WASHINGTON — A Russian fighter jet harassed a Navy reconnaissance airplane three times over the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday, including one time that was “determined to be unsafe,” the Navy said.
Russian aircraft often shadow or fly close to U.S. and NATO air assets in the Mediterranean Sea, but this incident — with a duration of approximately 28 minutes — was more provocative and dangerous than normal, the Navy said.
“This interaction was irresponsible,” the Navy said in a release late Tuesday night. “Unsafe actions increase the risk of miscalculation and potential for midair collisions.”
Russian officials did not comment directly on the incident. However, its Ministry of Defense told RIA news on Wednesday that it had “scrambled a Sukhoi Su-35 jet from its air base in Syria to intercept the U.S. plane which it said had been approaching Russia’s Tartus naval facility on the Syrian coast.”
The Navy did not provide an exact location of the incident.
The Navy said the the P-8A Poseidon aircraft was flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea on Monday when it was intercepted by a Russian SU-35 three times over the course of 175 minutes.
It did not offer reasons as to why it occurred three times, with the second time the dangerous buzz.
“The U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity,” the Navy said.
The entire incident lasted 175 minutes. The first and third interactions were deemed safe. “The second interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The crew of the P-8A reported wake turbulence following the second interaction,” the Navy said.
Similar incidents occurred earlier this year and late last year with Russian aircraft over the Black Sea and Baltic Sea.