Russian and US aircraft come within 10 feet in high speed encounter

Russian and US military aircraft came within 10 feet of one another while flying at high speed in international airspace over the Black Sea late last month, US officials told CNN yesterday.

Russia's air force has repeatedly sent unannounced aircraft into international airspace since the collapse in relations between the country and the West, although Russian president Vladimir Putin refers to them as "patrol flights." European governments have in turn objected to the presence of Russian planes near their airspace, saying they threaten civilian flights.

This latest incident occurred on the 30 May, according to Pentagon officials, and involved an unspecified Russian fighter jet and a US reconnaissance aircraft. The Russian jet reportedly flew closely alongside the US plane at the same altitude for some time before breaking off and then continuing to shadow the US aircraft before leaving the area.

The US plane did not take evasive measures to lose its pursuer and further details about the incident or about any subsequent procedures which the US military may have undertaken, such as filing a diplomatic protest, were not revealed.

This is not the first time Russian aircraft have come close to US military in the Black Sea, as earlier this month missile destroyer vessel USS Ross was approached by a Russian Su-24 plane. The video of that incident was posted by US Navy.

Russia's increased forays into international airspace has troubled defence ministries across Europe as Nato's Baltic Air police mission has been intercepting Russian air force aircraft near allied skies at a record high rate since the start of the Ukrainian crisis.

Other countries such as the UK and Finland have also complained of Russian aircraft approaching their airspace over the same period.

In March a slightly less amicable pursuit between Eurofighter Typhoon jets and Russian Tu-22 Backfire bombers took place above the Baltic Sea when the Nato mission in the region tried to intercept four Russian aircraft flying abeam of Latvia.

One of the Russian planes accelerated to supersonic speed towards the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, as a Eurofighter had to match it with a 'supersonic run' in order to keep up with it and escort it away from the airspace near Nato.

Earlier this week it was reported that Russia's air force has suffered three aircraft crashes in a period of five days, as the Kremlin has ramped up "patrol flights" and training activities.

Igor Sutyagin from the Royal United Services Institute suggested this could be partly because of "overstretching" of Russian capabilities with much of the aircraft being intended for use in battle as opposed to prolonged use in training.

Russian and US aircraft come within 10 feet in high speed encounter |