A Russian Su-35 was scrambled to intercept a US Navy “spy” plane flying towards the Hmeymim air base in Syria and returned when the surveillance aircraft changed course, the Russian MoD has said.
"On April 19, the Russian equipment controlling the airspace over the neutral waters of the Mediterranean Sea detected an air target performing a flight towards Russia’s military facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic. A fighter jet from the air defense alert quick reaction force of the Hmeymim air base was scrambled to identify the target," the ministry said in a statement.
After the US plane changed its course, the Russian fighter returned to its air base, the ministry added.
"The aircraft of Russia’s Aerospace Force performed and perform all flights in strict compliance with the international rules of using the airspace over neutral waters," the April 20 statement said.
However, a US Navy 6th Fleet statement on Sunday countered:
A Russian fighter came within 25 feet of a Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft over the in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday.
Over a period of just under two hours, the P-8A was intercepted twice by a Russian Air Force SU-35 Flanker-E. The incident is the second unsafe intercept between a P-8A and Russian fighter over the Mediterranean.
“The first intercept was deemed safe and professional. The second intercept was determined to be unsafe and unprofessional due to the SU-35 a conducting high-speed, high-powered maneuver that decreased aircraft separation to within 25 feet, directly in front of the P-8A, exposing the U.S. aircraft to wake turbulence and jet exhaust,” read the statement from U.S. 6th Fleet.
“In response, the P-8A, which was operating at a constant altitude and airspeed, descended to create separation and ensure safety of both aircraft. The unnecessary actions of the Russian SU-35 pilot were inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules, seriously jeopardizing the safety of flight of both aircraft.”