A Russian fighter jet came within just 10 feet of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft last month, showing that Russia shows no signs of letting up its displays of military might.
The encounter took place at high speed, meaning there was little room for error. The event occurred in international airspace over the Black Sea late last month, according to U.S. officials.
In a familiar dance to U.S. pilots in the region, the Russian fighter flew alongside the U.S. plane, broke off, and then resumed shadowing the plane before leaving the area in the May 30th incident. The U.S. aircraft did not take evasive measures, and no other details of the encounter were released.
The incident comes weeks after another encounter between the U.S. and Russia over the skies of Europe, when a U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace was approached by a Russian SU-27 Flanker in what officials described as an “unsafe and unprofessional manner.”
The incidents haven’t just been happening with aircraft, as earlier this month, the U.S. Navy released video of Russian Su-24 aircraft flying past the guided missile destroyer USS Ross in the Black Sea.
The video was released to counter Russian reports that the approach wasn’t normal despite the fact the airplanes and ship had a routine encounter. It shows a Russian fighter approaching and then quickly zooming past the American vessel, which happens with some regularity.
Further proof of the benign nature of the incident was that the Russian aircraft was not armed, according to a U.S. defense official.
Russia has been aggressively working the media and social networks to spin such encounters are either pro-Putin or anti-American, which U.S. defense officials are increasingly taking note of and actively responding to. By releasing footage of the encounter, U.S. officials are showing the actual facts rather than stories which are almost certainly exaggerated.
While the naval encounter was routine and part of increased military drills in the region, the two air incidents are concerning because of the danger they posed to U.S. aircraft and personnel.
The increased belligerence has come at a cost for the Russian Air Force – its lost three planes in five days due to the increased workload.