On Tuesday, April 7, a U.S. reconnaissance plane was overtaken by a Russian fighter jet while conducting what the Pentagon deemed a lawful mission in international airspace.
USA Today reports that while on a lawful mission near Russian airspace, a U.S. RC-135U was violently overtaken by a Russian SU-27 fighter jet. While the U.S. has been relatively quiet as to the exact nature of the mission, Military.com’s description of the U.S. plane that was intercepted might give one an idea as to the nature of the U.S. mission near Russian airspace.
“The RC-135U Combat Sent provides strategic electronic reconnaissance information to the president, secretary of defense, Department of Defense leaders, and theater commanders. Locating and identifying foreign military land, naval and airborne radar signals, the Combat Sent collects and minutely examines each system, providing strategic analysis for warfighters. Collected data is also stored for further analysis by the joint warfighting and intelligence communities. The Combat Sent deploys worldwide and is employed in peacetime and contingency operations.”
While no shots were fired on the part of the intercepting Russian fighter, the alleged overtake was reportedly conducted in an aggressive manner that could have had disastrous consequences. In a recent series of tweets, the U.S. European Command sought to shed some light on the growing controversy.
The previously referenced USA Today article reported that when confronted about the alleged hostile incident, the Russian government claimed that there were no dangerous situations as a result of the interception. Russia would go on in turn to accuse the U.S. of conducting a mission with a plane which had its electronic transponder signal turned off. An electronic transponder signal identifies a plane and lets the appropriate authorities know of its presence.
Such a non-response/accusatory response from Russia is quickly becoming the status quo for U.S./Russian relations. It seems to be growing apparent to many observers that Russia is boldly brandishing a “what are you going to do about it?” attitude toward international policies, agreements, and expectations. In demonstration of the validity of such a claim, take a recent and similar show of Russian military prowess. Earlier last month, the Russian military began conducting extensive drilling maneuvers in the arctic in order to, as Russian officials put it, increase its operational readiness.
Given this growing pattern of unabashed international flexing, many have become concerned about the possibility of a rekindled Cold War. While such a conclusion may still be in the quasi-distant future, it can be stated with far more certainty that if Russian behavior continues to go unchecked, international concern will be focused on much bigger issues than an intercepted spy plane.
[Image credit to The Aviationist]