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Russian Fighter Jet Comes Within 20 Feet of U.S. Navy Plane: Official

NBC News logo NBC News 5/12/2017 Courtney Kube
Image: Russian Su-27 fighter jet makes a low pass during an air show in Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia © Russian Su-27 fighter jet makes a low pass during an air show in Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia on M... Image: Russian Su-27 fighter jet makes a low pass during an air show in Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia

A Russian fighter jet came within about 20 feet of a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft over the Black Sea earlier this week, an American official said.

The Su-27 approached the P-8A Poseidon while it was "conducting routine operations in international airspace" on Tuesday, according to Capt. Pamela Kunze, a spokeswoman for U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

She added that the interaction "was considered safe and professional" by the P-8A's mission commander.

In a statement issued Friday, Russia's Ministry of Defense said a Su-30 jet had "executed a 'greeting' maneuver" toward the American pilots.

It added that the fighter had been scrambled after "an air target approaching the Russian state border had been located ... above Black Sea neutral waters."

The statement said that the U.S. reconnaissance plane subsequently "changed its course to move away from the Russian border."

Kunze highlighted that U.S. Navy aircraft and ships routinely interact with Russian vessels and aircraft in international territory.

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However, 20 feet is extremely close and other encounters at much greater distances have been deemed unsafe and unprofessional by the U.S. military in the past.

Kunze said that distance is "only one of many variables considered when defining what is safe and professional."

Speed, altitude, visibility and other factors are also taken into account.

 

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