The US and Russia exchanged barbs after a Russian fighter jet allegedly made a dangerous high-speed pass that threatened a US Navy spy plane during an intercept over the Mediterranean Sea near Syria on Tuesday, the U.S. Sixth Fleet said, but Moscow said its pilot had behaved responsibly.
"While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible," the Sixth Fleet said in a statement urging Russians "to behave within international standards set to prevent incidents."
"The U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity," it said quoted by Reuters.
The Sixth Fleet said the Russian jet had made three intercepts, two of which it deemed to be safe. But it said one of the intercepts of the P-8A Poseidon involved a high-speed pass directly in front of the U.S. aircraft that produced wake turbulence and "put our pilots and crew at risk."
The full statement from the Sixth Fleet is below:
On June 4, 2019, a U.S. P-8A Poseidon aircraft flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-35 three times over the course of 175 minutes. The first and third interaction 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 duration of the intercept was approximately 28 minutes.
While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible. 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 U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.
Meanwhile, Russia's Ministry of Defence said it had scrambled a Sukhoi Su-35 jet from its air base in Syria to intercept the US plane which it said had been approaching Russia's Tartus naval facility on the Syrian coast, the RIA news agency reported on Wednesday.
Moscow denied its aircraft had acted irresponsibly, saying it had stayed at a safe distance and had returned to its base after the U.S. aircraft changed course.