Russian Fighter Comes Within 10 Feet of US Navy Plane

American officials labeled the encounter as "unsafe and unprofessional."

September 7, 2016, 2:23 PM

— -- A U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane had a close encounter with a Russian fighter that came within 10 feet of the aircraft as it flew in international airspace over the Black Sea. It is the latest encounter between the two militaries that American officials have labeled "unsafe and unprofessional".

According to defense officials, the incident occurred this morning as a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew over the Black Sea conducing "routine operations."

It was approached by a Russian SU-27 "Flanker" fighter jet that made "an unsafe close-range intercept" of the Navy plane.

During the 19-minute encounter, the Russian fighter jet initially maintained a 30-foot distance from the American aircraft.

But it then closed to within 10 feet of the P-8A aircraft, which one official said "is considered unsafe and unprofessional."

Another official said that the U.S. crew attempted to contact the Russian pilot but received no response in return.

"U.S. Navy aircraft and ships routinely interact with Russian units in the area and most interactions are safe and professional," said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. "However, we have deep concerns when there is an unsafe maneuver. These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident, which results in serious injury or death."

In recent months there have been several other close calls involving Russian aircraft and American planes and warships.

In April, a pair of Russian fighters buzzed the destroyer USS Donald Cook as it was operating in the Baltic Sea. A video of the encounter released by the U.S. Navy showed the aircraft repeatedly buzzing the ship, including one pass where a Russian fighter flew as close as 30 feet to the American ship.

News of the latest "unsafe and unprofessional" encounter comes on the same day that Defense Secretary Ash Carter accused Russia of "unprofessional" behavior.

Speaking at Oxford University today, Carter included Russian interactions in international airspace among a list of examples for how Russia is eroding international norms.

"With its violations of Ukrainian and Georgian territorial integrity, its unprofessional behavior in the air, in space, and in cyber-space, as well as its nuclear saber-rattling -- all have demonstrated that Russia has clear ambition to erode the principled international order that has served the United States, our allies and partners, the international community, and Russia itself so well," said Carter.

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