Russia Says Jet Kept a 'Safe Distance.' US Navy Says 5 Feet

Pentagon: Su-27 fighter jet buzzed American surveillance plane over Black Sea
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2018 6:03 AM CST
Russian Jet Buzzed US Spy Plane in 'Unsafe Intercept'
This photo shows a different Russian jet coming within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea on June 19, 2017, in a maneuver that has been criticized as unsafe.   (Master Sgt. Charles Larkin Snr/US European Command via AP)

US pilots called in a close call over the Black Sea on Monday, reporting that a Russian fighter jet zipped by in perilous proximity to their Navy surveillance plane. Per US defense officials who spoke to CNN, the Russian Su-27 performed an "unsafe intercept" that lasted about two hours and 40 minutes, and it got as close as 5 feet to the American Lockheed EP-3, cutting across its flight path and "flagrantly violating" international airspace laws. In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this wasn't the first time Russia has flouted such international agreements, and she called on it to "cease these unsafe actions that increase the risk of miscalculation, danger to aircrew on both sides, and midair collisions."

"The US aircraft was operating in accordance with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity," a Pentagon spokeswoman says. The jet fighter's actions were "inexcusable, provocative, and potentially fatal," adds CNN analyst John Kirby. Russia's Defense Ministry pushed back on that assessment, saying in a statement its jet had been sent to check out "an unidentified air target approaching the Russian airspace borders," had come within a "safe distance" of the American aircraft, and was "strictly in accordance with international airspace rules," per ABC News. (More Russia stories.)

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