A Russian Su-35 intercepted a P-8A multimission maritime aircraft (MMA) of the U.S. Navy off Syria’s shore three times on June 4, according to an official statement of the U.S. Navy 6th Fleet.
The 6th Fleet’s command said in the statement that the first and third interaction were “safe.” However, the second was “unsafe” due to the SU-35 conducting “a high speed pass directly in front of the P-8A.” The command went on to claim that the Su-35’s maneuver posed a threat to the lives of the MMA’s crew.
“This interaction was irresponsible. We expect them [the Russian Aerospace Forces] to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents … Unsafe actions increase the risk of miscalculation and potential for midair collisions,” the 6th Fleet’s statement reads.
The Ministry of Defense of Russia rejected the U.S. Navy claims. It said that the Su-35 was maneuvering at a safe distance and returned to Hmeimim airbase on the Syrian coast as soon as the P-8A changed its direction. However, the U.S. MMA returned to the same location three hours later, which forced the Su-35 to respond once again.
The Russian side stressed that its actions were “complied with international regulations.”
The P-8A, which was introduced by Boeing in 2013, is equipped with an array of signal intelligence (SIGINT), electronic intelligence (ELINT) and electronic warfare (EW) systems. Aircrafts of this type have been spying on Russian bases on the Syrian coast for more than three years now.