The Pentagon has released troubling vide of a so-called ‘unsafe intercept’ between one of its aircraft and Russian fighters.
The incident occurred on August 28th, 2020, when the U.S. Air Force sent six B-52s, four of which are forward deployed to RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom, to traverse every NATO member country’s airspace in a show of strength and solidarity for the alliance. This included flights over Eastern Europe and the tense Black Sea region, where the intercept took place.
In particular, one of the B-52s of the 5th Bomb Wing from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, currently deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, as part of Bomber Task Force 20-4, using the radio callsign “NATO 01” and keeping its Mode-S transponder on, undertook an interesting tour flying from RAF Fairford across Eastern Europe to the Black Sea area and then back via (among the others) Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and France.
The maneuver the Su-27s executed is sometimes referred to as ‘thumping’ or a ‘head-butt’ and it has the potential to be extremely dangerous depending on how it is performed. Regardless, it’s never welcome.
In the video, can see the Su-27 pull up close to the B-52’s left-wing before pulling forward, up, and crossing in front of and above the bomber’s forward path. It’s easy to miss, but another clip towards the end of the video shows a Su-27 doing a similar maneuver, but directly in front of the nose of the B-52 at incredibly close range. To call the maneuver dangerous or unprofessional would be an understatement.
The Pentagon states:
At approximately 11:19 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2020, two Russian Su-27 Flanker pilots intercepted a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber that was conducting routine operations in the black sea over international waters. The Russian pilots flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner while crossing within 100 feet of the nose of the B-52 multiple times at co-altitude and while in afterburner causing turbulence and restricting the B-52’s ability to maneuver.
“Actions like these increase the potential for midair collisions, are unnecessary, and inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander. “While the Russian aircraft were operating in international airspace, they jeopardized the safety of flight of the aircraft involved. We expect them to operate within international standards set to ensure safety and prevent accidents,” he added.
The B-52 Stratofortress aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace exercising our freedom of navigation and overflight. The U.S. Air Force routinely operates aircraft in the region in accordance with recognized international safety standards as prescribed in International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules of flight.
The Su-27 Flanker seen in the video likely originated out of Crimea. A contingent of the heavy fighters are deployed to Russia’s primary airbase on the peninsula and are tasked with a standing alert to intercept NATO aircraft venturing east over the Black Sea.
We constantly hear of unsafe intercepts between U.S., Russian, and Chinese aircraft, but rarely have we seen such remarkable footage that highlights exactly what went on.