On April 15, 2020, a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-35 fighter. The interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 ft. directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The crew of the P-8A reported wake turbulence following the interaction. The encounter with the Russian fighter, which caused turbulence aboard the P-8A, lasted for 42 minutes.
While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible. U.S. Navy expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Unsafe actions increase the risk of miscalculation and potential for midair collisions. The U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.
In Europe, risky encounters with Russian military aircraft have occurred on occasion in recent years, most notably in the Black Sea. The latest incident with the Russians comes one week after U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets intercepted a pair of Russian maritime patrol planes 50 miles off the western coast of the Aleutian Islands, in what military officials said at the time was a test of U.S. capabilities amid the coronavirus pandemic. And on Wednesday, 11 Iranian military vessels moved dangerously close to several American ships conducting operations in the northern Persian Gulf.