That Time A Soviet Tu-16 Badger Crashed Into The Sea After Buzzing A U.S. Aircraft Carrier

Tu-16 flyby
A screenshot from the video filmed aboard USS Essex shows the Tu-16 Badger flying very low close to the aircraft carrier.

Low pass with a deadly ending.

Low flybys of Russian planes on U.S. Navy warships (and vice versa) are somehow frequent as the reports of Russian Su-24 Fencer bombers buzzing USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea prove.

Usually, such “shows of force” are uneventful: the aircraft fly by, some nice pictures or videos are shot and that’s it. However, about 50 years ago, a close encounter at sea had a deadly ending.

On May 25, 1968, a Soviet Badger-F aircraft (a reconnaissance variant of the twin-engined jet strategic heavy bomber used by the Soviet Union, equipped with ELINT sensors) flew some very low flybys close to USN carrier USS Essex in the Norwegian sea.

After the last pass, the aircraft, piloted by Colonel Andrey Pliyev, stalled and crashed into the sea in a huge explosion, killing all six crew members. Debris were reportedly found about 240 km west of the Norwegian coast.

According to “Cold War Warriors” the footage was considered classified by the Soviets and never shown in Russia until 2008.

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.