Russian jet comes within 20 feet of US Navy plane in 'safe and professional' manner

Russian jet comes within 20 feet of US Navy plane in 'safe and professional' manner
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A Russian fighter jet came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy plane earlier this week, a Navy official said Friday, but the encounter is being described as “safe and professional.”

“The interaction was considered safe and professional by the P-8A's mission commander,” Capt. Pamela Kunze, spokeswoman for U.S. Naval Forces Europe, said in a statement. “Distance is only one of many variables considered when defining what is safe and professional.”

The incident happened Tuesday over the Black Sea between a U.S. P-8A Poseidon and a Russian SU-27, Kunze said. The Russian Defense Ministry said its plane was an SU-30.

The P-8A was conducting “routine operations” in international airspace, Kunze said.


The Russian Defense Ministry also said the U.S. plane was over international waters, but described it as approaching the Russian border.

“The Russian fighter jet performed a maneuver of ‘greeting’ for the U.S. pilots and after that the U.S. surveillance plane changed the flight route towards moving from the border with Russia,” the ministry said in a statement, according to Russian news agency Tass.

The description of the encounter as safe and professional contrasts with previously reported incidents that the U.S. has slammed as “unsafe and unprofessional.”

In February, Russian jets buzzed a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Black Sea. That incident was deemed unsafe and unprofessional due to the jets’ low altitude and high speed and because they did not have their radio transponders on, official said at the time.

In Friday’s statement, Kunze said factors for determining whether an incident at sea is unsafe and unprofessional include distance, sea state, visibility, size of the vessel, speed, how it maneuvers and navigational hazards. For aviation incidents, factors include distance, speed, altitude, rate of closure and visibility.


“Every event is unique and any single variable does not define an event,” she said. “It is up to the commander of the vessel — whether ship or aircraft — to evaluate all of the variables and assess each interaction individually.”