Navy Has Released Additional Videos Of The Russian Su-27 Intercepting U.S. EP-3E To Show How Close The Flanker Was To The Spy Plane

The new videos show the Russian Flanker flying close to the EP-3E Aries II. Still, the clips don’t show the most dangerous maneuver.

As you already know by now, on Jan. 29, a U.S. EP-3 Aries II intelligence gathering aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea as FARM26 was intercepted by a Russian Su-27. During the intercept, the Russian Flanker allegedly performed an unsafe maneuver: the Su-27 closed to within five feet and crossed directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash.

Yesterday, the U.S. Navy released the footage of the Su-27 “buzzing” the Navy spyplane. Although the Flanker appears to be quite close to the EP-3E, as explained, the clip does not help determining the distance from the EP-3E’s wingtip.

Today, the 6th Fleet released more videos of the dangerous interaction along with some interesting comments (highlight mine):

The videos show the Russian Su-27 maneuvering around the U.S. Navy EP-3 in close proximity and in varying positions.

While not shown in the released imagery, during the intercept, the Russian Su-27 executed a hard right-to-left turn from the U.S. EP-3’s right side with an excessive closure rate and came within five feet of the EP-3’s right wingtip. The Russian Su-27 then proceeded to enter the flight path of the U.S. Navy EP-3, crossing within 10 feet and executing a sharp dive below, which resulted in violent turbulence for the U.S. EP-3 and its crewmembers.

“These videos show the Russian Su-27 intercepting the EP-3 from a very close position, at the same altitude, and with an estimated wingtip-to-wingtip horizontal separation as little as five feet at times,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, commander of Task Force 67. “For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the U.S. Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe. The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action,” said Ellis.

Here are the additional clips. Beware, the zoom affects the perception of the distances between the two aircraft.

H/T to our friend @CivMilAir for the heads up

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.


    • You have to understand that different times exist, and thus, what happened a minute 10, is different than what happened at minute 40. You can see the wings of the EP-3 with the wings of the Flanker. Some where zoomed, some were not zoomed, as you can see in your own example.

      • Z’ing Sui example clearly shows how a picture can be shot to make an object look closer than it actually is. Zooming is a manipulation that distorts distance to, as in this case, show an aircraft as if it were riding on top of the camera. Especially easy with an aircraft that is 3/4 the size of the EP-3.

        Why show the aircraft at a safe distance and suddenly zoom onto it? Blatant manipulation that the gullible public will swallow and approve of any “deserved punishment” of the Russobarbarians. I feel sorry for the real Americans that are being mislead like this.

      • Well if we’re to believe the official statement, there must have been some specific moment in time where the Sukhoi closed rapidly to end up within 5 feet of the EP-3, isn’t it?

        What I find surprising is that all 6 videos released, seemingly in support of the statement, show something else.

          • “One of the last videos do show that.” – well, those vids are conveniently numbered 2 to 6, which one? Because I don’t see it. Neither does the Aviationist’s David Cenciotti, by the way, he agrees this is ” not shown in the released imagery,”

            “But this comes down to if you consider the plane’s wings to be actually part of a plane. Right?” – no, not really? It comes down to us not being able to tell distances without knowing camera params and there not, apparently, being released a video that would show rapid approach by the Su-27, making me doubt this has happened exactly as described by the Navy spokespeople.

            • Check the first few seconds of video 5 and video 3. They are not zoomed in, and you can cleary see how close those flankers were.

              The lack of professionalism of the Russian pilots are legendary.

              • Well, first of all, legends and myths aside, Navy claim is specific. It’s not “Sukhoi carefully matched speeds” or something like that or just that it closed within 5 feet . It’s specifically claimed the Russian closed with recon plane rapidly and dangerously. There’s nothing of that in the released vids, like I’ve already said.

                Second, no, you can’t judge the distance on videos 3 and 5, refer to my post above with the pic showing photos at different camera focal lengths.

                • “something like that or just that it closed within 5 feet . It’s specifically claimed the Russian closed with recon plane rapidly and dangerously”

                  First video released shows a dangerous maneuver, and the subsequent videos show how close they got. I don’t see any problems with their statement and the evidence shown. Only you seem to be grabbing at straws here.

                  You can see the size of the fuselage and the propeller,thus we can see it is not zoomed in.

                  • “While not shown in the released imagery, during the intercept, the Russian Su-27 executed a hard right-to-left turn from the U.S. EP-3’s right side with an excessive closure rate and came within five feet of the EP-3’s right wingtip. ” – text from the article above. All I did was agree and find that surprising.

                    If there was a video of you jumping on one foot and a video of you on the South Pole, I wouldn’t consider it enough evidence for a claim that you’ve jumped all the way to South Pole that way. Same thing here. The claim just isn’t substantiated by evidence released.

                    And what sort of argument is “it’s not zoomed in”, it does not mean we know camera parameters. If anything, If I had to guess (which is a very unreliable thing to do) i’d say videos 3 and 5 cover at most 15 degrees of arc, probably much less. That means focal length of about 120 mm. In the example above, there’s a photo with 135mm lens, so videos might be close that in how they distort perspective and make things seem closer than they actually are. So yes, that’s very much “zoomed in” compared to camera on your phone which us 40-60mm focal length

                    • So, their mistake was not releasing the entire video footage, just the parts where they closed in, or did the very dangerous fly in caused major turbulence to the aircraft.


  1. Srg720, are you obsessed by Leroy? All your comments are against or mention Leroy. Please stop otherwise I’ll have to block you, cause the comments don’t bring any value.

    • Sorry David, I’m merely pointing out that his comments don’t bring anything of value to what is otherwise a great aviation resource.

  2. The invader is the US… Far far from home, flying in “international airspace” with military vehicles, occupying “international waters” with military fleets….

    How about US would go and pull their military inside their borders and let the world be in peace?

    • In case you are not aware, this is the definition of “allies”

      allied; allying
      transitive verb
      : to unite or form a connection or relation between : associate He allied himself with a wealthy family by marriage.
      intransitive verb
      : to form or enter into an alliance two factions allying with each other

      As you can see, the definition fits perfectly with the agreement of NATO , and their allies. A country, requesting assistance who is either a member of NATO or an ally, has the right to their own air space, and especially when their army, or air force is not up to par to fight off bullies like Russia.

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