The pilot and crew of a US P-8A Poseidon aircraft were put danger by an "unsafe" intercept from a Russian SU-35.
On Tuesday, the US Navy’s 6th Fleet reported how a Russian fighter endangered the crew of a Navy surveillance plane during an "unsafe" intercept over the Mediterranean Sea.
The incident involved a US P-8A Poseidon aircraft that was flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea. It was intercepted by a Russian SU-35 three times over the course of almost three hours. Although the first interaction was deemed safe, the second one (which lasted about 28 minutes) was determined to be unsafe.
The SU-35 conducted a high-speed pass directly in front of the US aircraft, putting the crew and pilot at risk. The P-8A crew reported experience wake turbulence as a result of the second intercept.
The report characterized the interaction as “irresponsible,” stating “We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Unsafe actions increase the risk of miscalculation and potential for midair collisions.”
The 6th Fleet concluded its announcement by stating that the US aircraft was operating within international law and “did not provoke this Russian activity.”
Russia denies any misconduct. The Russian defense ministry said, “All flights by Russian aircraft were conducted in accordance with international rules for the use of airspace," according to the Russian state-run TASS News Agency.
According to Business Insider, Moscow claims to have detected an air target approaching its Tartus naval base in Syria from international waters above the Mediterranean Sea. The SU-35 took off from Hmeymim Air Base to identify the aircraft. According to the Russian defense ministry stated that the aircraft returned to base after the US aircraft changed its course.
This behavior is not exactly new. In 2018, the US Navy accused the Russian military of two "unsafe" intercepts above the Black Sea.
Last May, six Russian warplanes were intercepted in international airspace near Alaska twice in as many days. However, no unsafe behavior was reported in those incidents.