Russian fighter jets came 'extremely close' to US Navy planes, at one point coming within just 5 feet

Russian fighter jets came 'extremely close' to US Navy planes, at one point coming within just 5 feet
Two Russian Su-35 aircraft unsafely intercepted a P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft assigned to US 6th Fleet over the Mediterranean Sea on May 26, 2020. The military says Russia has been doing the same again.Jonathan Nelson
  • The US says that Russian aircraft conducted risky intercepts of US Navy planes over the Mediterranean.
  • In one of three incidents, US and Russian fighter jets came within five feet of each other, a defense official told The Wall Street Journal.

Three US Navy reconnaissance aircraft were on the receiving end of "unprofessional" intercepts by Russian aircraft this past weekend while flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

US officials told CNN that the Russian military aircraft got "extremely close."

In one of three separate incidents in which Russian Su-35 fighter jets flew alarmingly close to US Navy P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, the Russian jets came within five feet of a US plane, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Pentagon considers two of the interactions unsafe and the other unprofessional, a defense official told the newspaper.

"We have made our concerns known to Russian officials through diplomatic channels," the Pentagon said in a statement, adding that "while no one was hurt, interactions such as these could result in miscalculations and mistakes that lead to more dangerous outcomes."


Although it is not unusual for Russian aircraft to approach US aircraft, the US considers most of these interactions safe and professional, CNN reported.

The recent risky interactions, which come amid tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine, are the first such intercepts since 2020, an official told The Journal. Russia carried out multiple intercepts that were deemed "unsafe" that year.

In one incident in April 2020, a Russian jet pulled a "high-speed, high-powered maneuver that decreased aircraft separation to within 25 feet, directly in front of the P-8A, exposing the US aircraft to wake turbulence and jet exhaust," the Navy said at the time.

The sea service accused the Russian pilots of "seriously jeopardizing the safety of flight of both aircraft."

Responding to the latest troubling incident, the Pentagon said: "The US will continue to operate safely, professionally and consistent with international law in international waters and airspace. We expect Russia to do the same."