National Security

Russian Fighter Comes Within 20 Feet Of US Spy Plane

REUTERS/Alexander Zemlyanichenko/Pool

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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A Russian fighter jet came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane over the Black Sea Tuesday, according to a military spokesperson.

A Russian Su-27 fighter approached the U.S. P-8A Poseidon as it was “conducting routine operations in international airspace,” said Capt. Pamela Kunze, a U.S. Naval Forces Europe spokeswoman.

The Russian defense ministry claimed a fighter had “executed a ‘greeting’ maneuver” to the U.S. pilots, according to NBC news. Russia deployed the fighter after “an air target approaching the Russian state border had been located … above Black Sea neutral waters.”

The maneuver was deemed “safe and professional,” according to the Navy. Russian and U.S. Navy ships regularly interact over international territory, according to Kunze.

The interaction was one of the closest interactions between U.S. and Russian forces in recent years. Other interactions at much greater distances have been considered unsafe by the Pentagon before. Russian aircraft buzzed the USS Porter in February, a move which was considered unsafe because the aircraft had not engaged their radio transponders. It is unclear whether or not the Russian fighter was using its transponders in Tuesday’s incident.

Distance is “only one of many variables considered when defining what is safe and professional,” according to Kunze.

U.S. forces recently had an encounter with Russian aircraft over Alaska in April, when two Tu-95 “Bear” bombers were picked up off the coast. The U.S. responded by scrambling two F-22 fighter aircraft. The incident was the first time Russia had sent bombers close to U.S. territory since President Donald Trump took office in January.

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