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EUCOM Reviewing Air Ops After Russian ‘Attempted Engagement’ Of U.S. Jet

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Boeing RC-135V/W Rivet Joint. US Air Force Photo

Boeing RC-135V/W Rivet Joint. US Air Force Photo

An “attempted engagement” of a U.S. surveillance plane by Russian fighters in the skies above eastern Europe has prompted leaders at U.S. European Command to reevaluate its air operations tactics in the region, according to Pentagon officials.

The incident occurred on July 18, while the Boeing RC-135V/W Rivet Joint was conducting a routine surveillance mission in international airspace on Russian targets in the Baltics, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Monday.

During the course of the operation, U.S. ground units supporting the Rivet Joint notified the aircrew of approaching Russian fighters, Warren told reporters during the Monday Pentagon briefing.

The Russian attack aircraft were reportedly moving toward the RC-135’s position in an, “attempted encounter” with the American surveillance aircraft, he said.

After receiving the warning, the Rivet Joint was diverted into Swedish airspace in order to avoid engaging with the Russian fighters. Once the aircrew realized it had entered sovereign airspace, it quickly moved back into international air, Warren said.

While the RC-135 crew and supporting ground units, “followed all proper procedures” during the entire incident, officials at European Command are investigating the details of the incident, Warren added.

While declining to go into details of the command’s inquiry, he did say that EUCOM officials are “taking active steps” to figure out how to prevent other near misses between American, allied and Russian military forces in the future.

That said, “there was nothing unusual about this encounter,” Warren told reporters on Monday.

EUCOM commander Gen. Philip Breedlove warned in June that the growing frequency of Russian fighter jets and warships harassing American and allied forces in the region was causing concern within the command.

While such incidents are simply part of doing business in the EUCOM theater, Russian shows of force have ramped up significantly since tensions boiled over in eastern Ukraine earlier this year.

The timing of the RC-135 encounter comes days before Moscow is set to kick off a massive air warfare exercise, which will reportedly include over 100 Russian warplanes in the skies along the country’s western border with Ukraine.

Since the outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine, Russian fighters and warships have conducted several aggressive engagements against U.S. and allies in the region.

In June, a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer made up to 12 near passes against the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75), flying as close as flew as close as 1,000 yards from the ship at times, while the destroyer was patrolling the Black Sea off the Ukrainian coastline.

While the planes never engaged the guided missile destroyer, or the RC-135 last month, the saber rattling from Moscow is becoming exceedingly clear to American commanders in Europe.

However, Warren dismissed any comparisons between the July 18 incident with the Rivet Joint and the low passes made on Donald Cook in June.
The Rivet Joint and the Russian fighters never made visual contact and the U.S. aircraft was never in any danger of being shot down, he said.

However, Warren did add that continued instances like this remain “highly provocative and escalate rather than de-escalate tensions” in Eastern Europe.

  • muzzleloader

    An escort of of F-15,s would cool bellicose behavior real fast.

    • mark 99

      Not at all. You do not know russians I do. They’re looking for fight with Americans, they really hate You. They love to show that they are superior in every way. The truth doesn’t realy matters, only show counts to russian mob. Russian inteligens spending a lot of money to create false image of the worlds order in internet. Thousends russian agents are writing commentaries at internet portals to buy so many western souls they can. It’s war, cold war since now. The West and US are dreaming too long, it’s time to wakeup!

      • scoobydoo

        May we inquire as to WHERE you learned your mastery of the English language ?????

      • muzzleloader

        If Ivan is looking for a fight, I say give it to them. There were 2 incidents in the Nineties when some hot shot Libyan pilots provoked a fight. As I recall they lost in both engagements. The only problem is the mom jean wearing panty waste in the Oval office.

        • joepro

          Muzzleloader. The first Libyan incident definitely was before 1983, the Gulf of Sidra Incident, Line of Death. I was intimately involved and retired in ’83.
          Not sure of the second but I believe that too was in the ’80s.

          • Secundius

            @ joepro.

            When dealing a decisive win against Putin, just remember the following. Made by 1st Baseman, Mark Grace of the Chicago Cubs on November 12/2013. Quote: “If you’re not cheating, You’re not trying hard enough.”

          • muzzleloader

            You are right, it was the ’80s. That was what I meant, my bad.
            The first incident was in 1981, and the second in 1989.
            I remember the second incident so well because I remember being in the company lunchroom and hearing the announcement, and a bunch of us cheering and applauding the outcome.

        • Secundius

          @ muzzleloader.

          The problem IS, that Putin is looking for a fight. But, on his terms and fighting conditions. We, meaning the US., need to send Putin a clear message. That we will fight him, BUT, on OUR TERMS and conditions and not on his.

  • Edward J. Palumbo

    We read this report of an “attempted engagement” or “encounter” by Russian a/c against a USAF RC-135, and Col. Steve Warren is quoted that “there was nothing about this encounter”. Is it our standard procedure to violate Russian airspace? If so, we must expect a response as surely as we would respond to a violation of U.S. airspace. Yet, it is reported as an “attempted engagement”. I find that misleading. If the Russian aircraft was sent to warn or escort the surveillance aircraft out of its airspace, do not report it as a bellicose act and put quotation marks around the “engagement” to qualify or cloud the issue. Speaking as one who remembers the Tonkin Gulf incident, I ask to be spared propaganda in preference to fact. Further, if a Russian Su-24 ‘went hot” against the USS Donald Cook, there would be electronic evidences that weapons and guidance systems of the hostile aircraft were activated. If it circled within 1,000 yards, that is not clear. It approached and did a pop-up at 1,000 yards, that is not clear. In truth, this entire article is not clear. If threatening maneuvers were executed in international airspace or waters, then that justifies orbiting fighter aircraft within range to interdict and discourage, but spare me the clouded obfuscation in this article; it evidences poor journalism.

    • Ctrot

      Your entire comment seems to be based on the idea that the RC-135 was in Russian airspace, it was not. Try reading for comprehension next time.

      • Edward J. Palumbo

        Try following the contradictory statements next time. Crayons ready, class?

        • El_KaBong

          “…my reading comprehension is usually surprisingly accurate…”?

          Not in this case.

        • Secundius

          @ Edward J. Palumbo.

          I had no trouble understanding the article. Putin is tying to win favor and support over the Russian people. He has some support, but not all. So he’s trying to created and/or provoke a incident to rally his people into a cohesive unified mass. And the only way he’s going to do that is too create on incident of his making and control. What so difficult too understand about that.

    • Tom Gaj

      “… the Boeing RC-135V/W Rivet Joint was conducting a routine surveillance mission in international airspace…”
      I would say that was pretty clear…

      • Edward J. Palumbo

        And a few sentences later, we read, “Once the aircrew realized it had entered sovereign airspace, it quickly moved back into international air, Warren said.” I ask you, how clear is it?

        • scoobydoo

          The “sovereign airspace” that is mentioned in this article pertains to SWEDEN and NOT Russia ……..

          • Edward J. Palumbo

            Scoobydoo, you develop a good point; that wasn’t clear to me. I continue to wonder why Russia would scramble a/c unless there was an intrusion or imminent violation of Russian airspace.

          • scoobydoo

            It all depends on what the claim is for the term, “international boundary”. For some it’s TWENTY miles offshore while others claim TWO HUNDRED miles offshore. Then, of course, you have China, which claims the WHOLE Pacific Ocean as THEIRS. With the Russians, it’s just “saber rattling” and a “mine is BIGGER then YOURS” mentality. The U.S. does the same thing when Russia’s long-range bombers appear off the Alaska/California coast. We go up to have a “look-see”, smile, waive, take a few “polaroids” of their aircraft and then “gently” point them in the “right” direction ……………….

          • Ctrot

            Simple, Putin likes rattling sabers.

          • TallTexan2

            It wasn’t clear because you’d rather talk than read … blah, blah, blah. Good. Grief.

          • Edward J. Palumbo

            Very possibly. And you prefer to argue?

  • Waldez

    Well, Assad launched a chemical attack and we have to send ground troops;Saddam Hussain had WMD’s;Thousands of Central American children are threatening the existence of our Nation; Russia shot down a Malaysian Airliner;Hamas is holding an IDF soldier HOSTAGE and we demand his unconditional release; North Korea has plans of World Domination; Iran is only weeks away from deploying nuclear missiles;Russia trains Hockey players as foreign agents and they are infiltrating the US and Canada;China is secretly buying the NBA and will move it to Asia;F-35’s will change the course of History and render Russia and it’s allies helpless. What do all these statements have in common with “Another attempted Engagement”.

  • Secundius

    The Russian were trying to provoke and/or created an incident of their choosing.
    A flight of F-15, would have made the incident even worse. Because I’m pretty sure the Russian had WHITE loads on their aircrafts, and not BLUE loads.

    • El_KaBong

      Russian weapons do not use the same NATO standard colour coding.

      • Secundius

        @ El_KaBong.

        I wasn’t trying Soviet-era, or Russian-Federation accurate. Because most followers, wouldn’t know what it meant anyway. So, if I give it a Nato flare, maybe it will be easier for some, if not most people to follow.

        • El_KaBong

          You’re still wrong.

          And it’s misleading others.

          Learn the facts.

          • Secundius

            @ El_KaBong.

            Funny how all of a sudden, your on the DEFENSIVE !

          • El_KaBong

            Attempt at deflection = EPIC FAIL

            You’re wrong.
            I’m right.

            NATO standard colour coding for weapons uses blue to denote inert practice weapons.

            I know what the Russians use.

            Let’s see if you know what they use?

            For bonus marks, let’s see if you know what NATO dummy weapon colour coding is.

            Seems appropriate in your case.

          • Secundius

            @ El_KaBong.

            Why don’t you go to some of the other websites and look and act stupid!

          • El_KaBong

            Way to troll…

          • Secundius

            @ El_KaBong.

            Like the cartoon character, you’ve been KaBong’d one too many times. And I not the troll hear, you are. Just ask any of the long termers here!!!