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New Video Shows Russian Fighter Within 5 Feet of U.S. Surveillance Plane

US Navy image of a Russian Su-27 fighter closing in on a EP-3E surveillance aircraft over the Black Sea on Jan. 29, 2017.

The Navy released additional video footage of a fully armed Russian Su-27 fighter intercepting a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II surveillance aircraft over the Black Sea on Jan. 29, 2017. The new footage clearly shows the armed fighter came within five feet of the Aries II during the encounter.

“These videos show the Russian Su-27 intercepting the EP-3 from a very close position, at the same altitude, and with an estimated wingtip-to-wingtip horizontal separation as little as five feet at times,” U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, commander of Task Force 67, said in a statement from U.S. 6th Fleet.
“For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the U.S. Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe. The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action,” said Ellis.

  • TDog

    Close enough to tell what the pilot had for breakfast. Not cool…

  • muzzleloader

    This BS has to stop. Send fighter escort, even if it requires tanker assets. A couple of F-15’s carrying a full brace if Sparrows and Sidewinders would give these hotshot Russian fighter jockeys who are used to helpless recon planes some pause. This dangerous harassment has to stop.

    • WpnsLoader175

      Sparrows are long gone. AMRAAMs are the thing now. Our fighters are out there, U.S. and NATO jets. The issue here is it’s a ELINT asset in international airspace. You put a couple of eagles or viper around it and will be alot more obvious. Also, keep this in mind. There could have been an F22 or F15 6 miles back with a AIM-120 solution or AIM-9 lock (at 2 miles) and the Flanker just ignored it because he knew nothing would happen.

      • Pacemaker4

        Sparrows were hitting at 68%…. dont think the AMRAAMs are achieving that…
        But yeah semi-active are not up to todays battlefield.

        • incredulous1

          I counted 2 failures out of 22 shots of the AIM-120’s over the years in live combat. Not sure about the testing. 91% but no failures of the last couple of variants which had several update inputs to guidance like off bore sight, GPS, and datalink.

        • El Kabong

          AIM-120’s have done quite well for the past 25 or so years.

          • Pacemaker4

            There were misses during the Iraq no fly zone 1998-9. And more recently there have been engine problems in cold weather.

          • El Kabong

            Yugoslavia?

            What’s the actual kill record for them?

            And those Russian missiles?
            Any kills?

          • Pacemaker4

            The missile was called the slammer because up until the misses I stated, the missile hadnt missed. But that changed. the record was 3 for 3 in the first part of the 90’s then 6 kills in Kosovo so the record is 9-6 , 10-6 counting the one in Syria.

            Military tech is fleeting… doesnt last long before the other side finds the weakness.
            In missile evasion timing is everything. the trade off is speed versus manoeuvreability.

          • El Kabong

            Cute.

            “Military tech is fleeting… doesnt last long before the other side finds the weakness.”?

            What EXACTLY is being used as a countermeasure to AIM-120’s?

          • Pacemaker4

            once you know the speed and turning radius the rest is just timing your turn.

          • El Kabong

            Answer the question….

            How do you counter what you don’t know is coming?

          • Pacemaker4

            can you tell em when its been used? Has it been used yet?
            lots of testing still. especially the IFF aspect.

          • El Kabong

            That isn’t an answer….

            Go read up on the last 25-odd years of air-to-air engagements.

            Most have been BVR, and the targets never saw it coming…

          • El Kabong

            Start reading up with Desert Storm in 1991, then move on to Yugoslavia.

        • WpnsLoader175

          Yea, maybe but you got to hang back and stay with. When the bandit is hot and pumping out R-27s, you can’t sit there and watch your Fox 2.

      • El Kabong

        AIM-7M/R’s are still in the inventory.

        • WpnsLoader175

          Might be some out there, but they won’t see combat, unless we start putting old A/B model hornets or eagles into the fight. D model 120s are coming. They will change things big time.

          • El Kabong

            They’re still current on CF-18’s, at the very least.

      • Lawrence Trevethan

        Not against Russians or Chinese. AMRAAMs fail five times in six if opposed by a modern digital jammer from either country.

        • WpnsLoader175

          Please, tell us all your source. Missiles are only as good as the pilot and when a 120 goes pitbull you better be a bad ads pilot.

          • Lawrence Trevethan

            This is what F-22 pilots are told and is a concern to them. The problem does not lie in the missile per se – which is rather outstanding compared to the Sparrow it replaced (which was pretty dismal IMHO). The problem lies with the age of the AMRAAM, and what is now known about it, setting up modern digital jammers to be able to deny it the tracking information it needs to function. The Russians always put priority on EW, and they train their people much more than we do in its use. I am more familiar with SAM’s than with AAMs, but I am a countermeasures guy, and from my perspective, EW is MORE important than missile performance is. To the point it wins most engagements – more than hard kills do. USAF anticipated this problem as AMRAAM aged and had replacement programs, but none were affordable and none have survived I am aware of.

          • Jon Beck

            So you’d feel pretty safe having these shot at you then, Lawrence?

          • Lawrence Trevethan

            I know fighter pilots (retired) who say it is NOT safe to be in modern air combat. I myself – a SAM guy – think they are right for more than one reason. Since about a year ago, DoD formally admits that Russian SAM systems are “the best in the world” in official report. I don’t think one is EVER “safe” in modern air combat. I don’t think manned fighter planes should be being built. And that is a USAF R&D view from the 1980s when I worked in a USAF R&D laboratory – that is was the consensus view. A missile can maneuver in ways that a plane with a pilot cannot if the pilot is to survive (or at least remain conscious) – and it needs no life support system. The most powerful tactical air force in the world is probably China’s Missile Force – no men at all – just ballistic missiles, supersonic cruise missiles and RPVs. [I study Chinese air forces today for a USAF think tank – having come out of retirement by request of its research director. This is not some entirely off the cuff lay opinion.]

            Put another way, Sparrow had a hit rate no better than 1 in 6 when it was NOT opposed by jamming – but it was still considered worth having.

            I think we need to do a better job of fielding replacement or upgraded systems. Instead of seeking massive and risky improvements, we should go for smaller, less risky (and less expensive ones) on a continuous basis.

    • Secundius

      Unfortunately a “Crazy Ivan” isn’t exactly a Cause for Rule of Engagement…

    • yoganclimber

      that would defeat the purpose of calling it a spy mission

    • Secundius

      I don’t recall that performing a “Crazy Ivan” is covered under the “Rules of Engagement” in US Military TO&E…

  • Horn

    The Montreux Convention regarded “naval” access to the Black Sea via the Turkish straits. Neither it, nor any amendments, regarded aviation. Also, if you had read the story, the manuever that brought the fighter within 5 feet hasn’t been shown yet. Still, this is too close for an intercept in international airspace.

    • Secundius

      Not exactly true! The Montreux Convention prohibits “Fix Wing Aircraft” from Operating on Naval Ships while in Transit into the Black Sea…

  • Kelby Sanders

    This video probably shows the same Su-27 twice. The Fighter could’ve easily been off either wing at two separate times. They didn’t zoom the camera in to make the Su-27 look closer. They zoomed in to show more detail of the Su-27.

  • D. Jones

    Why isn’t the F35 swiss army plane dealing with these reckless Russians?

    BTW, will the F35 be taking over Thunderbird & Blue Angels duty?

    • Horn

      Doubtful. It’s not a dogfighter like the F-16 or even the F-18. I highly doubt you’ll see it on an aerobatics team. They also are slow in switching aircraft, usually using older models.

    • El Kabong

      BTW, how long have you been an RT drone?

      BTW, where’s the Sukhoi T-50?

      BTW, where’s the PAK-DA?

      • Phaeton

        “BTW, where’s the Sukhoi T-50?”
        In combat trials.And it’s Su-57.
        “BTW, where’s the PAK-DA?”
        In development.Tu-160M is in production though.The only strategic bomber in production on the planet.

        • El Kabong

          “In combat trials.And it’s Su-57.”?

          LMAO!

          For an experimental a/c without it’s definitive engine, radar or weapons, that’s quite the delusion.

          And it’s still been rejected by India.

          “In development.”?

          By which you mean, so far behind the Tu-160 has had to be reinstated into production… LOL!!

          “The only strategic bomber in production on the planet.”?

          An 80’s era design.

          I suggest you go learn about the B-2.

          Then perhaps the upcoming B-21.

          • Phaeton

            “For an experimental a/c without it’s definitive engine,”
            Under these terms,F-14 was experimental for more than a decade.
            “radar ”
            It’s OK.
            “weapons”
            Should i even bring up integration of,for example,AIM-9X to F-22?
            “By which you mean, so far behind”
            You see,PAK DA is a cheap workhorse.For now,-95s fill that role nicely.There is no rush.
            “An 80’s era design”
            First of all,80s were humanity’s peak in some things.Second of all,it’s 80s airframe.
            “I suggest you go learn about the B-2”
            80s era design?
            “Then perhaps the upcoming B-21”
            Relabeled 80s era design?

          • El Kabong

            Keep squirming…. LOL

            Excuses, excuses….

            The USAF has had a strategic stealth bomber in service for HOW MANY YEARS?

            What do your Russian pals have?

            How FEW bombers are in service with your pals?
            Maybe 12 Blackjacks, TOTAL?
            A couple of dozen 60’s era Bears?

            LOL!

          • Phaeton

            “The USAF has had a strategic stealth bomber in service for HOW MANY YEARS?”
            Who cares?Piece of junk was so bad it never got a proper cruise missiles developed for it.
            “What do your Russian pals have?”
            The only strategic bomber in production on the planet,for starters.
            “Maybe 12 Blackjacks, TOTAL?”
            16.
            “A couple of dozen 60’s era Bears?”
            I am starting to think that above creature just looked at New START US data,replaced B-2 with Tu-160 and B-52 with Tu-95.
            Because it’s 11 B-2s and 38 B-52s,as of now.So yes,a couple dozen 50s era BUFFs.And maybe 11 B-2s.
            Russia,OTOH,doesn’t have strategic bombers older than thirty years in service.

          • El Kabong

            Answer the question suka.

            “”Maybe 12 Blackjacks, TOTAL?” 16.”?

            LMAO!!!

            How many B-52’s, B-1B’s and B-2’s does the USAF have in service?

            “I am starting to think…”?

            That’s a first.

            Are you sure it isn’t constipation?

            20 B-2 are in service, junior.

            58 B-52’s are active and 18 in reserve, according to the USAF.

            Oh, you forgot the 62 B-1B’s.

            Those 50’s era designs are STILL outmoded.

            Better luck, next time, sparky.

          • Phaeton

            “How many B-52’s, B-1B’s and B-2’s does the USAF have in service?”
            Irrelevant,really.B-1s are non-nuclear.And so are half of B-52 fleet.
            “20 B-2 are in service”
            Anywhere from 10 to 12 deployed at any one time.
            “58 B-52’s are active ”
            38 real ones and 41 non-nuclear.Plus eight non-deployed,which these days mean”potentially flyable”.
            You’re just pulling numbers out of your rear end,aren’t you?
            Stop that.
            “Those 50’s era designs are STILL outmoded.”
            Please.Only B-52 is 50s era design out of ones you mentioned.
            B-1B doesn’t look like it,but it’s actually from late 70s.Early 80s for B version,to be precise.
            Update:Yay moderators!Personal attacks without actual arguments are just bad form.

  • Marcd30319

    The United States still adheres to UNCLOS when it carries out its freedom of navigation operations in international waters. To not do so is to forfeit its rights.

    Ditto the Montreux Convention in so far as the United States exercises its rights as a non-Black Sea nation to operate in the Black Sea which is also international waters.

    Finally, the US operates with its NATO partners with such Sea Breeze.

    In sum, your posts here are false and misleading, and I hope they are removed.

  • Horn

    Are you serious? There are NATO members along the Black Sea. Besides, it’s international airspace. You don’t see NATO aircraft performing unsafe intercepts do you?

    • El Kabong

      The fool hasn’t heard of ICAO…

  • El Kabong

    LMAO!

    It is international airspace.

    • publius_maximus_III

      So sorry, Qweek Draw, had to duck in under your post because somebody sent all of kye144‘s posts to time out, therefore no Reply button in order to respond to him/her directly. So please disregard this impertinence, not intended for you…

      Hey kye144 don’t mean to burst your bubble, but I believe the video is a montage from various pieces of footage taken at different times, but of the same SU, not two different ones. FYI, they can and do move from one side to the other, don’t you know.

  • Rob H.

    This can’t be. The Putineers said this didn’t happen…

  • Marcd30319

    Don’t put words in my mouth, sir.

    I didn’t say the US had “unrestricted access” to the Black Sea. I did say that the US had specific rights as a non-Black Sea nation which specifies certain limits in tonnage and gun caliber of warships.

    Article 14.

    The maximum aggregate tonnage of all foreign naval forces which may be in
    course of transit through the Straits shall not exceed 15,000 tons,
    except in the cases provided for in Article 11 and in Annex III to the
    present Convention.

    The forces specified in the preceding paragraph shall not, however, comprise more than nine vessels.

    Vessels whether belonging to Black Sea or non-Black Sea Powers,
    paying visits to a port in the Straits, in accordance with the
    provisions of Article 17, shall not be included in this tonnage.

    Neither shall vessels of war which have suffered damage during their
    passage through the Straits be included in this tonnage; such vessels,
    while undergoing repair, shall be subject to any special provisions
    relating to security laid down by Turkey.

    BTW – Are you a member of the United States Naval Institute because I have a been member since 1974, and you just crossed the line.

  • Marcd30319

    We are in international airspace and international waters.

  • Horn

    Please explain how “international airspace” is deep in their territory? Their claim to the Black Sea would be as strong as if we claimed the Gulf of Mexico, which I will remind you they’ve sent submarines into over the past decade. Russia is doing similar intelligence flights near Canada, both US coasts, Alaska, bases in the Pacific, Japan, Korea, Scandinavia, and all NATO countries in Europe. If we can act professionally and safely, why can’t they do the same? Do they just lack the discipline or is it a lack of skill?

    I’d like to remind you that the US is in the Black Sea at the request of Bulgaria, Romania, AND Turkey.

    • SDW

      It sure is “deep into their territory”, if you accept the Russian’s attitude that the entire globe is “their territory”. BTW, is it still Russian military practice to severely limit who gets a copy of the map? That would explain a lot.

    • raymero

      Skillful they are. I’d cite it as UNDICIPLINED.

  • Marcd30319

    The P-8 was in international airspace, as was the Russian interception and harassment.

    • Dave

      Not a P-8. Looks like an EP-3 to me…..

    • raymero

      P3. Aries version

  • Centaurus

    Just shoot ’em all down with A-Bombs

    • SDW

      It’s refreshing to see an avatar that accurately reflects the poster.

    • raymero

      “A-Bombs”. Really now.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Dat be dem NUCK-u-lars, Ray.

  • VF84RIO

    Looked OK to me. I’ve been just as close if not closer to Bears back in the day. Russian pilots are competent and just as professional as we are – they probably get more flight time than we get – thank your congressperson for that.

    • WpnsLoader175

      Roger that, did you catch those R-27s and R-73s. Guy was open for buisness. So he was set up for BVR, if he wanted to splash the Aries he would have don’t it with 27ET.

      • VF84RIO

        SU is a monster (pretty cool jet) It’s got the size and capacity to be a big problem for us.

        • WpnsLoader175

          Yea, it could but our 120s go pitbull in the last 10-15 seconds so the F15/F22 can dodge but the SU’s Fox 2s require active radar lock the entire time. All this means the Flanker driver has to fly into the 120 if he wants a kill, but the eagle has gone defensive and avoided a dangerous merge. Should be a win for the eagle at that point.

        • El Kabong

          Nope.

          It’s just a BIG target.

        • WpnsLoader175

          And it looks amazing. Yes. The Flankers are a big problem.

    • raymero

      Your Barrakperson is the one to thank for that.

  • MiddleAmerican

    International airspace. Not “their territory”.

  • SDW

    Hold that thought. It won’t be long before the Russian (wannabe) Empire is the *only* non-NATO country bordering the Black Sea.

  • SDW

    kye154: If you are being paid by the word then you have a good deal going. Manure (навоз) usually is sold by weight.

  • Western

    Poor guy was obviously out of windshield wiper fluid and just wanted a sprinkle from a bro.

    • runninron69

      Out of pitot fluid./s
      Ah yes, I remember the good old days of 4 guys with a sparrow missile on our back and slamming it into the latches on a frigging flying brick (F-4 for the uninitiated). It’s a wonder we didn’t have more incidents on the flightdeck than we did. It’s mind blowing when I think back and remember just how lax safety rules were back thin. Guys in cutoffs and T shirts, no bump caps or hearing protection. No wonder my nerves are shot.

  • b2

    My experience, like VF84RIO below, was during the Cold War against Soviet Russia, so this appears to me to be somewhat of an over reaction…IMO, when we document these “unsafe” intercepts in such a “hyperbolic” manner it just raises the ante..

    If it is accurate that the intercept “lasted over 2 hours”, that means the Russian was actually flying “formation” most of the time on the EP-3, AFTER conducting the intercept. Flying formation on a dissimilar aircraft is non-standard and becomes tedious. Think about it… As such, and IMO, the 2nd video from the EO put out by the US Navy documents a bored fighter pilot flying at a slow airspeed less than 250 kts IAS, and “looking around”. Hey pilots aint robots, even Rooskie ones…
    No doubt in my mind the Russians are still the adversary/enemy but just some perspective….IMO we need to go back to a Cold War type policy/ROE maybe and “tighten it up”…

  • raymero

    Now this attitude is the BS muzzleloader refers to in my opinion.

  • incredulous1

    That’s what China thought shortly after Bush 43’s inauguration back in 2001. And we proved them right. I would have preferred they ditch at sea than to allow an adversary to embarrass us to that extent. That same thing is bound to happen again if this continues. It would be best to have a theater hotline or something to politically let the top of their chain of command know we are recording and not going to give them a world audience like this.

    • Marcd30319

      I would have preferred they ditch at sea than to allow an adversary to embarrass us to that extent.

      With respect, that’s easy fro you to say.

      I suggest picking up a new book called Crashback: The Power Clash Between the U.S. and China in the Pacific by Micheal Fabey, a highly respected military report for Aviation Week and Jane’s. Chapter 4 describes the encounter between the US Navy EP-3E Ares II patrol aircraft and a pair of Chinese F-8 fighter jets on April Fool’s Day 2001. That US aircraft is essentially the same configuration as the EP-3 that was buzzed by the Russian fighter over the Baltic.

      After the Chinese fighter crashed into the EP-3 in 2001, the pilot considered and rejected a ditching. From pages 86-87:

      “As for ditching, that’s not really an option, either, not for this plane. Part of the array of electronic snooping gear on the plane is the “Big Look” radar pod attached to its belly. The Big Look pod is about twelve feet across and shaped like a giant M&M, and when it its hits the water it’s going to act like a sea anchor, pushing the nose down and the tail up. The EP-3E is probably going to breat apart on impact. They’ll ditch if they have to, if the plane can’t maintain altitude, but nobody wants to tr it.”

      Ultimately, that EP-3 landed at Hainan Island which also landed the US and China into a major international incident.

      • incredulous1

        I am well aware of all event involving this incident. And it was a major failure for us.

        • Marcd30319

          Just letting you know what the stakes were for the crew. And the EP-3 pilot received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

          I must remind you that we were operating in international airspace and it was the Chinese jet pilot who caused the collision. The Bush administration threaded the diplomatic needle about as well as it could be expected, and Chinese incidents in the area ell off significantly for the next eight years.

          Your suggestion on a hotline is being pursued with agreements between the various naval forces along the same lines as the INCSEA agreements between the US and the old Soviet Union. Both Crashback and revised edition of Incidents at Sea by David Winkler touch on this.

  • muzzleloader

    Wrong, jackass. I am a current DOD employee of 24 years, previous to that active duty navy. The only troll is you, a canuck who likes to troll an American website on forums totally unrelated to you.

  • USNVO

    Oh, so Romania and Bulgaria don’t make flights over the Black Sea. I am sure they would be interested in knowing that. And you might want to look at the Montreux Convention, it doesn’t say what you think it says. It is specific to the Turkish Straits and says nothing about the rest of the Black Sea. You would have to be a troll or a total idiot to read it that way, so you may have it covered both ways. Nor does it apply in this situation, it is not like the EP-3 sailed through the straits.
    The facts are simple
    – the US aircraft was over the high seas and thus in International Airspace. Sorry, it just was, you can talk until you are blue in the face and until you post the relevant sections of the Montreux Convention, no one will believe you.
    – the Russian aircraft was acting in a dangerous fashion directly against the 1972 INCSEA agreement. So the US complained. The US was not complaining about being intercepted or that the aircraft is armed, it is after all international airspace. They were complaining about the lousy airmanship demonstrated by the Russian Pilot. Not as bad as the Chinese pilot in 2001, but at least the Chinese have the excuse that they are not are party to the INCSEA agreement.

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    And you are employed by the Russians? Or an apologist left over from the last administration?

    • On Dre

      The current admin works for the Russians. The previous admin had the Russians so scared that they feared his replacement. Trump, on the otherhand, did their (money) laundry.

      • The_Usual_Suspect61

        Hey, if you’ve got any of those drugs left, I’d like some to help escape reality, too.

  • El Kabong

    Wow….”Losing a p-3 and crew is preferable…”?

    • drivenb4u

      Death before dishonor… as long as it’s someone else’s death.

    • Pacemaker4

      preferable to all out nuclear war which what would happen. tit-for-tat exchanges would escalate really quickly.

      • El Kabong

        Wrong.

        Seek help if you think it’s okay to let a country murder your countrymen.

  • muzzleloader

    Believe me, I am no “Kool aid drinker”. I am very aware of how our military was abused and worn and rode hard the last 16 years. And I have no illusions as to what career politicians have done to our country. The subject at hand, is American aircrews being put in a dangerous situation by reckless, provocative, and antagonist Russian pilots. Our crews are flying in aircraft that can do nothing while fighter planes repeatedly harass them dangerously. At some point there will be an incident where an aircrew will be lost if this continues.
    If these airmen are to continue these missions, this has to stop, either through diplomatic channels or something more direct.
    It is proven that the Russians understood force, or the threat of it more than anything else.

    • Pacemaker4

      “American aircrews being put in a dangerous situation by reckless, provocative, and antagonist Russian pilots.

      Isnt that in the job description? You expect the enemy to play by your rules. Remember your pilots intercept the Bears when they come calling. Then there is the 2 Aegis collisions recently. No one to blame for that.
      As a solution maybe sign the Rome statute and UNCLOS then things might be resolved another safer way.
      But for now, with the NATO countries on one side, and SCO on the other, duking it out over the silk road and routes for pipelines, it will get worse before it gets better.
      Unless as you say the electorate of many countries begin to coral their politicians.

  • El Kabong

    Prove it, suka.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Need to issue the pilots an MK-1 slingshot, plus a bag of 1/2″ ball bearing ammo.

  • yoganclimber

    Turkey shot one of those Su-27s down using a F-16.

    • Secundius

      Unfortunately at the time the Russian Su-27 “Wasn’t” fling in International Airspace, but rather Turkish Aerospace…

      • El Kabong

        Su-24…

    • El Kabong

      Turkey shot down an Su-24 Fencer….

  • Pedro Paulo Rezende

    Yes! After all, the Russian are flying very near the American territorial waters and THIS MUST STOP. We all know the Black Sea importance for New York and Baltimore.

  • El Kabong

    Is the “Golf” of Tonkin a 9 or 18 hole course?

    How’d Afghanistan work out for your pals?

    Why did they invade the Ukraine?

    Clearly, you’re a wannabe civvie.