The U.S. Navy has released video of a Su-27, a Russian fighter, conducting an extremely dangerous maneuver against the crew of an EP-3 Aries plane taking part in Trident Juncture, the massive NATO war games that have sent the Russian military into a tizzy.
The depicted aerial maneuvers, which included the Russian plane flying within a few feet of the U.S. aircraft with engines roaring, were seemingly conducted solely with the intention of threatening the unarmed plane. The intercept included two passes and lasted for approximately 25 minutes. According to a Navy statement,
On Nov. 5, 2018, a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27. This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The intercepting SU-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away. The crew of the EP-3 reported turbulence following the first interaction, and vibrations from the second.
The Navy pushed the Russian forces to follow international agreements and cited the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA), an agreement originally between the U.S. and the Soviet Union which covers interactions between naval forces.
A U.S. Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane
Article IV of the agreement specifically calls for commanders of aircraft to “use the greatest of caution and prudence in approaching aircraft and ships of the other Party,” something that this November 5 incident seems to be a flagrant violation of. This follows a November 2 incident in which a Russian bomber flew nearly directly over a U.S. command ship, the USS Mount Whitney.
A Pentagon spokesperson told Business Insider that Russia failed to make radio contact with the plane before conducting its maneuvers, making this interaction especially dangerous.
This sudden increase in incidents is no accident. NATO’s Trident Juncture war games are a response to increasing Russian aggression, including the illegal annexation of Crimea and election meddling across the Europe and the U.S.
The military exercises have triggered a series of responses from Russia, which include the dangerous intercepts, a huge missile exercise announced and held in the middle of NATO’s training, and an increased naval presence in the waters in and around the exercise.
Russia’s concerns about the large exercise ring hollow, though, since Russia held the Vostock 2018 war games in September, which it claimed was its largest exercise since the Cold War. While Russia inflated the size of Vostock, claiming 300,000 troops where there may have been as few as 150,000, it was still much larger than Trident Juncture, which has only 50,000 participants.
But Trident Juncture is still frightening for Russia as 30 nations are taking part. Vostock had only three participants: Russia, China, and a small Mongolian force. And Trident Juncture includes nations that are Russian neighbors and either members of NATO or friends of the alliance, posing a big threat to Russia’s ability to push around its neighbors.