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Photos Detail Armed Russian Fighter Intercept Of U.S. Spy Plane

A U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 June 19, 2017. Photo: USAF/European Command
A U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 June 19, 2017. Photo: USAF/European Command

The U.S. military recently released a series of images showing an armed Russian SU-27 fighter jet intercepting a U.S. RC-135U reconnaissance plane in international airspace over the Baltic Sea on June 19, 2017.

The incident occurred about 25 miles northwest of Kaliningrad, which is located between Lithuania and Poland in northern Europe. The Russian jet reportedly came within just 5 feet of the wingtip, before flying under and coming up off the other wingtip.

A U.S. RC-135U flying in over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker June 19, 2017. Photo: USAF/European Command

The intercept comes following a recent shoot down of a Syrian SU-22 fighter by a U.S. NAVY F/A-18E Super Hornet, after the Syrian fighter dropped bombs on part of a U.S.-led coalition fighting against ISIS.

It was the first air-to-air kill for the F/A-18 since the Gulf War, and the first air-to-air kill between manned aircraft for the U.S. since 1999, when an Air Force F-16 took out a Serbian MiG-29 over Kosovo.

Russia and the U.S are backing opposing sides of Syria’s ongoing civil war.

The U.S. Air Force has called the incident “unsafe“, noting a “high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept“.

A U.S. RC-135U flying in over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker June 19, 2017. Photo: USAF/European Command

Russia’s Defense Ministry, however, said the U.S. plane “swerved dangerously” towards the Russian jet.

The U.S. military claims the flight crew did nothing to provoke the incident.

Russia has flown similar intercepts on U.S recon aircraft in international waters over the years, and a similar intercept occurred just last month when another Russian jet came within 20 feet of a U.S. NAVY P-8A Poseidon over the Black Sea.

A U.S. RC-135U flying in over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker June 19, 2017. Photo: USAF/European Command

The NAVY deemed that intercept a safe event.

As for the SU-27, it continued to escort the RC-135 crew until they turned away from the Russian border.

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Written by Mike Killian

Mike Killian

Killian is an accomplished aerospace photographer and writer, specializing in rocket launch and air-to-air aviation imagery. Over the years his assignments have brought him onboard NASA's space shuttles, in clean rooms with spacecraft destined for other worlds, front row for launches of historic missions and on numerous civilian and military flight assignments, including working as a photographer for Breitling Jet Team in 2016.

When not working the California-native enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, storm chasing, producing time-lapses and shooting landscape and night sky imagery, as well as watching planes of course.