Russian Jets Intercept US Navy Aircraft Over Mediterranean: Officials

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.
February 16, 2022Updated: February 16, 2022

Three U.S. P-8A Poseidon surveillance planes flying over the Mediterranean Sea were subject to “unprofessional intercepts” from Russian military planes over the past weekend, said the Navy on Wednesday.

“We can confirm that over the course of last weekend, three U.S. Navy P-8A aircraft experienced unprofessional intercepts by Russian aircraft,” said Navy Capt. Mike Kafka, director of Defense Press Operations, in a statement on Wednesday. “The U.S. flight crews were flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea at the time of these intercepts. We have made our concerns known to Russian officials through diplomatic channels.”

Kafka said that “while no one was hurt, interactions such as these could result in miscalculations and mistakes that lead to more dangerous outcomes.”

“The US will continue to operate safely, professionally and consistent with international law in international waters and airspace. We expect Russia to do the same” Kafka said.

The Navy did not disclose how close the Russian aircraft allegedly flew. Officials also did not elaborate on what kind of aircraft flew next to the P-8A Poseidon planes, which is a maritime patrol aircraft that is primarily used to carry out surveillance.

However, a spokesperson with the Department of Defense told the Wall Street Journal that the incident involved Su-35 fighter jets.

Epoch Times Photo
A U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft takes part in the Malta International Airshow at SmartCity Malta outside Kalkara, Malta, Sep. 23, 2017. (Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi/File Photo)

“The results could be catastrophic. The Russians encourage their pilots to do this because they know our default setting is to be professional and to be disciplined,” retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. “They are trying to re-establish where the fence lines are.”

In April of 2020, U.S. officials reported incidents in which Russian fighter planes intercepted P-8As over the Mediterranean Sea. Later that year, Navy officials said a Su-35 intercepted another P-8A over the sea, in an incident that lasted more than an hour.

The Navy’s 6th Fleet said the incident was “unsafe and unprofessional due to the Russian pilots taking close station on each wing of the P-8A simultaneously.”

Previously, Russian authorities have denied making unsafe intercepts of U.S. military aircraft.

“All flights by Russian aircraft were conducted in accordance with international rules for the use of airspace,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said in 2019 after a similar incident was reported by U.S. officials.

In recent weeks, the United States and NATO have accused Moscow of placing more than 100,000 troops as well as tanks, fighter jets, and heavy artillery along its borders with Ukraine. Several top White House officials have repeatedly claimed Russia would invade in the near future, although such allegations have been categorically denied by the Kremlin.

A spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday mocked Western media and elected officials for suggesting Moscow would invade Ukraine on Wednesday morning.

“Please announce the schedule of our ‘invasions’ for the coming year. I would like to plan a vacation,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on social media, according to state-funded media outlets.

The Epoch Times has contacted the Russian Embassy in Washington for comment.