Russian media on Jan. 28, 2019, sparked a social-media frenzy after the release of photos that seem to show a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet locked in the crosshairs of a Russian fighter jet.
Online, a source claiming to represent a Russian fighter-jet pilot surfaced with the picture and said two Su-35s tailed and “humiliated” the US jets until a Japanese F-15 surfaced to support the F/A-18s, which the Russians also said were out-maneuvered and embarrassed.
Russian commenters rushed to brand the incident as proof of the “total superiority of the Russian and the total humiliation of the Americans.”
A U.S. Navy F/A-18C in flight.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The same source previously said they beat a US F-22 stealth fighter in a mock dogfight — a fighting scenario that involves close-range turning and maneuvering — in the skies above Syria, but this incident supposedly took place over Russia’s far-east region.
The source recently became the first to feature images of Russia’s new stealth combat drone, suggesting some degree of official linkage or access to the Russian military. Russian media, for its part, accepts the source’s claims.
Lt. Cmdr. Joe Hontz, a US European Command spokesman, told Business Insider that US “aircraft and ships routinely interact with Russian units in international airspace and seas, and most interactions are safe and professional.”
“Unless an interaction is unsafe, we will not discuss specific details,” Hontz added.
This suggests that either the encounter happened and was deemed totally safe, or that the encounter did not happen.
The US did have an aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Regan, in Russia’s far-east region and in Japan in late January 2019. Japanese fighter jets regularly train with the US.
Russia’s Su-35 holds several advantages over US F/A-18s in dogfights. But, as Business Insider has extensively reported, dogfighting — the focus of World War II air-to-air combat — has taken on a drastically reduced importance in real combat.
The F-15’s dogfighting abilities more closely match up with the Su-35, but, again, these jets now mainly seek to fight and win medium-range standoffs with guided missiles, rather than participate in dogfights.
Additionally, Russian media has a history of running with tales of military or moral victories in their armed forces that usually end with something for Russians to cheer about at the expense of US, which is usually exposed as incompetent.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.