The US Navy accused a Russian Su-35 fighter jet and eleven Iranian vessels of conducting “unsafe interactions” with its P-8A surveillance plane and warships respectively, in two separate incidents on April 15.
According to the Navy, the Su-35 was conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 feet directly in front its P-8A Poseidon mission aircraft flying over the Mediterranean Sea.
“The Russian jet put the lives of our pilots and crew at risk. The crew of the P-8A reported wake turbulence following the interaction. The duration of the intercept was approximately 42 minutes,” the Navy said in a statement Wednesday.
The military added that although the Su-35 was operating in international airspace, its interaction with the US warplane was “irresponsible.”
“We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Unsafe actions increase the risk of miscalculation and potential for midair collisions,” the Navy said.
It pointed out that the “US aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.”
This is not the first time such an incident has occurred. In June 2019, a Navy Poseidon aircraft was intercepted by a Russian Su-35 jet thrice over the Mediterranean Sea.
The incident with the Iranian vessels took place in the Arabian Gulf when the Navy warships were engaged in a joint operation with the Army’s gunships. Eleven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches of the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Firebolt (PC 10), USS Sirocco (PC 6), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) while the US vessels were conducting joint integration operations with US Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in the international waters of the North Arabian Gulf, the Navy said.
The IRGCN vessels are said to have repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the US warships at “extremely close range and high speeds,” including multiple crossings of the Puller with a 50 yard closest point of approach (CPA) and within 10 yards of Maui's bow.
After an hour of issuing “multiple warnings” via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships' horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, the IRGCN vessels responded and maneuvered away from the US ships and opened distance between them.
“The IRGCN's dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) or internationally recognized maritime customs, and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area,” the Navy noted.