Here’s The Video Of the Russian Su-27 Flanker Buzzing A U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries Over The Black Sea

For the first time in a few years, the U.S. Navy has released the video of the dangerous interaction between a Navy spyplane and a Russian fighter.

On Jan. 29, a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27.

According to the U.S. Navy “This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes.”

“The Russian military is within its right to operate within international airspace, but they must behave within international standards set to ensure safety and prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents on and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Unsafe actions‎ increase the risk of miscalculation and midair collisions.

The U.S. aircraft was operating in accordance with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.”

We have often reported about alleged unprofessional intercept maneuvers performed by Russian or Chinese fighters on U.S. spyplanes. Here’s what we have reported last year:

This is not the first time a Chinese or Russian fighter pilot performs a Top Gun-like stunt or aggressively maneuvers close to a U.S. aircraft.

In February 2017, a People’s Liberation Army Air Force KJ-200 and a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft were involved in what was defined by U.S. officials as an “unsafe” close encounter over the South China Sea.

Last year, on Apr. 29, 2016, a Russian Su-27 Flanker barrel rolled over the top of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft operating in the Baltic Sea. The Russian jet came within 25 feet of the U.S. intelligence gathering aircraft.

Another Su-27 had carried out the same dangerous maneuver on another US Rivet Joint over the Baltic on Apr. 14, 2016.

Previously, on Jan. 25, 2016 another U.S. RC-135 intelligence gathering jet was intercepted over the Black Sea by a Russian Su-27 Flanker that made an aggressive turn that disturbed the controllability of the RC-135.

On Apr. 7, 2015 another Su-27 flew within 20 feet of an RC-135U over the Baltic Sea.

On Apr. 23, 2015 a U.S. Air Force RC-135U Combat Sent performing a routine surveillance mission in international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan, some 60 miles off eastern Russia was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker that crossed the route of the U.S. aircraft putting itself within 100 feet of the Combat Sent.

In 2014, a Chinese Flanker made a barrel roll over a U.S. Navy P-8 maritime surveillance plane 135 miles east of Hainan Island, a spot where a dangerous close encounter of another U.S. electronic surveillance plane with the Chinese Navy took place back in 2001: on Apr. 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E with the VQ-1, flying an ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) mission in international airspace 64 miles southeast of the island of Hainan was intercepted by two PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) J-8 fighters. One of the J-8s piloted by Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei, made two close passes to the EP-3 before colliding with the spyplane on the third pass. As a consequence, the J-8 broke into two pieces and crashed into the sea causing the death of the pilot, whereas the EP-3, severely damaged, performed an unauthorized landing at China’s Lingshui airfield.

The 24 crew members (21 men and three women), that destroyed all (or at least most of ) the sensitive items and data on board the aircraft, were detained by Chinese authorities until Apr. 11.

Interestingly, unlike most (if not all) the previous incidents, this time the U.S. Navy has released footage of the Su-27 buzzing the EP-3. You can also see the coordinates where the close encounter occurred. BTW, here’s the track the EP-3E Aries II followed during its mission out of Souda Bay:

To be honest, the Flanker does not seem to be as close as five feet during this pass, although the camera zoom may be a factor here. Moreover, the whole intercept lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes, so this may be one of the few passes performed during that time, not the closest one.

What do you think?

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. A carry-over from Soviet times. Nothing new here other than the Navy, AF and NATO are making these intercepts public. The missions used to be classified.

    The Russians have been harassing our planes like this for decades. Exactly the same tactics, exactly the same threats (and more. A few of our recon aircraft were actually shot down or crashed into while operating in international airspace).

    These intercepts are the actions of a weak, intimidated regional power trying to throw around their (light) weight. Like a chihuahua barking at a larger dog behind the protection of a fence. Nothing more, nothing less. God help them if they cause us to have to escort and subsequently shoot a MiG or Sukhoi down.

        • What’s with all the Russian trolls here? Is Facebook post moderating making it hard to post lies over there? Funny. Everyone here knows these paid propagandists don’t do facts.

          But what I love; absolutely love; is that Russia talks about 6th generation this and 5th generation that and every time we see a Russian warplane in action it is barely a 4th generation (at best) with early 90s armament (at best).

          • Well, Russians do use their weapons quite effectively. It least they managed to achieve far better results in Syria, than US F-22s dropping JDAMS on the donkey-riders.

    • The danger is clear. What they do is cut off the EP-3 or P-8A, P-3C, RC-135 and go into afterburner. Our aircraft don’t just get bumped around, but a stunt like that could cause an engine compressor stall, a wing to drop due to disturbed airflow (and consequent spin possible).

      The Russians are clowns, unprofessional. and they deserve a good punch in the nose. We
      should do the same thing when their (junk) Tu-95s that come nosing around our coasts. Russian planes do not deserve respect, courtesy or professionalism during our intercepts.

    • It wouldn’t surprise me if one day a Russian pilot pulls a stunt like this and miscalculated then collides with another aircraft. Then Russian state control media will play it up at international US led aggression against Russia. Then when the black box is found it would show the Russian pilot acting foolishly and aggressively. It comes out and Russia will deny everything and will act like a millennial throwing a tantrum playing the victim.

  2. Well, American spy planes fly along Russian borders, gathering data of all kinds, and Russian planes must behave according to 1972 agreement? Russians are in their right to protect their borders and their activities within their borders, so American allegations are silly to say the least: spy plane should be prepared to be intercepted and forced to leave the area, and its navigator should pay extreme attention in order not to invade country’s airspace, otherwise consequences might be much worse, but still absolutely legal and justified.

    • 12 nm. Outside of that is international airspace. What should the U.S. do about Tu-95s flying along the coast of Alaska, California and up and down the East Coast?

      • Tu-95 and California? East Coast? It seems you’re going to yell “Russians are coming” every time you see your own shadow!

        Tu-95s are routinely intercepted by American fighters based on Alaska, and I didn’t hear any complaints from Russian side how “unprofessional and abusing” these intercepts are.
        While Americans, who are not just flying nearby, but gathering intelligence, in other words, performing clearly unfriendly and offensive actions against Russia, shout out loud every time their planes got intercepted.

        • “Tu-95s are routinely intercepted by American fighters based on Alaska, and I didn’t hear any complaints from Russian side how “unprofessional and abusing” these intercepts are.”

          > because U.S. pilots don’t pull stunts like this. They might fly close but they don’t come within extremely hazardous proximity.

          “While Americans, who are not just flying nearby, but gathering intelligence, in other words, performing clearly unfriendly and offensive actions against Russia, shout out loud every time their planes got intercepted”

          > as if Russian SIGINT aircraft flying along western Europe and in the middle East don’t do the same thing? If an F-15 pulled a similar stunt you can bet half the rubels in your paycheck that Russia would say the same thing…

          • As I said already, I’ll respect any decision of US high command – if they are going to allow Russian planes gather sensitive data, I’m ok with that.

            >If an F-15 pulled a similar stunt you can bet half the rubels in your paycheck that Russia would say the same thing…
            I have some thoughts about that, but won’t tell just not to start another rant.

            • LMAO!

              Yet, it does NOT happen….

              Why don’t you comment about the European fighter pilots intercepting your pals?

              • >Why don’t you comment about the European fighter pilots intercepting your pals?< I don't feed trolls.

        • And the Tu-95s aren’t collecting signals intelligence, electronic intelligence, watching for reaction times? My keister! They’re conducting surveillance of all kinds, just like us. Just like every nation does. Only difference is the U.S. treats them with professionalism and respect. Our mistake.

          There is no innocent passage by Tu-95s or Il-38s. They are spying. Trying to say they are headed to Cuba for some R&R is ridiculous. Another Russian lie. I hope President Trump tells our military to take the gloves off. There’s only one way to communicate with Moscow – via a clenched fist! They harass us, we harass them. Sounds fair to me. Just the way we used to handle things.

          • Cmon, man, please don’t compare Russian bombers with US spy planes full of electronic devices intended for full-scale multi-level reconnaissance.

            • Liar! Tu-95 is outfitted with various sensors to record electronic emissions. The IL-38 likewise does the same.

              Drop the Russian “fake news” and admit that you are doing the exact same thing the U.S. and NATO does in order to stay ready for any possible war – collecting intelligence.

              If you think the U.S. and NATO aren’t aware of your air and intelligence (including ship-borne) spying platforms, including the Bear reconnaissance/electronic SIGINT aircraft, you’re crazy!

        • american pilots do not fly like cowboys like the russians do. these russian pilots are war mongers and terrorists of the air.

        • Meanwhile, Russian bombers routinely fly around Europe.

          No flight plan.
          No radar transponder.

          Grow up.

      • Well if it were up to someone like you leroy, we’d have world war 3 already. Alas, don’t worry it’d affect you too.. no matter how safe you think you are.

        • Not realy: wht makes russia nervous is that even nuclear gap is widening fast between nato and russia: nato defensive capabilities are increasing very very fast and while russian submarine launched nuclear capbilities are close to zero nowdays. (For example only France has 300 nuclear warheads all sub launched and operative as well)

          • Say “hi” to the new Russian ballistic missile submarine launched just 2.5 months ago. 4 more are awaiting to be flouted out in the near future.

            Currently, 3 Boreis are active at any time, deploying in total 48 Bulava SLBMs, each missile with 8-10 nuclear warheads, in total 384-480 nuclear warheads.

            Russia operates also another 6 Delta IV-class, 3 Delta III-class and 1 Typhoon-class SSBNs armed with the R-29 family missiles.

            Furthermore, 1000 nuclear warheads are deployed in mobile and silo-based launchers at any time.

            Ultimately, there is the strategic aviation with no less than 66 strategic bombers equipped with the Kh-55/102 nuclear capable cruise missiles.


            The nuclear gap is obvious but Russia is definitely not that one who should be nervous.

      • Please don’t worry, the Russians are not out to “get us”
        or come over here, take all our pickup trucks, guns, big screen TVs, and thus leave Americans with NOTHING,,,

          • Yeah, baby! Compare it to Soviet offerings of the same model year! Gotta love that 1975 Volga.

            You know, I’ll admit the Russians have closed a lot of gaps in military aviation. But you folks still make crap for yourselves. Any American vehicle then or now was capable of taking a family of 4 or 5 across the nation in 3 to 4 days of comfortable driving no matter the season and would give years of service. That photo you posted is probably of a 40+ year old car, if taken care of cars of that era are immortal, and come with high horsepower provided you can fill the gas tank.

            And for the record, this is what a standard pickup truck from the era looked like. Could you imagine what would have happened if the East German Stasi, or typical Soviet Molitizi had to chase down an American monster like that on the road capable of driving for hours at 170 km/hr? Any eastern bloc transmission would burn out, not to mention the driver would probably be more heavily armed!

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