The U.S. 6th Fleet has accused a Russian fighter jet of harassing a Navy patrol plane multiple times during a three-hour span Tuesday.
The incident occurred in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea, with the Russian Sukhoi SU-35 fighter making three passes at a P-8A Poseidon patrol plane, according to a Navy statement issued Tuesday.
While 6th Fleet officials deemed two of the three passes safe under international rules for aerial intercepts, the second pass by the Russian “Flanker-E” jet veered directly in front of the American aircraft, creating “wake turbulence” that unlawfully endangered the aircrew.
Lasting 175 minutes, Tuesday’s encounter became the latest in a series of incidents involving Russian forces over the past several years, highlighting growing tensions between the rival powers.
“This interaction was irresponsible,” the 6th Fleet statement said.
“We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents” because “unsafe actions increase the risk of miscalculation and potential for midair collisions," it added.
The 6th Fleet statement indicated that the patrol aircraft was operating in accordance with the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas and the U.S. crew never tried to provoke the Russian jet.
Navy Times questions about where in the Mediterranean Sea the incident occurred and which squadron was involved have not been answered.
Monday's encounter over the Black Sea was the latest in a string of hazardous intercepts involving U.S. Navy recon planes and Russian fighter jets.
During a 25-minute encounter on Nov. 5, a Sukhoi Su-27 “Flanker” fighter buzzed a Navy EP-3E Aeries II reconnaissance aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea.
That Russian jet also made “a high speed pass directly in front“ of the Aeries “putting at risk the pilots and crew,” a Pentagon spokesman told Navy Times at the time.
Russian aggression in the air follows Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, a move that soured relations with both the United States and NATO allies.