Two Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter pilots flew unsafe maneuvers around a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber flying over the Black Sea on Friday, and the encounter was caught on video.
According to a U.S. Air Force press statement, the Russian fighter jets flew in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner” around the U.S. bomber as it flew in international air space. The U.S. Air Force said the Russian fighters crossed 100 feet in front of the nose of the U.S. B-52, cutting across its flight path. The Russian fighters were also flying with their afterburners engaged, causing turbulence that restricted the bomber’s ability to maneuver.
The U.S. Air Force bomber pilots captured video of the incident, which shows a Russian fighter pilot flying up alongside the wing of the bomber before speeding across the front of the bomber.
In the video, that camera begins to shake repeatedly, which may be a result of the turbulence caused by the close pass.
Gen. Jeff Harrigian, the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, condemned the actions of the Russian pilots involved.
“Actions like these increase the potential for midair collisions, are unnecessary, and inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules,” Harrigan said. “While the Russian aircraft were operating in international airspace, they jeopardized the safety of flight of the aircraft involved. We expect them to operate within international standards set to ensure safety and prevent accidents.”
The U.S. Air Force said the B-52 was conducting routine operations in international airspace exercising our freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international safety standards, as prescribed in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules of flight.
U.S. pilots have encountered other unsafe Russian maneuvers in recent months.
In two separate incidents in April, separate Russian Su-35 fighter jets flew up on lone U.S. Navy P8-A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft flying over the Mediterranean Sea, demonstrating what the Navy described as unsafe flying by the Russian pilots. In the first incident, the Russian pilot flew an inverted pass within 25 feet of the U.S. aircraft.
In May, another Russian Su-35 flew under the wings of a Navy Navy P-8A Poseidon in an unsafe maneuver.
Friday’s unsafe intercept incident came on the same day that U.S. forces conducted a NATO solidarity flight mission, which saw U.S. aircraft fly over all 30 NATO-allied countries.
The Associated Press reported the 30-country NATO flight is part of the regular U.S. single-day missions that have been taking place since 2018. The U.S. European Command said Friday’s flight is specifically meant to “demonstrate NATO solidarity, enhance readiness and provide training opportunities.”
Gen. Tod Wolters, the commander of U.S. European Command, said “U.S. security commitments to the NATO Alliance remain ironclad. Today’s bomber task force mission is another example of how the Alliance sustains readiness, improves interoperability and demonstrates our ability to deliver on commitments from across the Atlantic.”