis that year.
The Russian jet seen in this remarkable high-def video, photographed from what appears to be a camera mounted under the Orion's wing — the motion of a propeller is visible in the video — is a Sukhoi Su-27, one of Russia's most formidable fighter planes, known to NATO as "Flanker."
According to the Federation of American Scientists, "the highly maneuverable Su-27 is one of the most imposing fighters ever built," and when it was introduced in 1984 "leveled the playing field" between Russian fighter jets and their American counterparts, such as the F-15.