“The unnecessary actions of the Russian Su-35 pilots were inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules, and jeopardized the safety of flight of both aircraft,” the Navy statement said, adding that the incident was “determined to be unsafe and unprofessional due to the Russian pilots taking close station on each wing of the P-8A simultaneously, restricting the P-8A’s ability to safely maneuver.”
The Navy said it expects Russian plane operators to “operate within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents,” as unsafe maneuvers “increase the potential for midair collisions.”
It’s the third time in about a month that Russian planes have attempted to intercept U.S. military aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea, the Navy noted.
“In all cases, the U.S. aircraft were operating in international airspace, consistent with international law, with due regard for safety of flight, and did not provoke this Russian activity,” according to the Navy’s statement.
The intercept comes as the U.S. military accused Russia of deploying fighter jets in Libya to support mercenaries operating in the country, which has a lengthy Mediterranean coast.
“U.S. Africa Command assesses that Moscow recently deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya in order to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors operating on the ground there,” the military’s Africa Command said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the jets “were repainted to camouflage their Russian origin.”
And it comes just days after President Donald Trump announced the United States will leave the Open Skies Treaty, which was designed to reduce the risk of military errors that could lead to a war, saying that Russian violations prompted him to make the decision.
“Russia didn’t adhere to the treaty, so until they adhere, we will pull out,” Trump told reporters on May 21. But he added that the move will likely force Moscow to return to negotiation talks.
“There’s a chance we may make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together,” Trump added. “I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to pull out and they’re going to come back and want to make a deal.”