U.S. Navy Reports "Unsafe" Flyby by Venezuelan Fighter
The U.S. Navy has accused the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of responsibility for a recent "unsafe" encounter between a Venezuelan fighter and a Navy maritime surveillance aircraft over the Caribbean.
On July 19, an EP-3 Aries II aircraft was approached in international airspace by a Venezuelan Su-30 Flanker fighter in what the Navy described as an "unprofessional manner." The Navy said that after reviewing video footage of the incident, its officers determined that the fighter "aggressively shadowed" the EP-3 at an unsafe distance for a prolonged period of time.
In a statement, the Navy echoed the Trump administration's position on the legitimacy of Maduro's government. The White House asserts that opposition leader Juan Guaido is the legitimate interim president of Venezuela until democratic elections can be held to find a permanent replacement.
"The Maduro regime continues to undermine internationally-recognized laws and demonstrate its contempt for international agreements authorizing the U.S. and other nations to safely conduct flights in international airspace," the Navy said. "Despite the Venezuelan people’s suffering, his nation’s vital infrastructure crumbling, and children starving, Maduro chooses to use his country’s precious resources to engage in unprovoked and unjustified acts."
The Su-30 is a mid-1990s variant of the Soviet Su-27 strike fighter, and it is roughly equivalent in capability to the American F-15E of the same era. Venezuela initially purchased 24 and ordered 12 more in 2015. Each fighter can carry up to 20,000 pounds of jet fuel for a range of about 1,600 nm.
With its refining sector crippled by sanctions and mismanagement, Venezuela is critically short on fuel, to the point that its trucking and agricultural sectors are grinding to a halt. The impact on farmers is particularly severe in a country experiencing extreme difficulty feeding its populace, according to the New York Times.