RC-135 aircraft

A Russian Air Force’s armed SU-27 Flanker fighter flew dangerously close to the US Air Force’s (USAF) RC-135U intelligence-gathering aircraft over international waters between Russia and Japan, in April.

Pentagon spokesman Army colonel Steven Warren was quoted by the Free Beacon as saying that the incident occurred on 23 April, when the RC-135U Combat Sent was conducting a routine surveillance mission in international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk in the western Pacific.

"The Su-27 approached the RC-135U and crossed the nose of the US aircraft within approximately 100ft," Warren said.

"Our senior leadership in the department have communicated our concerns over that incident directly to the Russian Government."

Following fly-by, the Russian fighter turned to expose its belly and show the US pilots that it was armed with air-to-air missiles, according to Warren, who also noted that there was no radio communication between the pilots.

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By GlobalData
"The aerial close call comes days after a Russian Su-24 aircraft flew proactively close to the US Navy destroyer, USS Donald Cook."

Calling the incident a ‘reckless intercept,’ an unnamed US defence official said the manoeuvre represents one of the most dangerous aerial encounters for a US reconnaissance aircraft since the Cold War.

The aerial close call comes days after a Russian Su-24 aircraft flew proactively close to the US Navy destroyer, USS Donald Cook, in the western Black Sea near Romania.

Unlike SU-27 Flanker, the Su-24, also called Fencer did not appear to be carrying weapons when it made repeated, close-range, low-altitude passes over the destroyer at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries over Ukraine.

Relations between Russia and the US have strained in the wake of the former’s invasion and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine earlier this year.

Image: A USAF RC-135U Combat Sent was intercepted by Russian SU-27 Flanker over international waters in Pacific. Photo: courtesy of USAF Master Sgt. Lance Cheung.

Defence Technology