Russian fighter jet comes within feet of U.S. spy plane

FILE PHOTO: A Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighter of the Russkiye Vityazi (Russian Knights) aerobatic team lands at an airfield of the Kubinka air base outside Moscow, Russia, May 21, 2016.


A Russian fighter jet intercepted a U.S. Navy spy plane over international airspace above the Baltic Sea Tuesday morning in what the European Command is describing as a safe intercept — even though the aircraft came within 20 feet of each other, CBS News’ David Martin reports.

Aircraft intercepts are only characterized as “safe” or “unsafe,” without other descriptors. The incident was initially called “safe” but “unprofessional,” but that was later changed to “safe” and “professional,” Martin reports. The Russian fighter jet was an SU-27, while the U.S. Navy spy plane was a Navy P-8 maritime surveillance plane. 

The intercept was the first since January, when another Russian fighter jet came within five feet of a U.S. spy plane over the Black Sea. After that incident, the U.S. State Department said Russia “was flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law.” 

Before that, in November 2017, the U.S. military said a Russian fighter jet flew within 50 feet of a Navy reconnaissance plane, causing the aircraft to tilt 15 degrees from the resulting turbulence. In May 2017, a Russian jet came within 20 feet of a U.S. spy plane over the body of water. In December 2017, two U.S. F-22A Raptors came in contact with two Russian jets as they crossed a deconfliction line over Syria.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

— CBS News’ Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

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