Now, in the latest escalation in military tensions between the two nations which were supposed to be mending frayed diplomatic relations, Reuters reports that multiple Russian military aircraft came close to U.S. Navy destroyer USS Porter (located in close proximity to Russia in the Black Sea) on Feb. 10, incidents considered "unsafe and unprofessional," a U.S. official said on Tuesday.
Guided-missile destroyer USS Porter sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the
Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, February 11, 2017.
"There were several incidents involving multiple Russian aircraft," said Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, spokesman for the European Command. "They were assessed by the commanding officer as unsafe and unprofessional."
The first buzzing involved two Russian Su-24 jet fighters followed by a single Su-24 and, in a third incident, an IL-38 transport aircraft. The passes were described by Hernandez, the Eucom spokesman, as ranging from unusually low altitude to low altitude and high speed.
"These incidents are always concerning because they could result in miscalculation or accident," he said.
According to the Free Beacon, the Russian aircraft operated without their electronic identifying transponders activated. Transponders on aircraft are monitored closely by air defense officers charged with protecting the ship and identifying hostile and friendly aircraft on radar. The Russian aircraft also failed to respond to several radio requests from the Porter to halt the overflights.
Surprisingly, Russia denied the close encounter had ever occured. "There were no incidents of any kind on Feb. 10, related to flights by Russian military jets in the Black Sea near the U.S. Navy destroyer Porter," Russian news agencies cited a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, as saying.
"USS Porter queried all aircraft and received no response," Hernandez said. "Such incidents are concerning because they can result in accident or miscalculation," he added. The incidents involving the Su-24 were considered to be unsafe and unprofessional by the commanding officer of the Porter because of their high speed and low altitude, while the IL-38 flew at an unusually low altitude, Hernandez said.
Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the lone Su-24 came within 200 yards (meters) of the Porter at an altitude of 300 feet (90 meters).
The most recent such "unsafe" close encounter took place in April 2016 when two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea so close that they created wake in the water.
The one common thread between all these incidents is that US ships were engaged in close proximity to Russia, either the Black Sea or the Baltic - not, say, the Gulf of Mexico - which may explain why Russia is hardly eager to put up with US presence in the region, especially at a time when NATO continues to pile up forces along Russia's land border in Eastern Europe.