Russia jet flies within 20 feet of US military plane; Pentagon calls...

Russia jet flies within 20 feet of US military plane; Pentagon calls encounter safe

A P-8A Poseidon assigned to participates in Exercise Dynamic Manta 2017 in the Mediterranea Sea on March 17. The annual multilateral Allied Maritime Command exercise is meant to develop interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON – A Russian military jet flew within 20 feet of a U.S. surveillance plane this week in international airspace over the Black Sea, an interaction the U.S. military described as having been conducted safely.

The commander of the U.S. P-8A Poseidon described the close encounter as “safe and professional,” said Pentagon spokesperson Navy Capt. Jeff Davis. He could not elaborate on what may have led to the commander’s assessment.

“Distance is one of several variables that our commanding officers consider when they define what is safe and professional,” he said. “They also look at speed, altitude, rate of closure, visibility and other factors that impact whether an event is characterized as safe or unprofessional or a combination of those.”

The Russian government called the encounter, first reported by NBC News, free from undo risk, according to state-media TASS news agency.

“The Russian fighter jet performed a maneuver of ‘greeting’ for the U.S. pilots and after that the U.S. surveillance plane changed the flight route towards moving from the border with Russia,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement carried by TASS.

U.S. and Russian planes and ships regularly interact in and over the Black Sea. Davis characterized the majority of these interactions Friday as safe and professional.

In February, Russian jets buzzed a U.S. guided missile destroyer three times in the Black Sea. Officials said at the time that those incidents were deemed unsafe and unprofessional because the jets flew at low altitudes and high speeds, and because they did not have their radio transponders on, which emit a signal identifying the aircraft.

In September, a Russian jet flew within 10 feet of a U.S. P-8A over the Black Sea, in what officials described as an unsafe and unprofessional encounter.

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