Home » Aviation » Russian Flyby of USS Donald Cook Highlights International Tension in the Baltics


Russian Flyby of USS Donald Cook Highlights International Tension in the Baltics

160412-N-00000-007 BALTIC SEA – A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward deployed to Rota, Spain is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo/Released) 160412-N-

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) on April 12, 2016. US Navy Photo
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The fly-by of the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) in the Baltic Sea by Russian Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers on two separate occasions earlier this week serves as a dramatic reminder of the Baltic Sea region as a friction zone between Russia and the U.S. and its NATO allies.

The incident is also a powerful reminder of Russia’s apparent military strategy for the broader region; keep the U.S. and NATO out in a crisis, and make peacetime U.S. and NATO operations in the region as uncomfortable as possible.

This is not the first close encounter between the U.S. and Russia in the Baltic Sea. In 2014, a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance flight had to break off its flight plan and head into Swedish airspace in response to an aggressively maneuvering Russian fighter jet. But the countries of the region have certainly experienced most of the uncomfortable moments with Russian air and maritime forces in the Baltic Sea region. A Russian frigate ran close alongside a Swedish-Finnish research vessel that, according to Russia’s Baltic Sea fleet, was operating too close to a Russian naval exercise. Ships laying cables between Sweden and Lithuania have had to halt their work over safety concerns instigated by closely maneuvering Russian warships. And let’s not forget the widely covered Swedish and Finnish hunts for suspected Russian submarines deep in Swedish and Finnish territorial waters.

160412-N-00000-005 BALTIC SEA – A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward deployed to Rota, Spain is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) April 12, 2016. US Navy Photo

The buzz of Donald Cook and the other maritime encounters over the last few years should be understood as an extension of Russia’s emerging anti-access area denial (A2/AD) posture in the Baltic Sea. It is centered on a growing set of capabilities in the Kaliningrad enclave, and includes the S-400 air defense system, and Iskander ballistic missiles. Russia could also quickly move its Bastion anti-ship missile system into the region in a crisis. However, Russia’s military A2/AD network is coupled with political signaling and military maneuvers to show that NATO in general, and the United States in particular, is not welcome in the Baltic Sea region, and that operating there will be an uncomfortable experience. And the examples of this abound beyond the immediate maritime domain as well.

160412-N-00000-009 BALTIC SEA – Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) Apr. 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward deployed to Rota, Spain is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

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BALTIC SEA – Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) Apr. 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward deployed to Rota, Spain is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

When Denmark proposed to have its frigates join NATO’s missile defense network as sensor platforms, Russia reacted by stating that the Danish frigates would become targets for Russia, perhaps even for nuclear attacks. Russia’s chief of defense has also warned of dire consequences if Finland continues to draw closer to NATO.

The Asia-Pacific is no longer the only region where the U.S. Navy and its friends and allies face contested waters. Maritime competition and A2/AD are now very much part of the equation in the European maritime domains as well. Indeed, Donald Cook has experienced similar fly-overs by Russia jets while operating in the Black Sea in 2014. And the Baltic Sea region could very well see more close and dangerous encounters in the coming months. The region will once again play host to the BALTOPS exercise this summer. A large anti-submarine warfare exercise is currently being planned for the Baltic as well. On top of that, NATO’s important summit in Warsaw is coming up in early July. Count on Russia to not allow that meeting so close to the Baltic Sea to go undisturbed.

  • John Locke

    One time a Bear-D flew by my ship so close you hang your skivvies on it. This was in the 80’s
    Nothing new here

    • NavySubNuke

      I guess the new thing is that back in the day we used to do the same – now we whine about it and release statements on facebook about how “dangerous” it is…..

      • John Elizondo

        This incident wasn’t anything that a few well placed tennis balls couldn’t have taken care of. 😉

  • Mikronos

    Where did this happen – (on a map)?

  • chuckberlemann

    What are we all fired up about? I spent 24 years in Naval Aviation and our flight crews used to do this all the time.

    • silencedogoodreturns

      to Russian ships???

  • Alice Young

    routine drills 70km from a russian naval base , poke poke poke

    • Secundius

      Or possibly 3-weeks of Joint Training with the Poles…

  • John B. Morgen

    We should hold our ground, and next time the Russians conduct more aggressive fly-byes over our warships; we should radar locked the advancing aircraft. That should warn them off, and also dispatch a very stern message to the Russians..

    • John Locke

      and what should they do when the U.S. does it to them?

      • John B. Morgen

        I don’t think we’ll do the same to them because our leadership in Washington are [NOT LIONS]. We have weak leaders from both political parties.

        • Secundius

          NO? Were just have a Congress, that refuses to do the Job’s they were sent there to do…

          • John B. Morgen

            I included Congress….

        • John Locke

          We do it all the time.

  • Tim Dolan

    I am still in favor of barrage balloons or small “security” drones that can accidently get sucked into engine intakes. Either would solve the problem likely. The barrage balloons would be the more polite way of doing it.

    • Secundius

      Use “Aerostat’s”, at least the can serve a Dual Function, as a Long-Range Radar Spotter and an Jet Intake Clogger. Or better yet, ave a LCS tow a M58 MICLIC, about 10-meters below the surface of the water. As Russian plane approaches, Detonate the Linear Line Charge. And let the Saltwater and Fish Clog the Air Intake as it Flies through the Fountain of Water. Then take Bet’s on the Aircraft’s Performance After That…

      • Tim Dolan

        Aerostats cost actual money (especially if they have a sensor on them). The cheap camera drones you can buy online would work great for “security” drones.

        Also not sure that line charge would kick the water up high enough, but if it does then I am good with that. Although the object is to have an “Accident” not something that looks deliberate. In the 1980’s the German’s use to put up barrage balloons over nudist beaches to keep the RF-4’s from flying low over the beaches so I know that is a proven valid tactic.

        • Secundius

          I Recall reading that Playboy Publisher Hugh Hefner Had On Installed too. So I Guess there’s some Merit in them. Old Technology for the Modern Time, “Who Would of THUNK IT”…

    • Secundius

      Most of the WW2 Vintage Dumb Bombs I’m aware of are Stock-Piles in DEEP Salt Mines. Where the Salt Absorbs most of the Moisture in the Air. Surrounding them in Kevlar-29 Will actually make them last Longer. Kevlar Doesn’t Degrade Over Time, Properly Sealed. 10,000-years could go by without any noticeable difference in appearance…

      • publius_maximus_III

        I guess I’m dating myself by suggesting Cosmoline?

        • Secundius

          There’s a Substance similar to Liquid Glass, but I Couldn’t Remember the Name…

      • Tim Dolan

        The appearance was not the problem, for the WWII era bombs, nitroglycerin of the explosive variety tended to seep from the bombs after awhile. Salt water seems to help prevent it going boom, but only while it is present, seepage and evaporation of the salt water still leaves the nitroglycerin at the location. My family has lived in Fallon, NV for many decades and every so often you would hear the boom of a bunker at Hawthorne going off. doesn’t happen as often, but at least up to a decade ago it was still happening. Hawthorne is pretty far away from Fallon, but still close enough the sound of a bunker going off could be heard when I was growing up.

    • publius_maximus_III

      Barrage balloons would be visible from a distance, especially if made from a radar-reflective material, so would be more “polite” as you say (avoidable). Small drones hovering around a ship would probably not be detectable, at least from a distance, so would be more of a “rude awakening” approach, at least at the speeds and distances observed in these videos.

      One downside of the latter approach would be to accidentally cause the buzzing fighter to fly directly into the DDG, not a good thing for either side.

      • Tim Dolan

        The trick is to have them on the fighter-departing side of the ship as the fighter passes; gravity, inertia and lack of engine power should make sure at that point the fighter does not hit the ship.

        • Secundius

          What about ZORCHING the Fighter with the SPY Phased Radar Array…

          • Tim Dolan

            I am fairly sure that would not be kosher and would count as attacking unless it was maintained at that level as part of some form of routine exercise or testing. The catch is to “have an accident” so they don’t repeat the buzzing, while not out right starting a shooting war.

          • Secundius

            Well they Employ the LaWS Laser, and claim a Direct Line-of Sight Communications Test. When the FOOL Russian Plane Flew Directly Parallel to the Light Source…

          • Secundius

            How about a Bunch of Potato Cannons, and a Big Banner in Russian. Saying We Supplied the Spuds, You Supply the Vodka”…

          • publius_maximus_III

            In line with Tim’s “kosher” comment, I agree it has to be something passive-aggressive, nothing overt.

            How about Cookie throws all his food waste off the fantail whenever a buzzing is anticipated. Ever seen a flock of seagulls swarming a shrimp boat whenever the catch is dropped on the deck and the waste is thrown back in? But maybe that’s just a warm-water thing. Are there seagulls in the Baltic?

            Ingestion math: 1 seagull + 1 jet engine = 1 pile of expensive blades.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Just an observation from one of the keyboard warriors:

    Looking at a map of the Baltic Sea, it’s a body of water surrounded by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, and way over on the extreme eastern end, Mother Russia. I’ll assume these close passes to one of our DDG ‘s were somewhere near that Russian shoreline — i.e. in the Gulf of Finland – and note that name, the Gulf of FINLAND? Otherwise, what are they doing projecting A2/AD out in the middle of international waters bounded by eight (8) other countries?

    Such hostile behavior is reminiscent of China’s treatment of other countries’ naval vessels in the SCS, except without the artificial islands (i.e., “stationary” aircraft carriers) and of Iran’s recent belligerence in the Persian Gulf – at least that one was named after them.

  • olesalt

    This sounds interesting to China, and I wouldn’t be surprise similar actions will be taken by the Chinese in the South China Sea in due course.

    • John Locke

      Been doing it for decades

  • RobM1981

    Take a look at Google Maps

    Look for Kaliningrad

    That’s Russia – even though it’s about 500km from the Russian border. Called an “exclave,” it’s an echo of WWII and the Cold War. Unlike St. Petersburg, this area stays ice-free most winters, so the Russians won’t even think about releasing it. The trouble, obviously, is that it is sandwiched between two NATO countries – Poland and Lithuania. Like Russia, these two nations also believe that the coastline is theirs to use, and they welcome their NATO allies’ naval vessels.

    Most Americans can’t name the Vice President, so to think that they know about situations like this is absurd. They foolishly vote for fools, like Obama, or pretty much any of the current crop, who have no idea how to deal with this. Russia has been militarizing this area for years, but we’re too busy twisting ourselves up about men using women’s bathrooms to talk about trivialities such as growing military friction.

    If there weren’t great photos, this wouldn’t have even made the news. You know that’s true. China is building islands in the S. China Sea, totally denuding the ocean floor of life and generating a massive flash-point, but without “amazing photographs” it simply doesn’t exist to most Americans.

    Inasmuch as it highlight’s how President Chance Gardner is an abject failure, the MSM go out of their way to ignore it, even if they understand it… which, generally, they don’t.

    The incident isn’t the flyby; it’s the lack of respect that Putin has towards President Zoolander that is the issue behind this, and we all know it.

    Look at today’s news – Obama can’t buy a friend in Europe or the Middle East. There’s not a leader that respects or even likes him. Not One. Even Britain, France, and Germany don’t like him – after throwing rose petals at his feet during his Coronation.

    He’s that rare combination of incompetence and narcissist that people love to dislike, and go out of their way to humiliate.

    If only he was bright enough to realize just how badly he was losing…

    • John Locke

      Again, mast-top flyby’s and some paint rubbin’ (see USS Yorktown CG-48 incident) isn’t anything new………….. regardless of who is President.

      • silencedogoodreturns

        it may not be “new,” ie, it’s happened before. It is, however, extremely rare and unusual and provocative, and in violation of US-Russian Incidents at Sea agreements.

        • Secundius

          If THESE “Sea Agreements”, were Signed when the Soviet Union was in Power. PUTIN’S “NOT GOING TO GIVE A DAMN” About Them…

    • publius_maximus_III

      Ah-so. Another “stationary aircraft carrier” island, like the ones the PRC has in the South China Sea. No escorts necessary, and completely “submarine proof.”

    • publius_maximus_III

      I know ole Jimmy Carter must be breathing a sigh of relief, with that Crown of Incompetence about to be passed on, come Friday, January 20th, 2017, 12:00 noon…

    • pismopal

      Obama is like the contestant on a TV talent show who actually believes he is a wonderfully talented singer but whose performance is so bad that the judges cant’t help but make faces. Putin has so little respect for our azz clown prez that he would not even respond to an offer to drastically reduce our nuclear weapons arsenal….an offer that was actually recorded, filmed and presented to the world..to no effect.

      • Secundius

        The Feeling Is Not Mutually Exclusive. Putin’s is in charge of a Country with a Economic System. WORSE, than it was when the Soviet Union was in Control…

        • pismopal

          The Russian economic system is a sort of robber baron..hunter/gatherer system with Putin being almost at the top with many billions in net worth stashed away. He is a crook but he is far, far more clever and cunning than our phuqueing loser prez. We are heade for problems too, economic problems not being the least among them.

  • Kim Chul Soo

    With a eunuch in our formerly white house, what do you expect?