Upside-Down Russian Jet Buzzes US Navy Plane Over Mediterranean

Upside-Down Russian Jet Buzzes US Navy Plane Over Mediterranean
A Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jet performs during a test flight ahead of the Airshow China 2014 in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, on Nov. 10, 2014. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)
Simon Veazey

A Russian jet buzzed a U.S. Navy surveillance plane in international airspace over the Mediterranean on April 15, flying within 25 feet in an upside-down maneuver.

The intercept lasted approximately 42 minutes, according to the Navy.

"On April 15, 2020, a U.S. P-8A Poseidon aircraft flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-35," said the Navy in a statement.

"The interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 feet directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The crew of the P-8A reported wake turbulence following the interaction."

The P-8A Poseidon is used to track submarines.

A P-8A Poseidon in a file photo. (U.S Navy photo by Personnel Specialist 1st Class Anthony Petry)
A P-8A Poseidon in a file photo. (U.S Navy photo by Personnel Specialist 1st Class Anthony Petry)

"While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible," the Navy stated, noting that the surveillance plane was affected by turbulence from the Russian jet.

Such risky close-quarters encounters with the Russian military have been more common in recent years, not only in the air but also at sea.
U.S. military leaders have warned adversaries not to test the United States and its allies during the pandemic crisis, saying that readiness remains high.

It isn't clear whether this latest incident shows Russia is notching its actions in response to the virus or is just carrying out business as usual.

The incident with the Russian jet followed U.S. Navy ships being harangued by nearly a dozen Iranian naval vessels in the Persian Gulf.
In a statement, the Navy stated that 11 vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came dangerously close to six U.S. vessels, repeatedly crossing their bows and sterns while they were conducting integration operations with U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters to support maritime security outside of Iran’s territorial waters.

Iranian naval vessels came as close as 10 yards of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Maui, and within 50 yards of the USS Lewis B. Puller, a ship that serves as an afloat landing base, according to the statement. Other vessels among the U.S. ships included the USS Paul Hamilton, a Navy destroyer, and the USS Firebolt.

The incident comes amid heightened military tensions between the United States and Iran following the killing of Iran's top general by a U.S. airstrike earlier this year.

Like other militaries, the United States has had to adapt to the CCP virus, otherwise known as novel coronavirus, canceling some training and exercises and adopting strict quarantine processes for crews heading onto nuclear submarines.

The most public impact has been the outbreak on the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is still sidelined in Guam as the crew is evacuated and the ship cleaned. One crew member died, and more than 585 have tested positive for the virus.

However, the Roosevelt could still quickly be deployed if needed, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters earlier this week.

France's only aircraft carrier has also been hit by an outbreak of the virus and forced to return to port early, with one third of the crew so far testing positive for the virus.

Chinese naval activity and paramilitary aggression in the Pacific have continued despite the pandemic, including a carrier group carrying out drills near Taiwan.

However, experts previously told The Epoch Times that it isn't possible to asses the real impact of the pandemic on China's military strength.

The impact is hidden by long-running military secrecy, the fact that Beijing’s data on the virus can't be trusted, and the lower value that the Chinese Communist Party places on the lives of troops who might be hit by an outbreak.

Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.