It’s not the first time a Flanker escorting the Russian Defense Minister jetmaneuvers towards a NATO jet.
In a sort of remake of something we have already seen and reported in June 2017 and in January 2019, a Russian Su-27 escorting Sergei Shoigu’s jet turned into a NATO jet supporting the NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission, forcing it to move farther, recently.
In this case the aircraft dispatched to intercept and shadow the aircraft is a Spanish Air Force EF-18, one of the 5 jets currently deployed to Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, for BAP mission. The Russian jet carrying Shoigu is not the Tu-154 with registration RA-85686 we observed on previous Russia’s MOD trips, but a Tu-204, based on the type of winglet exposed in the video.
Interestingly, the EF-18 appears to be armed with 2x IRIS-T and 2 AIM-120 AMRAAM AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles) as well as a ventral Litening targeting pod (used in air-to-air mode for visual ID of the target). The Russian Su-27 carries a pair of R-27 and R-73 AAMs, although the exact type and number of missiles is not clear in the footage (as the aircraft turns away from the camera).
According to Zvezda, the close encounter occurred in international airspace over the Baltic. The Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was on his way back from a working trip to Kaliningrad exclave, where he visited the Sea International Landing Army International Games contest at the Khmelevka training ground.
As already explained in the past, Su-27 Flankers flying in international airspace from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad and back, often escorting other aircraft (including Tu-22, Tu-134 and An-72 jets) are frequently intercepted by NATO fighters in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert). The Russian aircraft operate with no FPL, onboard transponders off, and usually do not maintain radio contact with the local air traffic control agencies and for this reason they are identified and escorted by NATO aircraft based in Lithuania and Estonia. Pretty much standard stuff unless the NATO aircraft try to approach the aircraft of the Russian MOD: in this case, pilots of the Russian Su-27 often push interceptors away, not allowing them to come close to the VIP jet.
In the last few years, U.S. officials have often complained for Russian Su-27 performing “aggressive maneuvers” against American aircraft. As happened on Jan. 29, 2018, when a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 over the Black Sea; on Apr. 29, 2016, when a Russian Su-27 Flanker barrel rolled over the top of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft operating in the Baltic Sea; on Apr. 14, 2016, when another Su-27 carried out the same dangerous maneuver on another US Rivet Joint over the Baltic; on Jan. 25, 2016 when a Russian Su-27 Flanker made an aggressive turn that disturbed the controllability of the RC-135; or on Apr. 7, 2015, when a Flanker flew within 20 feet of an RC-135U over the Baltic Sea.