Home » Budget Industry » Pentagon: Russian Fighter Conducted ‘Unsafe’ Intercept of U.S. Recon Plane Over Black Sea

Pentagon: Russian Fighter Conducted ‘Unsafe’ Intercept of U.S. Recon Plane Over Black Sea

A U.S. Air Force Boeing RC-135U Combat Sent aircraft in 2004. US Air Force Photo

A U.S. Air Force Boeing RC-135U Combat Sent aircraft in 2004. US Air Force Photo

PENTAGON — A Russian fighter intercepted a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance flight in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner’ in international airspace over the Black Sea, a Pentagon spokeswoman confirmed to USNI News on Thursday.

According to the Pentagon, a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker intercepted a RC-135U Combat Sent “flying a routine route in international airspace over the Black Sea,” read a statement provided to USNI News.

The statement indicated the U.S. is “looking into this particular incident.”

The fighter came close and its thrust “disturbed the controllability” of the U.S. electronic surveillance aircraft, a defense official told The Washington Free Beacon.

The news site also cited a second defense official saying the Combat Sent was flying 30 miles off the coast and no where near Russian territory when the intercept occurred.

Pentagon officials were careful to say the intercept was not reason the U.S. and the Russians spoke via a Thursday video teleconference. Russian Ministry of Defense officials and Acting Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin and Joint Staff Director for Strategic Plans and Policy Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie discussed the ongoing deconfliction of U.S. and Russian strike missions over Syria as part of an ongoing memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Russia.

Officials USNI News spoke with were unclear if the Flanker intercept came up during the conversation.

The intercept of the RC-135U – designed to record radar emissions from potential adversaries to develop countermeasures — is the latest of a string of incidents between NATO and Russian forces since Russia seized control of the Crimean region of Ukraine in 2014.

Russian Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker Righter

Russian Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker Righter

The incident is the latest in a string of intercepts since over the last two years that the Pentagon has deemed unsafe.

The Pentagon has labeled several intercepts of variants of the RC-135 surveillance planes over the Baltic, Black Sea and the Pacific Ocean at the edge of Russian controlled airspace as “unprofessional” and “provocative.”

In 2014 a Russian Sukhoi SU-24 Fencer made repeated passes over USSDonald Cook (DDG-75), a ballistic missile destroyer, while it was conducting operations in the Black Sea.

Later that year, the Canadian frigate HMCS Toronto was buzzed by Fencers operating in the Black Sea.

For their part, Russian officials have complained of the uptick in U.S. surveillance flights since 2014.

“US RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft carry out flights almost daily,” Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, said in late 2014.
“In 2014, more than 140 RC-135 flights have taken place compared to 22 flights in 2013.”


    Just like the “Good old Days” of the Cold War.
    Nothing to see here, move along…

  • muzzleloader

    So Ivan, you think your pilots are hot stuff because they can harass unarmed recon aircraft ? Let’s see how they do against an F-15 or F-22.

    • AlvinBr

      Do those show up over the Black Sea? I mean, can F-22 even fly?

    • maxmaxed

      Probably because his “powerful” army can annex a piece of friendly land from a neighbor that just had a revolution. And lie for the whole year to everyone that they had nothing to do with annexation. Typical Russian idiots.

  • sferrin

    More Russian clowns pretending to be professionals.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    The Kremlin’s propaganda sites will claim the aircrew landed & immediately all resigned in sheer terror of the might of mother Russia’s ferocious air force…

    just like the crew of USS Donald Cook did last year…. apparently!

  • maxmaxed

    So Russian idiots didn’t have it enough with Turkey. After another provocation they got their rusty waste shot down. Went hysterical and did nothing but ridiculous sanctions that only hurts more their near collapsed economy. Now they keep playing with fire. The whole world should see that Russian fascists can only attack weak small countries after revolutions, when nobody can shoot back properly. Once their crap gets shot – they can do nothing but cry hysterically.

    • garex

      Pls dont’ mix Turkey and their stupid corrupted president. He is corrupted just in same way as ours — buys oil from ISIS through his son. But in Siria only Russian air forces really fights with ISIS terrorists. USA “forces” just imitate it. We all know, that USA is an evil country, that always likes when other countries ni war. Remember 2nd world war, after which USA received maany profits. Our grandfathers fighted with Hitler, while yours just sold weapons.

      • John Allard

        Well first off, Obama has two daughters so…not a son. Unless you meant someone else?

        Second, Russia’s focus has been anti-Assad groups, not ISIS. That’s not to say they aren’t fighting ISIS, but ISIS isn’t the biggest threat facing the Syrian Army. Makes sense considering Moscows objective is to keep the Ba’athist regime of Assad afloat. So I’ll have to disagree that Russia is fighting ISIS while the US is pretending to. Such a claim simply put, is silly and untrue.

        Third, judging an entire country into a single category is small minded, just like saying every Russian is a corrupt drunk. That’s offensive and untrue. As an American, I’ve always been fascinated by Russia and its people although I can’t say I trust it gvm’t but it’s an imperfect world.

        Fourth, Hitler was defeated by the combined Allied powers, the USSR received MASSIVE amounts of material support from the west in the form of things like tin, rubber, aluminum, wheat, oil, steel, and lots and lots of American built trucks General Motors and half tracks that allowed the Soviet Army to mechanize their infantry divisions so that they could exploit breakthrough in the German lines.

        Look, it’s ok if you don’t like the US, like I said, it’s an imperfect world. I can’t say I’m a fan of Russians speaking like you do as if Russia has a monopoly on truth in the world, so honestly (and I mean no offense personally) I find it upsetting and ignorant. And over three quarters of the German Army fought against the Soviets, it was an Allied effort, we couldn’t have won without you, and you couldn’t have won without us.

        It’s ok to have a good opinion and pride in your country, but don’t tell people how little their country did when family members of theirs fought and died to bring down the Axis powers.

      • maxmaxed

        “Remember 2nd world war, after which USA received maany profits.” That’s called a smart country, genius, not an evil one.

        Turkish president is indeed a tough one, that’s why he’s able to spit Putin in the face. Putin is far more corrupt with all his criminals and murderers in power.
        And stop spewing this BS abut Russia fighting ISIS. I would say Russia is the only force in Syria NOT fighting ISIS. A map of Russian airstrikes clearly shows that the vast majority of Russian bombs fall far from IS territory, bombing those who oppose Assad regime. A perfect example – Russian fascists bombing Turkmens and getting shot. Not even close to IS.
        Not even speaking that Russia started bombings only to distract its own people from crisis and coming collapse and from a complete failure in Ukraine.

        • Gus, DC USA

          Not a good president, Turkey can not isolate itself from Russia.

    • Judy Lincicome Fletcher

      I frequently watch videos on RUSSIAN WINGS STUDIO. They are well produced in HD with great music track on the aircraft videos. Their young pilots seem very immature and non-professional in their demeanor…as opposed to “western” pilots who are very professional and probably a little better trained. This undoubtedly explains their cocky and foolish flying style on intercepts. The Chinese have shown a similar style on their intercepts, maybe even more so. Remember the one, years ago, who collided with a US Navy P-3 Orion in international waters? And the Chinese blamed us! He was doing aerobatics and hit one of the props. What a shame! Bert Fletcher………………….

    • Secundius

      @ maxmaxed.

      The Standard of Living of the Common People in Russia is in the “CRAPPER”, the Ruble is worth 76.92 to the 1 USD. Putin need’s to have an Economy Base of at least ~$135-USD per Barrel of Oil to STAY Solvent. Russian Crude Oil is selling at BARELY ~$31-USD per Barrel, 23% the Value that Putin want’s it to be. The ONLY way Putin can do this is to PICK A FIGHT ON HIS TERMS. NOBODY’s BUYING, on those terms. So he’s TRYING to Create a Conflict. This Incident is Just One Of Many, The Mini-Sub in Swedish Territorial Water. Threatening Smaller NATO Countries, and Former Warsaw Pact Countries…

    • Gus, DC USA

      Believe weak turkey attacked Russia… u are presenting wrong facts. Same Turkey is buying oil from ISIS

  • omegatalon

    Time to arm these RC-135 aircraft with air-to-air missiles like the AIM-54 Phoenix that were used by the F-14 Tomcats as they’re supersonic and lethal.

    • Michael Rich

      That’s a pretty dumb idea. Those aircraft do not have fire control radars. It would cost more outfitting them with air-to-air weapons than just escorting them with friendly fighters.

    • John Allard

      The Phoenix missiles were retired. They were old and the solid fuel rocket motors were becoming unsafe. Plus, the Phoenix wasn’t expected to perform well against maneuverable fighter aircraft.

  • RobM1981

    Flankers are pretty.

    So… what did we expect? Take a Google at Black Sea, and see where it is. International Air Space? Sure, why not. Just like flying off the coast of the USA is, technically, International Air Space.

    Did they Hit our plane? Did they Down our plane? I’m pretty sure “intimidation in the face of intimidation” is how the game is played. They send Bears to Alaska or California or Martha’s Vineyard; we send RC-135’s and Rivet Joints to the Black Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, etc. Everyone scrambles fighters.

    If the only difference is “their fighters fly too close,” aren’t we splitting hairs?

    • USNVO

      Simple answer is no. There are international agreements to which Russia is a signature that spell out how to conduct intercepts in a safe manner. No one questions that the Russians, or anyone else for that matter, have the absolute right to intercept aircraft over international waters. For instance, look at how multiple NATO nations did the intercepts and trailing of TU-95s recently. But, If reports are correct and it is hard to argue with video of the incident, the SU-27 came within 20ft of the RC-135 and acted in such a way that the RC-135 had to take evasive action, both of which are against the agreement. The Russians don’t complain about US and other international intercepts because Other nations don’t act in a way to compromise safety of flight. If you don’t complain when nations violate international law, the law has no effect. Note the US just complained about the conduct, they didn’t take any military action. But, aggressive action, either intentionally or by poorly trained pilots, can result in serious incidents. So you complain.

      • John Allard

        Couldn’t have said it better.

    • sferrin

      Last I checked, our F-15s and F-22s don’t “thump” their Bears and Blackjacks. So no, it’s not at all the same.

      • RobM1981

        They’re Russian. What, again, do we expect? They are mouth-breathers. Their president is often photographed without a shirt, on a horse or wresting a rhino or other such macho things.

        It’s who they are.

        Perhaps we can stop acting like President Low-T and accept that the Russians play rough.

        Nobody was killed or even hurt.


  • Michael D. Woods

    Compare to the way we intercepted Soviet bears flying down our east coast in international airspace to Cuba when I was flying thirty to forty years ago, and the way we intercepted their overflights of sixth fleet ships in the Med. Maybe not all that different.

  • Charles Pierce

    We are back to the cold war, Russia needs to be treated just like the Soviet Union.

  • GJohnson

    Sounds pretty routine to me…
    Nothing to see here.

  • garex

    Hey, USA “warriors”, what are thought? You thought, that you can fly as at home near our borders? Nope. You have your land — it’s in America. So live there and not take your noses here at our part of the world.

    • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

      We all hope the weather is good in the St Petersburg ‘factory’….

      All hail Czar Shirtless!

    • muzzleloader

      Our part of the world? You mean like the way Tu-95 Bears fly off the coast of California and Hawaii? Or the coast of Japan? You live in Russia, so live in your part of world and eat red cabbage and drink lots vodka, yes?

    • John Allard

      International is international. That means we have as much right to be there as you.

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  • John Allard

    How’s the T-50 doing by the way? More delays and India might pull out of the project meaning greater costs for Russia, whereas the Raptor is in squadron service. But the US still has that ultra expensive junk pod, the F-35.

    • sferrin

      “Junk pod”? Don’t tell me you’re guzzling the BS Sweetman & Co. are peddling. Do a little bit of research. See what the USER has to say about it. (No, John McCain is not the user. He’s a useless stuffed suit, eager to jump on any perceived shortcoming and use it for personal aggrandizement.)

  • Papa Amma

    Obama needs to tell Putin that if this happens again, we will shoot their plane down, then do it. This might require having fighters escort our plane, but so be it.

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    Russian sanctions have really devastated the Turkish tourist economy Which is causing also having an effect on EU tourist to stop going to Turkey for vacation.