US Navy Plane Intercepted by Russian Fighter Jets Over Mediterranean Sea

June 5, 2019 Updated: June 5, 2019

A U.S. Navy plane experienced an “unsafe” and “irresponsible” intercept by a Russian fighter plane over international waters on June 4, said the Navy in a statement.

A Russian Su-35 fighter jet intercepted a Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance plane three times, the Navy said in a statement on the 6th Fleet’s website. The first and third interactions were in accordance with international rules, the second was not.

“The second interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy stated.

Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role fighters of the Sokoly Rossii (Falcons of Russia) aerobatic team fly in formation during a demonstration flight at the MAKS 2017 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia on July 21, 2017. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo)

The P-8A crew also said there was “wake turbulence” after the second, and the intercept’s duration was about 28 minutes, the statement said.

“While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace,” the Navy added, “this interaction was irresponsible.

“We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Unsafe actions‎ increase the risk of miscalculation and potential for midair collisions,” the statement noted.

A U.S. Navy plane P-8 Poseidon takes off from Perth Airport in 2014. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

The intercept was over the Mediterranean Sea, the statement said. According to ABC News, in the region, the closest Russian aircraft base is stationed in western Syria.

“The U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity,” the Navy also wrote.

Russian aircraft intercepts of American military planes are somewhat common over the Baltic and Black seas.

Similar incidents involving Russian fighters and American patrol planes took place in late 2017 and early 2018, as the Navy Times noted. In 2014, after Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, Russia also made aggressive moves in international airspace, according to the report.

A Sukhoi SU-35 fighter in a stock photo. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian Defense Ministry on June 5 said that all Russian military flights in the area were “carried out in accordance with the international rules for the use of airspace,” Radio Free Europe reported.

Russian lawmaker Frants Klintsevich also said that the United States “must get used” to Moscow reacting “in accordance with existing international laws.”

“Gentlemen [in the United States], relax and get used to it. And God forbid you come up with a provocation, you may be shot down. Everything will be conducted in accordance with international law,” Klintsevich said, according to Radio Free Europe.

Last month, U.S. fighter jets intercepted Russian nuclear-capable bombers near the Air Defense Identification Zone, which is about 200 miles off of Alaska’s western coast, said North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

“Two pairs of F-22 fighter jets, each with an E-3 intercepted Tu-95 bombers Su-35 fighter jets entering the Alaskan ADIZ May 21,” NORAD tweeted.

Russian officials also claimed that the flights  were “carried out in strict accordance with the International Airspace Management System without violating the borders of other states.”

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