An American military plane made an emergency landing on a Russian airstrip in western Siberia, the Pentagon said.
The landing took place Wednesday when the landing gear of the U.S. plane, an OC-135B observation aircraft, malfunctioned and the plane had to make a landing at the Khabarovsk airstrip, about 30 miles from Russia’s border with China, and near the Pacific Ocean.
The plane took off from a Russian airfield at Ulan Ude for an observation flight. According to CNN, the U.S. aircraft had Russian observers on board and was conducted under the Treaty on Open Skies, which allows both countries to fly unarmed observation aircraft over each other’s territory.
The Pentagon stated that the observer plane took off but the landing gear didn’t retract.
As a result, an American commander was forced to divert the plane to the airstrip “so the aircraft could exit Russia in the most direct route possible,” Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told the network.
“Due to aircraft performance limitations associated with summer temperatures and the landing gear malfunction, the Khabarovsk runway represented the only safe location to land,” she said.
The aircraft then flew off to Japan, where it is undergoing repairs.
The Pentagon said it wasn’t a spy mission because the flight and sensor equipment could be observed by Russian forces.
“The crew, in cooperation with the Russian escort crew on-board, terminated the treaty observation mission and diverted to Khabarovsk to drop off the escort crew and to exit Russia using the most direct route possible to facilitate inspection and repair at a US base in Japan,” Baldanza added, reported Defense News. “Khabarovsk is a frequently utilized Open Skies Airfield, designated by Russia for treaty purposes, but it is not normally a ‘point of exit’ for treaty missions.”