Two Russian surveillance aircraft came within one nautical mile of the U.S. forward deployed carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) prompting the carrier to scramble armed fighters, Navy officials told USNI News on Thursday.
The Tuesday approach of the pair of Tupolev Tu-142 Bear F/J maritime toward the carrier strike group off of the Korean peninsula prompted Reagan to launch four alert fighters to escort the Bears while they were the vicinity of the carrier, Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told USNI News.
“The interaction was characterized as, ‘safe’,” Hawkins said.
“This type of interaction is not unprecedented.”
Hawkins referenced a similar encounter in 2008 when alert fighters from USS Nimitz (CVN-68) intercepted a Tupolev Tu-95 Bear shortly after Russian president Vladimir Putin reinstituted long range strategic bomber patrols after a post-Cold War lull in the flights.
Reagan was on maneuvers with the South Korean Navy as part of a previously planned bilateral exercise, Hawkins said.
Since seizure of Crimea from Ukraine Russia has stepped up its patrols over both the Pacific and Atlantic.
NATO, Japan and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) have registered a consistent uptick in Russian flights
In April of 2014 two fighters buzzed the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) in a manner deemed unsafe by U.S. officials and the Pentagon complained publically that the encounter was “provocative and unprofessional.”
In June 2014, an Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft was intercepted by Russian fighters in the Northern Pacific drawing similar complaints.