A Russian fighter jet reportedly came within 15 feet of a United States Air Force reconnaissance plane flying over the Black Sea.
“On Jan. 25, 2016, a U.S. RC-135U flying a routine route in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” said Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The Russian pilot flew as close as 15 feet alongside the RC-135U aircraft, and then banked hard to the right “with a heavy amount of power, which caused a destabilizing action” for the U.S. aircraft, a Defense Department official said, according to ABC News.
It is unknown whether the Russian aircraft was armed at the time, a U.S. military official told CNN. The incident occurred more than 40 miles from the Russian coast.
The RC-135U Combat Sent "provides strategic electronic reconnaissance information to the president, secretary of defense, Department of Defense leaders, and theater commanders," Military.com explains. "Locating and identifying foreign military land, naval and airborne radar signals, the Combat Sent collects and minutely examines each system, providing strategic analysis for warfighters. Collected data is also stored for further analysis by the joint warfighting and intelligence communities."
The U.S. Air Force has only two RC-135U aircrafts.
“Aircraft intercepts are not unusual, but are normally routine events,” Baldanza said, according to ABC News. "In this case the intercept was not routine, and the Russian pilot acted in an unprofessional manner that put both the American flight crew and himself at risk. We have addressed our concerns on this matter appropriately."
A similar encounter took place in 2014 between two of the same aircrafts over the Sea of Okhotsk between Russia and Japan. A Russian SU-27 flew within 100 feet of a RC-135U, turned, and “showed its belly” to the U.S. crew so they could see that the aircraft was armed, a Defense Department official told CNN.
Following the encounter, the U.S. official called it “one of the most dangerous close passes in decades” and said the lives of the U.S crew were put in “jeopardy” by the Russian jet.