Russian pilots posed no threat to American destroyer.
Retired Navy Commander weighs in on the incident.
Flyby being investigated as possible breach of 1973 treaty.
Russian pilots attempted to rattle the nerves of sailors aboard the U.S. destroyer Donald Cook earlier this month as it sat in international waters in the Baltic Sea. Two unarmed Sukhoi Su-24 fighters buzzed within 1,000 feet of the ship, one coming as close as 30 feet. Read more about the initial incident here.
The act is being called “provocative” but isn’t seen as a threat, according to a retired Navy Commander, Rick Hoffman, who viewed photos and videos of the incident that took place on Monday and Tuesday. Instead, the act is being viewed as a way of showboating and amounts to mere chest-beating by Russian forces.
Capt. Hoffman said in an interview with the NavyTimes:
“Well, we’re not at war with Russia, It would be one thing to be operating and have a threatening attack profile from someone who might not recognize me — that’s not the case here.”
According to the captain the fighters posed no threat. A visual inspection revealed they weren’t carrying weapons and a lack of electronic emissions revealed there was no lock on the American ship. Navy officials are viewing the incident as a stunt or PR tool by the Russian government. Capt. Hoffman commented on the possibility of it being an attempt to drum up nationalist emotions among russian citizens or an opportunity for Vladimir Putin to make a show of force to americans operating in their backyard.
“It would be real interesting to see what shows up in the Russian papers in the morning, how they play it…It’s not that different from North Korea. He does something and then he plays it domestically however he needs to play it for the purposes of getting his people energized.”
The captain noted that, under different circumstances, this stunt may have spurred a response from American troops. He explained that the odds of a Russian pilot taking a shot at an American ship, then attempting to fly home through the airspace of several NATO partners, are incredibly low. However, a flyby of a commercial airliner at that distance would prompt fears of a potential suicide mission, and any aircraft attempting a similar stunt in the Persian Gulf would not be tolerated. Being that the Baltic sea is not a contested area of responsibility officials aboard the ship deemed the fighter pilots to be harmless long before they were in range to be considered a legitimate threat.
The incident is being investigated to see if it may have violated a 1973 treaty between the U.S. and Russia that deals specifically with this type of behavior. However, according to Hoffman, there isn’t much more to do. The flyby is seen as a minor annoyance by high ranking officials, and shouldn’t waste the time and resources of a destroyer like the Donald Cook, which represents the fleets foremost air defense platform. Hoffman ended his interview by stating:
“Only in ‘Top Gun’ does a war suddenly break out between two airplanes that is completely not related to something going on ashore… You don’t get to kill people just because they’re being annoying”
How would you have responded to the Russian pilots if you were aboard the Donald Cook. Sound off in the comments below!