Three U.S. P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft flying over the Mediterranean Sea encountered “unprofessional intercepts” from Russian aircraft over the weekend, according to the Navy.
“We can confirm that over the course of last weekend, three U.S. Navy P-8A aircraft experienced unprofessional intercepts by Russian aircraft,” said Navy Capt. Mike Kafka, director of Defense Press Operations, in a statement Wednesday. “The U.S. flight crews were flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea at the time of these intercepts. We have made our concerns known to Russian officials through diplomatic channels.
“While no one was hurt, interactions such as these could result in miscalculations and mistakes that lead to more dangerous outcomes,” Kafka said. “The US will continue to operate safely, professionally and consistent with international law in international waters and airspace. We expect Russia to do the same.”
CNN was the first to report on the encounters, which its sources said were “extremely close.” It also reported that officials suggested there is video footage of at least one of the intercepts.
The Navy did not disclose how close the Russian aircraft got to the U.S. aircraft. There have been a number of similar incidents in recent years.
In April 2020, for example, the Navy reported two incidents in which Russian Su-35s intercepted a U.S. Navy P-8A over the Mediterranean Sea, conducting high-speed inverted maneuvers and coming within 25 feet of the U.S. surveillance aircraft. According to U.S. 6th Fleet, the maneuvers were unsafe and jeopardized the safety of the pilots and crew.
A month later, 6th Fleet announced that two Russian Su-35 aircraft intercepted another Navy P-8A over the Med. The encounter lasted 65 minutes and 6th Fleet said it was “unsafe and unprofessional due to the Russian pilots taking close station on each wing of the P-8A simultaneously.”
The most recent episode comes amid rising tension with Russia due to concerns that Russia will invade neighboring Ukraine.