For the second time in four days, Russian pilots flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner while intercepting a U.S. Navy P-8A Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft in U.S. Sixth Fleet, 19 April, 2020. On April 19, 2020, a U.S. Navy P-8A aircraft flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea was intercepted twice by a Russian SU-35 over a period of 100 minutes. The first intercept was deemed safe and professional. The second intercept was determined to be unsafe and unprofessional due to the SU-35 a conducting high-speed, high-powered maneuver that decreased aircraft separation to within 25 feet, directly in front of the P-8A, exposing the U.S. aircraft to wake turbulence and jet exhaust.
In response, the P-8A, which was operating at a constant altitude and airspeed, descended to create separation and ensure safety of both aircraft. The unnecessary actions of the Russian SU-35 pilot were inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules, seriously jeopardizing the safety of flight of both aircraft. 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 second intercept by the Russian fighter was determined as “unsafe and unprofessional” as the Su-35 was conducting a high-speed maneuver and approached the US spy plane within a distance of about 25 feet (less than 8 meters), the US Sixth Fleet claimed. The Pentagon already reported on April 15 that a Russian Su-35 jet fighter had intercepted a US P-8A Poseidon plane over the Mediterranean. On that occasion, the US Navy also called this intercept “unsafe.” In both cases, the U.S. aircraft were operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.