The US Navy’s 6th Fleet reported the interception of one of its P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft by a Russian Su-35 fighter over the Mediterranean Sea.
The incident happened on June 4, 2019. Over the span of 175 minutes, the Russian fighter jet intercepted the US patrol aircraft three times. While the first and last interactions were safe, “the second interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” according to the 6th Fleet. The P-8A was reportedly affected by wake turbulence from the pass. The Navy argues that “the U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.”
To which the Russian Defense Ministry answered that all Russian military flights in the Mediterranean “were carried out in accordance with the international rules for the use of airspace,” adding that the Su-35 jet was scrambled from Hmeymim Air Base after an incoming air target was identified heading towards Tartus Russian naval facility. The fighter jet escorted the P-8A Poseidon several times away from the airspace but always remained at a “safe distance”.
Interceptions between Russia and the United States are frequent in other regions of the world, particularly over the Bering Sea where Russia and Alaska are facing each other, and the Baltic Sea where NATO is missioned to defend the airspaces of the three Baltic states.