Close Encounter: Russian Fighter Jet Comes Within 15 Feet Of U.S. Air Force Jet

In what is being described as an “alarming” incident by experts, a Russian fighter jet came within 15 feet of a U.S Air Force reconnaissance plane over the Black Sea earlier this week.

According to CNN, the aircraft involved in the incident were a Russian Su-27 fighter jet and an RC-135U reconnaissance jet. The Pentagon has termed the event an “unsafe” incident and said that the move by the Russian fighter jet was done in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner.” The statement added that the incident happened over the Black Sea on January 25, 2016.

Here is an excerpt from the statement issued by Army Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, a Defense Department spokesperson.

“On January 25, 2016, a U.S. RC-135U flying a routine route in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 in an unsafe and unprofessional manner. We are looking into this particular incident.”

According to another officer from the U.S. military, the incident reportedly happened nearly 40 miles from the Russian border. He further added that the Russian jet flew alongside the American jet for some time and then made a maneuver that, according to him, “had an adverse impact on the controllability of the U.S. aircraft.” At this time, it remains unclear if the Russian fighter jet was armed at the time of the incident. The official, however, added that intercepts like these are fairly common and that most of them happen fairly safely.

This is not the first time these two aircraft types have come face to face. Back in 2014, there was another incident involving the same aircraft models. In that incident, both the aircraft had come within 100 feet of each other over the Sea of Okhotsk between Russia and Japan. At that time, a U.S. Defense official had termed the incident “one of the most dangerous close passes in decades” and alleged that the actions of the Russian fighter pilots put the lives of the U.S. crew members in jeopardy. That incident was also notorious for an act in which the Russian jet turned and showed its “belly” to the U.S. crew so that they could see that the jet was armed with missiles.

The Inquisitr also reported about another incident over the Black Sea back in June.

While encounters of this nature are not uncommon between the U.S. and the Russian military, a similar incident was also reported between Japan and Russia on Thursday. On that day, two Japanese interceptor jets were flown in to chase two Russian Tu-95 Bear Bombers who were flying very close to the Japanese airspace.

Russian SU 27
By Vitaly V. Kuzmin (http://vitalykuzmin.net/?q=node/464) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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Following the incident, the U.S. Defense Department held a video conference meeting with Russian officials to discuss ongoing implementation of the U.S.-Russia memorandum of understanding on flight safety over Syrian airspace. It remains unclear of the meeting was previously scheduled or was decided upon after the incident over the Black Sea.

According to a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Defense, the meeting was co-chaired by Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin and Joint Staff Director for Strategic Plans and Policy Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. and their Russian Ministry of Defense counterparts

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said the following in a statement.

“The two sides discussed measures to enhance operational safety for counter-ISIL coalition and Russian military forces operating in Syria, including the means to avoid accidents and unintended confrontation between coalition and Russian forces whenever the two sides operate in close proximity. The conversation was constructive and the two sides agreed to continue safety discussions in this format in the future.”

[Boeing RC-135V Rivet Joint 64-14846 Electronic Intelligence Aircraft” by United States Air Force -Licensed under Public Domain via Commons]