The US Navy has published several more videos showing the allegedly unsafe encounter of an EP-3 spy plane with a Russian Su-27 fighter jet over the Black Sea. Moscow said the interception was not as risky as the US claims.
The five clips, lasting 6-11 seconds each, apparently show the US Navy aircraft and the Russian warplane shadowing it. The additional footage does not show the maneuver that the Pentagon earlier complained about and which was shown in a four-second video released earlier.
The controversial encounter happened on Monday in international air space over the Black Sea. The US said the Russian aircraft made a risky maneuver, coming as close as five feet from the American spy plane’s right wingtip, and later crossing its path within 10 feet.
“For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the U.S. Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe. The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action,” said US Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, commander of Task Force 67.
The Russian Defense Ministry dismissed the claim that the Russian pilot’s actions were risky or unprofessional, and said the interception was nothing out of the ordinary.
The US has a record of complaining about the way other nations, particularly Russia and China, shadow its military assets in international air space. The claims are routinely dismissed by Moscow and Beijing as unfounded.
Close encounters during air patrols were considered ordinary during the Cold War, and were conducted by both Soviet and American pilots – to show off or even to provide a good photo opportunity for their counterparts.
The US should either stop flying military planes near Russian borders or agree on the rules for such flights, the Russian Defense Ministry recommended after the latest complaint about an intercept by a Russian fighter jet.
The rebuke came on Thursday after the US Navy released additional footage, which it said showed an interception of an EP-3 spy plane by a Russian Su-27 fighter jet over the Black Sea. The two sides disagree on whether the Russian pilot acted recklessly during the Monday encounter.
The Russian Air Force “will continue to provide robust defense of the borders of Russian airspace,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. “If the realization of this fact by American pilots causes depression and phobias, we recommend that the American side either exclude flying near Russian borders in the future or return to the negotiations table and agree on a set of rules for such flights.”
The Pentagon has been accusing Russia of flying too close to American warplanes and warships on patrol missions near Russian borders. US defense officials call such actions risky and unprofessional. Their Russian counterparts disagree and say the Russian pilots do not violate any rules when buzzing American military assets deployed far from their homeland.
The Russian Defense Military commented on the latest incident in the same manner. “The maneuvers of the Russian fighter jet on January 29 were standard, absolutely legal and perfectly safe for the American surveillance plane,” it said. “When NATO fighter jets conduct similar maneuvers towards Russian military planes on patrol over the Baltic, the Barents, the Norwegian, the North or any other sea, they do not affect the Russian crews in the slightest way.”