Russian Fighter Jet Came Within 15 Feet of US Air Force Plane, US Officials Say

PHOTO: A Russian Sukhoi Su-27 jet is seen as part of a Russian Knights aerobatic demonstration over Saint Petersburg, Russia, April 25, 2015.Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A Russian Sukhoi Su-27 jet is seen as part of a Russian Knights aerobatic demonstration over Saint Petersburg, Russia, April 25, 2015.

A Russian fighter came within 15 feet of a United States Air Force reconnaissance plane flying in international airspace over the Black Sea on Monday, U.S. military officials said today.

The Pentagon is calling the intercept by a Russian SU-27 pilot as being conducted in “an unsafe and unprofessional manner” that put “both the American flight crew and himself at risk.”

During the intercept of the RC-135U, the Russian pilot flew as close as 15 feet alongside the American reconnaissance plane, a Defense Department official said. It then banked hard to the right “with a heavy amount of power, which caused a destabilizing action for the RC-135."

The official said intercepts of American reconnaissance flights are common, “but this was unusually close,” which “was enough to cause concern.”

“On January 25, 2016, a U.S. RC-135U flying a routine route in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” said Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

“Aircraft intercepts are not unusual, but are normally routine events. In this case the intercept was not routine, and the Russian pilot acted in an unprofessional manner that put both the American flight crew and himself at risk. We have addressed our concerns on this matter appropriately," Baldanza said.