Russia disputes US account of 'unsafe' incident involving aircraft

Russia disputes US account of 'unsafe' incident involving aircraft
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Russia on Monday disputed the U.S. Navy’s account of an “unsafe and unprofessional” incident Sunday in which a fighter jet from Moscow intercepted an American spy plane over the Mediterranean Sea.

“For the second time in four days, Russian pilots flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner while intercepting a U.S. Navy P-8A Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft in U.S. Sixth Fleet,” U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and the 6th Fleet said in a statement on Sunday.

The Russian SU-35 jet came close to the Navy aircraft twice as they were flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea.

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The first intercept was deemed safe and professional but the second intercept was not “due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, high-powered maneuver that decreased aircraft separation to within 25 feet, directly in front of the P-8A, exposing the U.S. aircraft to wake turbulence and jet exhaust,” according to the statement.

"The unnecessary actions of the Russian SU-35 pilot were inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules, seriously jeopardizing the safety of flight of both aircraft," the Navy said. “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.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said that the incident was “in strict accordance with the international rules for the use of airspace over international waters.”

Moscow said its jets took off from Khmeimim air base in Syria to identify the American plane, claiming it was approaching the base.

“The pilot of the Russian fighter after approach identified the tail number of the aircraft belonging to the US Navy, and took it for escort," Russia said in a statement, according to the state news service Tass. The Navy plane then changed course and the Russian jet returned to its base.

Last week a Russian fighter jet came within 25 feet of a Navy reconnaissance aircraft while inverted, putting the U.S. "pilots and crew at risk," the Navy said in a statement about the incident. The incident came exactly a week after Air Force jets intercepted two Russian patrol aircraft near Alaska.

European Command head and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Tod Wolters said on Thursday that he believed the Russian jets were “more along the lines of unprofessional as opposed to deliberate” in their actions, but that he had "initiated a conversation with the powers to be in Moscow” about it.