Exclusive: Close encounter with “Ivan”, as seen from inside the Russian spyplane!

Close encounters between Russian strategic bombers, spyplanes and Western fighter jets scrambled to intercept them have been quite frequent since the Cold War.

Every month or so, a new image taken by one of those interceptors depicting a Tu-95 Bear, Tu-22 Backfire, Il-20 Coot ELINT/reconnaissance spyplane, during a long range patrol over the Baltic Sea, or close to Japan, emerges as a “proof” of the latest “provocation” or “near violation” of this or that nation’s sovereign airspace.

Whereas images taken by the interceptors are not so rare (nevertheless, they are extremely interesting!), there are not so many photos taken from inside the “zombies” (the targets of the fighter planes).

Here are some really interesting ones taken from inside a Russian spyplane in international waters sent by a reader.

F-15J 1

A JASDF F-15J on the right hand wing of the intercepted plane near Japan.

F-15J 2

Both Japanese F-15s shadowing the Russian spyplane.

F-15J close up

Close up.

Mirage F1

Mirage F1 over the Baltic Sea.

Mirage F1 close

Say “Cheese”

FinAF F-18

Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet.


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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. These are nice photos of standard intercepts that took place (and still take place) all the time between Soviet/Russian and American aircraft flying off of each others coasts. Or perhaps when Russian aircraft get too close to a U.S. aircraft carrier. The rules governing these flights are well established by international law.

    The only country to have messed up this kind of an operation was China when they intercepted an EP-3 flying over the South China Sea back in 2001. The foolish, unprofessional and overly-aggressive Chinese pilot flying a J-8 paid for his hostile, ill-intentioned intercept with his life. The American aircraft as we all know made an amazing recovery from a collision-induced spin and landed at a Chinese airfield where the crew was detained for a short period of time and then released. The disassembled American plane, no doubt poured over by the PLA, was sent back to the United States. The whole incident was completely avoidable. At least Russia and the U.S. are professional enough to handle these types of routine operations. China? Obviously not so much!

  2. the Mirage F1 is from the 118 Mont-de-Marson air base south France. The picture is over the Bay of Biscay

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