A Russian SU-27 Flanker intercepted a US Navy P-8 Poseidon plane in the Black Sea. Reports are the SU-27 was as close as 10 feet to the US Navy patrol aircraft.
Russian fighter planes have continued their aggressive nature when it comes to operations in international waters against US aircraft and ships. The latest incident involves a Russian SU-27 Flanker intercepting one of the US Navy’s newest aircraft–the P-8 Poseidon.
The incident between the Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft and a Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker occurred at about 11:20 A.M. local time in international airspace over the Black Sea. It lasted approximately 19 minutes according to a statement provided by the Pentagon.
“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions, and could result in a miscalculation or accident,” Pentagon Spokesman Jeff Davis said in a statement. This is not the first time Russian aircraft have been overly aggressive agains US forces in the same area.
Back in April, Russian SU-24 fighters came dangerously close (some estimates as near as 30 feet) during flyover runs to the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea.
“During the intercept, which lasted approximately 19 minutes, the Su-27 initially maintained a 30-foot separation distance then closed to within 10 feet of the P-8A, which is considered unsafe and unprofessional,” read the statement.
No kidding. 10 feet is an unprofessional distance, no matter how you look at it.
Additionally, Russian aircraft routinely fly with their transponders turned off. A transponders emitted signal helps the U.S. military identify the planes as Russian aircraft and turning them on is a normal part of the flight process. But President Vladimir Putin doesn’t necessarily feel Russian aircraft aren’t the only ones breaking the rules.
Back in July Russian President Putin had this to say about other NATO aircraft not having their transponders on:
“I would remind that not only Russian planes fly over the Baltics without turning on their respective identification devices, but also all NATO countries’ aircraft. The number of NATO flights over the Baltics in this mode is twice the efficiency of Russian aircraft flights. This is not our invention, this is statistics,” Putin said.
This latest incident occurred roughly 40 miles from Russia in the Black Sea in international waters when the Russian jet approached. It is not know if the SU-27 had its transponder turned off, however the aggressive nature of the Russian fighter was a cause for concern.
“We have deep concerns when there is an unsafe maneuver,” said the statement.
So what can the U.S. do besides just have “deep concerns”?
The next best option for the United States: provide a fighter escort with all maritime patrol aircraft transiting the Black Sea area.
This was exactly the case with China in 2001. A United States Navy P-3, on a routine surveillance mission near the Chinese coast collided with a Chinese fighter jet that was aggressively tailing it. The incident sparked an international incident and lead then Admiral Dennis Blair, commander in chief of the United States Pacific Command to remark: ”It’s not a normal practice to play bumper cars in the air.”
As a result, fighter escorts were practiced and put in place to deter the aggressive nature of Chinese fighter jets and with noticeable results.
The unprofessionalism of Russian fighter aircraft must not be tolerated. The P-8 is one of America’s newest and most sophisticated surveillance planes. With the aggressive nature of Russian aircraft in the region, taking steps by using a fighter escort to mitigate such an incident is a prudent decision.
Seeing an F-22 or F-18 guarding a high value asset sends a message to Russia that the U.S. is serious about preserving its right to fly in international airspace.
Top Photo: A Russian Aerospace Forces Su-27 is seen as it intercepts a Portuguese Air Force P-3C CUP+ Orion patrol aircraft. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)