A U.S. Navy spy plane and a Russian fighter jet had a recent close call, avoiding what could have been a near collision.
A Russian Su-27 Flanker intercepted a U.S. EP-3 Aries II aircraft flying over the Black Sea on Jan. 29, maneuvering the plane in a manner that brought it within 5 feet of the U.S. aircraft, according to U.S. officials.
The U.S. State Department signaled the event as “the latest example of Russian military activities disregarding international norms and agreements,” stating that the U.S. aircraft was operating strictly under international law.
State Department officials pointed to the incident as a violation of the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas, which is an agreement both countries signed to take steps in avoiding collisions in the air and the sea.
In total, the incident lasted for two hours and 40 minutes, with U.S. Navy officials telling CNN they were forced to end their mission prematurely as a safety precaution to avoid crashes, though Russia’s Defense Ministry responded that the Russian aircraft had also been acting in accordance with international rules.
The U.S. Naval Forces Europe also released footage showing the Russian Su-27 as it maneuvers in close proximity to the American aircraft. According to U.S. Naval Forces Europe representatives, the Russian Su-27 took a hard right-to-left run on the EP-3’s right side, bringing it just 5 feet from the EP-3’s wingtip.
The plane then continued to enter the EP-3’s flightpath, leaving the aircraft to have to fly through jet wash and causing “violent turbulence” onboard.
“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,” U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Ellis said in a statement.