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 4467 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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. Very close, but the Russian pilot matched his speed to that of the EP-3 and therefore the situation is similar to the “Newlin sandwich”. Of course our media (German Spiegel for example) makes a big deal of it because it can be used in the current propaganda campaigns. And usually it isn’t covered in detail (unlike here). Also, the comment section is disabled for such “articles”.

    • As a student of photography, that photo could be a little misleading. They could be 15 ft underneath the wingspan

  2. So, to sum it up, a total of 6 videos released, none show the ‘dangerous right-to-left turn’ with ‘excessive closure rate’ that brought the Sukhoi ‘within 5 feet’.

  3. Well, we learned one thing. The Russians (and the Chinese) are super afraid of the EP-3. I don’t blame them. It is the most capable, sophisticated electronic intelligence collections aircraft in the U.S. inventory. The capabilities, skills of crew, equipment onboard (especially the updated ones) are unique and quite frankly unbelievable. Then there’s the matter of personnel security clearances. This is one very important U.S. aircraft. Unique in many ways.

    Like all aircraft, under international law the EP-3 (and all U.S. aircraft) has every right to fly unmolested in international airspace (12 nm off a nation’s coast). Russia and China fly their own (inferior) versions near the U.S., Japan, ROK, NATO. Reciprocity, my Chinese, Russian, Iranian, North Korean, etc., “friends” who come here looking for open source intel (you won’t get it regarding this plane) should you harm our aircraft or crew … reciprocity will be a bit_h!

    We need to implement strong actions to make sure these incidents come to an end. Very strong actions! I hope we do so quickly. When President Trump hears about this, you know what he’s gonna order Gen. Mattis to do. If you push the U.S., today, we push back. Hard! You outlaw nations and aggressive bullies who claim that which doesn’t belong to you can expect some very unpleasant (unannounced) surprises. : )

    • Yeah everybody is afraid of the EP-3 and the P-8 and … wait, they were involved in the search of the Argentinian submarine ARA San Juan months ago, did they state-of-the-art tech, found anything? :D

      • The ARA San Juan is likely a silent imploded submarine. Russian aircraft and ships radiating like a Russian disco are much easier to find. FACT!

        • What fact? where is? everytime that someone finds a Russian sub threat near they borders, they only find …. bubbles! :D

    • Considering it was close to Ukraine, and Crimea(Which the Russiaboos love to claim it’s theirs, it isn’t), Russia can cry all it wants. Pretty sure this was gathering and providing information to help the Ukrainians to kick the Russians out of their country.

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