U.S. Navy Rebukes Russia Jet's 'Unnecessary' Low Pass Over Warship

The U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet has condemned the actions of a Russian jet that flew low over an American warship operating in the Black Sea on Sunday, describing the pilot's actions as "unnecessary" and "inconsistent with good airmanship."

The fleet released a video of the incident on Twitter, showing a Russian Su-24 bomber flying low past the USS Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that has been operating in the Black Sea alongside other American vessels since 23 January.

Commander Kyle Raines, U.S. Sixth Fleet spokesman, told Newsweek that the Russian jet flew as close as 100 yards from the ship's port side at 200 feet. The interaction lasted for 10 minutes beginning at 7:36 a.m. on Sunday while the Donald Cook was in international waters.

"Donald Cook attempted to contact the aircraft twice with no response," Raines said. "The unnecessary proximity of the Russian Su-24's actions were inconsistent with good airmanship and international norms and standards. The U.S. Sixth Fleet is committed to maintaining freedom of movement within international waters for all nations in the Black Sea."

The Russian embassy in the U.S. was quick to dismiss the Sixth Fleet's concerns, writing on Twitter that the fleet "draws excessive attention to an alleged low pass of a [Russian] Su-24 in international waters nearby USS Donald Cook during so called routine operation to ensure security."

The @USNavy routinely operates in the Black Sea to reassure @NATO Allies & partners and ensure security & stability in the region.

Today, 🇺🇸 #USSDonaldCook operating in international waters in the #BlackSea while a #Russian SU-24 does a low pass nearby.#PowerForPeace pic.twitter.com/6JGNZoncZb

— U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (@USNavyEurope) January 31, 2021

Russian forces have been tracking the Donald Cook since it arrived in the Black Sea, according to a report in the state-run Tass news agency.

Russia's National Defense Control Center said Saturday: "The Black Sea Fleet's radars have begun tracking the movements of the US Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook that entered the Black Sea on January 23, 2021."

It is not uncommon for Russian aircraft to buzz American warships or reconnaissance aircraft operating in the Black Sea region and elsewhere. Such maneuvers are used as a show of force and a way to signal that Russian forces are aware of the American presence.

The Sixth Fleet said in May, for example, that two Su-35 aircraft performed an "unsafe" interception of a Navy P-8A patrol and reconnaissance plane over the Eastern Mediterranean, shadowing the American plane for more than an hour.

At one point, the two fighters took up position on each of the American aircraft's wings, "restricting the P-8A's ability to safely maneuver" the fleet said which "jeopardized the safety of flight of both aircraft."

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa criticized Russian conduct in April when one of its P-8As was intercepted by an Su-35 fighter over the Mediterranean Sea, flying within 25 feet of the American aircraft's wing.

The Navy said the Russian maneuver exposed the U.S. plane to turbulence and jet exhaust, forcing the American pilots to "descend to create separation and ensure safety of both aircraft."

USS Donald Cook pictured in the Mediterranean
A photo taken on August 7, 2019, shows the U.S. Navy USS Donald Cook class guided missile destroyer during an exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images/Getty