“Because I was….inverted!”: Top Gun stunt performed near a Russian strategic bomber.
[Read also the follow up story, that provides more details about the shot featured in this article, here: “We Did Barrel Rolls Around Tu-95s At The Request Of The Soviets”: F-4 WSO Explains The Story Of The Phantom Upside Down Near Bear“]
In the last few years, we have often reported about “unsafe and unprofessional” intercepts conducted across the world by Russian (and Chinese) fighter jets scrambled to identify and escort U.S. spyplanes flying in international airspace.
Barrel rolls, aggressive turns that disturbed the controllability of the “zombie” (intercepted aircraft in fighter pilot’s jargon), inverted flight: if you use the search function on this site you can read of several such incidents that made the news on media all around the world.
The last episode involved a Russian Su-30 that crossed within 50 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon’s path over the Black Sea during an intercept mission, causing the American maritime patrol aircraft to endure violent turbulence, on Nov. 25, 2017.
However, as a former RC-135 aircraft commander who flew the S, U, V, W, and X models, told us a couple of years ago:
“Prior to the end of the Cold War interceptors from a variety of nations managed to get into tight formation with RC-135s and EP-3s. Smaller airplanes like MiG-21s made it easy. The challenge with the larger airplanes like the Su-27 and MiG-31 is the sheer size of the interceptor as it moves in front of any portion of the intercepted plane.
At least the Su-27 pilot has excellent all-around visibility to see where the back-end of his own airplane is as he maneuvers adjacent to the RC-135.
The U-Boat crew took video of the intercept, which has not been released but shows the precise extent of how close the FLANKER really was. Recent movies taken by a PRC aircraft that was intercepted by a JASDF F-15CJ suggests that the Eagle was very close—until the camera zooms out and shows the Eagle was 70-100 feet away from the wingtip….
Finally, although the number of Russian reactions to Western recon flights has been increasing recently, for 15-20 years (certainly from 1992 through 2010) there were almost no reactions on a regular basis. As such, what passes for dangerous and provocative today was ho-hum to recon crews of my generation (although we weren’t shot at like the early fliers from 1950-1960).”
Therefore, these close encounters were a sort of routine in the skies all around the world during the Cold War. And “reckless” behaviour did not only involve Russian pilots, as the top image seems to prove.
The blurry photograph (courtesy of our friends at the Global Military Strategy & Statistics FB page) shows an F-4 Phantom (probably from the U.S. Air Force, even though the quality of the shot does not help identifying the nationality), flying inverted during an intercept/escort mission on a Russian Tu-95 Bear: a stunt that may remind one of the most famous scenes in Top Gun movie.
We don’t know when nor where this photograph was taken (if you have some details or hints, please let us know), still a proof that some (dangerous) maneuvers have been part of such close encounters for decades and have seldom made the news. At least, until a few years ago…
Here’s the pilot explaining that maneuver: https://theaviationist.com/2017/12/09/we-did-barrel-rolls-around-tu-95s-at-the-request-of-the-soviets-f-4-wso-explains-the-story-of-the-phantom-upside-down-near-bear/
What endanger you most is being were you shouldn’t be and provoke foreign lands thousands of miles from your “own” shores. Best way to starry safe in Syria is to stay out of it unless you’r invited and that you most certainly are not.
That was my point answering Leroy’s assertion that the Phantom had not flown OVER the Bear; implying it was just cruising alongside inverted.
I cannot agree nor disagree with your conclusion that Russian barrell rolls are more dangerous than this one. I have not seen any pictures from outside of the intercepted planes. Since Flankers are huge, pictures from inside those planes distort the perspective, and they look closer. My only sources are the intercepted crews words. Given the current hysteria, they can be the literary creativity of today’s “journalists”.
Since you are a Dr. in something, I expected scientific rigour and fairness, rather than faithful speculation based on cable news.
Those were accidents. Not the first time nor the last. Sometimes aggressive maneouvres are used in place of weapons, to chase away unwilling, non-compliant or openly provocative crews. Every member of those crews have very specific tasks during these spy flights. No time for sightseeing. Obviously somebody is waiting, camera ready, to snap damning shots of the barbarians. This is my pure speculation and hopefully wrong. But looks like staged incidents sometimes.
Every time anyone feels like criticizing these incidents, be you Western or Russian, remember the legendary “Newlin’s Sandwich” and the reaction to it. I cannot think of anything riskier than that, and an end more civilized than the one it had.
Obviously, then, pilots were just working, not feeding political media histeria.
Newlin’s Sandwich: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/803ab1edbf7d51f15a45110739ff494aa8fcf0de165200f5480161af0800192f.png