VLADIMIR Putin and Donald Trump’s military forces came within five feet of each other yesterday after a Russian SU-27 jet performed an “unsafe” intercept of a US EP-3E Aries II surveillance aircraft, defence officials have claimed.
The two planes came so close together that the EP-3E was forced to fly through the Russian’s “jet wash”, according to US Naval Forces Europe spokeswoman, Captain Pamela Kunze.
She explained: “This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the SU-27’s jet wash.
“Unsafe actions increase the risk of miscalculation and midair collisions.
“The US aircraft was operating in accordance with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.”
Captain Kunze added that the intercept over the Black Sea lasted over two and a half hours.
In a statement, the US State Department said the Russian jet “engaged in an unsafe interaction with a US EP-3 in international airspace, closing to within 5 feet (1.5 meters) and crossing directly in front of the EP-3’s flight path.”
“This is but the latest example of Russian military activities disregarding international norms and agreements,” the statement said, calling on Russia “to cease these unsafe actions.”
The Russian defence ministry justified the actions of the SU-27 by claiming it flew “strictly in accordance with international rules”.
In a statement, it added: “An SU-27 fighter was sent to intercept the target and approached the aircraft at a safe distance and identified it as an ER-3E (Aries II) US reconnaissance aircraft.
“The crew of the fighter jet reported the identification of the American reconnaissance aircraft and accompanied it, preventing it from violating Russian airspace, observing all necessary security measures.
“After the surveillance plane of the US Navy had changed its course to move away from the border, the SU-27 returned to its base,” it was quoted as saying.
“The entire flight of the Russian SU-27 was strictly in accordance with international rules for the use of airspace and there were no extraordinary events.”
CNN military analyst John Kirby blasted the SU-27’s actions as “inexcusable, provocative and potentially fatal”.
He went on: “While it is difficult to determine the degree to which senior levels in the chain of command are involved in the specific conduct of any particular intercept, one thing is absolutely clear: The Kremlin desires to challenge US military patrols in and above the Black Sea and elsewhere.