A Russian fighter jet came dangerously close to a U.S. spy plane over the Baltic Sea Wednesday.
A U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance plane was flying a routine 12-hour mission when it was intercepted for over 19 minutes by the Russian plane, a senior defense official told Reuters. During this intercept, the jet came within 10 feet of the U.S. spy plane, which the U.S. Navy called “unsafe and unprofessional.” The P-8 spy plane operates with a crew of nine naval service-members.
The incident joins a long list of unsafe intercepts by Russia. The country repeatedly buzzed a U.S. destroyer conducting exercises in the Baltic sea in April 2016. The Russian maneuvers were meant to simulate a bombing run on the U.S. ships in the event of war, and came within 30 ft of the destroyer at one point.
In the wake of the incident, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said “under the rules of engagement that could have been a shoot-down.”
Russia has also repeatedly provoked the U.S. on the high seas. Russian Frigate Yaroslav Mudry repeatedly passed within unsafe distances June 17 of USS Gravely in the Eastern Mediterranean, at one point risking a collision.
“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation or accident that results in serious injury or death,” a U.S. official cautioned Russia at the time.
Unsafe aerial intercepts can spark major diplomatic incidents. A Chinese aircraft tried to harrass a U.S. surveillance Navy EP-3 aircraft over the South China Sea in April 2001. The Chinese aircraft collided with the plane, forcing the EP-3 to land on Hainan island, sparking a tense diplomatic incident between the U.S. and China. The U.S. eventually issued a letter of apology to China, in return for the Navy crew of 10.
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