The Russian Ministry of Defense reported on Saturday that Russia’s Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet was scrambled in connection to U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries reconnaissance aircraft approaching border over the Black Sea. Russia’s National Defense Control Center radar stations spotted a target in the air over the neutral waters of the Black Sea, approaching the state border of Russia. The crew of the Russian Su-27 fighter approached the airborne object at a safe distance to and identified it as the US Navy’s EP-3E Aries reconnaissance aircraft. After the US Navy plane turned from the state border of the Russian Federation, the Russian fighter safely returned to its home airfield. The flight of the Russian fighter was carried out in strict accordance with international rules. There was no violation of the state border.
The Lockheed EP-3 is the signals reconnaissance version of the P-3 Orion, operated by the United States Navy. A total of 12 P-3C aircraft were converted to replace older versions of the aircraft. The aircraft is known by the acronym ARIES, or “Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System”. The squadrons that flew the EP-3E also flew the Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star from 1962 to 1974 and the Douglas EA-3B Skywarrior from 1960 to 1991. There are 11 EP-3Es in the Navy’s inventory, the last of which was delivered in 1997. After the cancellation of the EP-X Program, the US Navy has planned to replace the EP-3E Aries II with the MQ-4C BAMS unmanned aircraft and the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter . All P-3 Orion aircraft assigned to special projects squadrons (VPU) and all EP-3E Aries II aircraft are expected to fully retire by 2025.