Close Call During a Russian Jet Intercept of U.S. Navy EP-3 over the Black Sea

first published on February 2, 2018 by

The Navy recently released video of a Russian Su-27 jet intercept of a U.S. Navy EP-3 aircraft over the Black Sea. The dangerous maneuver allegedly put the two aircraft within just feet of each other and risked a mid-air collision. This is not the first close-call American and Russian pilots have provoked over the years.

This past week, a Russian Su-27 fighter brazenly crowded a U.S. Navy EP3 Aries intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft over international waters in the Black Sea. According to a statement by U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, commander of Task Force 67 and released through U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs office,

“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,” he said. “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,” said Ellis.

The statement also added,

“While not shown in the released imagery, during the intercept, 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 crewmembers.”

This is not the first time Russian and US aircraft have had run in’s while operating around the globe. A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon was intercepted by an Su-30 similarly over the Black Sea this past November – the Russian aircraft purportedly cut off the P-8A and its afterburner caused violent turbulence. These incidents combine with US intercepts of Russian long-range bombers near Japan in October; and recently over Syria, where according to the Military Times,

“Two U.S. F-22 Raptors intercepted and fired warning flares at two Russian Su-25s over the tightly congested air space in Syria along the Euphrates River”.

The continued friction and aerial cat and mouse games between the US and Russia show no signs of stopping. As long as both sides continue operate aircraft in close proximity, the risk of a larger more far reaching incident will weigh heavily on these airborne antics.

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