A few days after a Russian jet flew within five feet of a U.S. Navy aircraft and intercepted it in an unsafe way, Russia’s defense ministry issued a statement saying that American pilots should stop flying missions near the border or agree to a new set of flight rules.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said American pilots should not fly near Russian borders if the thought of Russia protecting its airspace makes them “feel depression” or “succumb to phobias.”
The Russian Defense Ministry cited the most recent Jan. 29 incident when a Russian Su-27 intercepted a U.S. Navy EP-3 near the Russian border, which the Navy has said was unsafe. That “buzzing,” or intercept, lasted for 2 hours and 40 minutes, officials have said. The U.S. Navy EP-3 was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea when a Russian Su-27 intercepted the aircraft.
“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the SU-27’s jet wash,” according to Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement advising the U.S. to not fly near Russian borders.
“The Aerospace Force will continue to maintain reliable protection of Russia’s airspace,” the Russian Defense Ministry said, according to TASS, a Russian news agency. “If the awareness of this is a reason for U.S. air pilots to feel depression or succumb to phobias, we advise the U.S. side to exclude the routes of such flights near Russian borders in the future or return to the negotiating table and agree on their rules.”
The Russian Defense Ministry called the intercept “safe.”
“The maneuvers of the Russian fighter jet on January 29 were standard, absolutely legal and perfectly safe for the American surveillance plane,” the Russian Ministry said. “When NATO fighter jets conduct similar maneuvers towards Russian military planes on patrol over the Baltic, the Barents, the Norwegian, the North or any other sea, they do not affect the Russian crews in the slightest way.”
According to the U.S. Navy: “The Russian Su-27 executed a hard right-to-left turn from the U.S. EP-3’s right side with an excessive closure rate and came within five feet of the EP-3’s right wingtip. The Russian Su-27 then proceeded to enter the flight path of the U.S. Navy EP-3, crossing within 10 feet and executing a sharp dive below, which resulted in violent turbulence for the U.S. EP-3 and its crew members.”
“The Russian military is within its right to operate within international airspace, but they must behave with international standards set to ensure safety and prevent incidents,” the Navy said. “Unsafe actions increase the risk of miscalculation and midair collisions.”
Another U.S. Navy official statement said that the intercept was unsafe due to the proximity between aircraft.
“These videos show the Russian Su-27 intercepting the EP-3 from a very close position, at the same altitude, and with an estimated wingtip-to-wingtip horizontal separation as little as five feet at times,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, Commander of Task Force 67. “For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the U.S. Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe. 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.”
These are some of the videos the Navy released: