A U.S. Air Force RC-135U an electronic intelligence gathering aircraft was on a routine mission when the aircraft was intercepted over the Baltic Sea on April 14th by a Russian Su-27.
According to EUCOM, the Russian multi-purpose fighter began a barrel roll on one side of the U.S. aircraft, finishing the roll on the other side of the plane. This is an aggressive maneuver that is not compliant with international standards. The Russian jet came dangerously close to colliding with the Combat Sent.
This happened just a few days after Russian Su-24s performed low passes over a U.S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea. These are the most recent occurrences in a long series of encounters between Russian fighters and U.S. spyplanes.
There were fears that if the planes collided it could lead to an escalation in the tensions between Russia and the west. Some are even referring to the current situation as a New Cold War.
On January 25th, 2016, a US RC-135 intelligence gathering plane was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker over the Black Sea, during which encounter the Russian pilot made an aggressive turn that impacted the controllability of the American plane. There have been a series of such incidents.
On April 7, 2015, an Su-27 flew within 20 feet of an RC-135U over the Baltic Sea.
On April 23, 2015, an RC-135U over the Sea of Okhotsk near Japan was intercepted by an Su-27 that crossed paths with the American plane less than 100 feet away.
The Chinese have also made some aggressive interceptions. There is increasing tensions in Pacific over disputed islands.
In 2014, a Chinese Flanker made a barrel roll over a U.S. Navy P-8 maritime surveillance plane 135 miles east of Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E with the VQ-1 was flying an ELINT (electronic intelligence) mission in international airspace 64 miles southeast of Hainan when it was intercepted by two PLAN J-8 Fighters.
One of the J-8s was piloted by Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei, who made two close passes before hitting the U.S. plane on the third pass. The J-8 broke into two pieces and its pilot was killed. The 24 crewmembers of the U.S. aircraft were able to land the plane without authorization at China’s Lingshui airfield. There, they managed to destroy all sensitive information and equipment before being detained by the Chinese authorities until April 11.
The Russians have been involved with similar incidents with other non-U.S. aircraft. Here is a small sample of some of these incidents.
On September 13, 1987, there was a midair collision between a Georgian RNoAF P-3B and a Soviet Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker over the Barents Sea.
In April 2012, a Norwegian P-3 Orion almost crashed with a Russian Air Force Mig-31 Foxhound that intercepted it over the Barents Sea.
On July 16, 2014, a Russian Su-27 Flanker, armed with six air-to-air missiles, intercepted one of two Swedish ELINT jets, flying as close as 10.7 meters.