A Russian Warplane Just Flew a Mock Attack Run on a U.S. Destroyer
Pentagon says Russian pilot acted ‘provocative and unprofessional’
The Pentagon says a Russian Su-24 Fencer fighter-bomber made several passes near the destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea on April 12. It’s the latest war-like incident in the two-month-old Ukraine crisis, which has seen Moscow annex Ukraine’s strategic Crimean peninsula.
The unarmed swing-wing jet made 12 passes in 90 minutes, flying within 1,000 yards of the American warship, according to Pentagon spokesman Steve Warren, an Army colonel. The plane never actually flew over Donald Cook.
Displacing 9,000 tons, Donald Cook packs nearly 100 long-range missiles in addition to other armament. She’s the latest American warship to take a turn patrolling the Black Sea in the wake of Russia’s land-grab in Ukraine.
Another Su-24 was also present at the time of the mock attack, but stayed at a higher altitude. Earlier, a Russian frigate reportedly had shadowed the American destroyer after she entered the Black Sea.
Warren described the pilot’s actions as “provocative and unprofessional.” He said the incident was “inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements” between the Pentagon and the Kremlin.
The Russian air force and navy both fly the Su-24, which originally entered service in 1974. Today’s models are heavily upgraded.
We don’t know which service the jets belonged to or if they were attack or reconnaissance variants. The combat model can carry almost 18,000 pounds of weapons including AS-17 Krypton anti-ship missiles.
Warren assured reporters that “Donald Cook is more than capable of defending itself against two Su-24s.”
Keep your friends close
Russia invaded Crimea starting in late February following the local overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian government. Some observers believe that Moscow’s agents are behind a new wave of violence in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border.
Officially, American deployments to the region are not related to the Ukraine crisis. It’s a useful fiction, as Washington is wary of escalating an already dangerous situation.
The Pentagon says its aircraft, ships and ground troops are deploying to Eastern Europe merely to “reassure NATO allies.” Donald Cook entered the Black Sea last week to “promote peace and stability in the region.” Following her close encounter with Russian jets, the destroyer called at Constanta in Romania.
Moscow has responded to the alliance’s deployments with increasingly aggressive gestures of its own. Bulgaria’s air force went on alert or scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft some 30 times during February and March.
The Su-24s’ lunge at Donald Cook is yet another sign of worsening tension.