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Russian Fighters Conduct "Unsafe" Intercept with U.S. Navy P-8A

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An SU-35 as seen from the P-8A (USN)

By The Maritime Executive 05-26-2020 09:41:06

For the third time in two months, Russian pilots flew in an "unsafe and unprofessional" manner while intercepting a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime patrol plane in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Navy said Tuesday. 

On May 26, a U.S. Navy P-8A aircraft was flying over international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean and was intercepted by two Russian Su-35 fighters. The intercept was determined to be unsafe and unprofessional because the Russian pilots took up close station on each wing of the P-8A simultaneously, restricting the P-8A’s ability to maneuver safely. 

"The unnecessary actions of the Russian Su-35 pilots were inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules, and jeopardized the safety of flight of both aircraft," the Navy said in a statement. "While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible."

In April, the Navy reported two "unsafe" close approaches by Russian SU-35 fighters in the span of one week in the same region.

In an incident on April 15, a Russian SU-35 flew inverted 25 feet in front of a U.S. P-8A. The crew of the Poseidon reported wake turbulence following the interaction. 

In a second incident four days later, another SU-35 allegedly made a high-speed maneuver that put it 25 feet in front of the P-8A, exposing the Poseidon to wake turbulence and jet exhaust. In response, the Poseidon descended to create separation. The Navy characterized the maneuver as "unnecessary," "unsafe" and "inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules."

In all of these cases, the Navy said, the U.S. aircraft were operating in international airspace, consistent with international law and with due regard for safety of flight.