Watch a Russian Fighter Corral American Bombers and Tankers
Baltic intercept was 'safe and professional'
In yet another sensational encounter between U.S. and Russian aircraft, two B-1B Lancer bombers from the 28th Bomb Wing, a B-52H Stratofortress bomber from the 2nd Bomb Wing — both deployed to RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom — and a KC-135R Stratotanker aerial-refueling aircraft from the 459th Air Refueling Squadron were intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter over the Baltic Sea on June 9, 2017.
The American bomber and tanker formation was participating in Baltops, an aerial-deployment exercise that rehearses cooperation between U.S. and foreign squadrons and also demonstrates U.S. capabilities.
U.S. Air Force photographer Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder shot these photos from the boom position of a KC-135 tanker during the intercept. “Flight intercepts are regular occurrences, and the vast majority are conducted in a safe and professional manner,” the Air Force stated.
U.S. Air Force photo
Close encounters between Russian and American warplanes are becoming more frequent. “Around 780 deployments were made from European military bases last year in response to Russian aircraft, compared to just 410 in 2015,” Lizzie Dearden wrote in The Independent.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters have also intercepted Russian maritime patrol aircraft off the Alaskan coast.
U.S. Air Force photo
While popular news media often adds a sensational spin to the intercepts, the air forces involved usually conduct the intercepts for training and air-traffic-safety reasons. Some NATO aircraft, including Royal Air Force Typhoons, have escorted Russian aircraft flying along popular civilian air routes, albeit without transponders. NATO aircraft often rendezvous with the Russian aircraft and use their own transponders to mark the Russian planes’ locations … for safety’s sake.
Regardless of the motives, the encounters often make for sensational photos and video.
Air Forces Monthly obtained video filmed from inside the cockpit of a B-1 temporarily deployed to RAF Fairford for Baltops. The short clip shows a Russian naval aviation Su-27 approaching the B-1’s starboard wing then banking to pass below the nose of the Lancer.
“AFM was told the Russian pilot acted in a non-aggressive manner throughout the maneuver,” the magazine reported on its website.
It’s not clear whether the clip was filmed on the very same day Snyder snapped his own fantastic shots. In that case, the Air Force insisted that the intercept was safe and professional way. In fact, the video seems to show the Su-27 flying dangerously close to the U.S. bomber.
According to AFM, the Flanker is an Su-27P model belonging to the Fighter Aviation Squadron of the 72nd Aviation Base of the Russian Baltic Fleet based at Chkalovsk air base in Kaliningrad Oblast.