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.
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“.
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.
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.