- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2000

The Pentagon confirmed yesterday that two Russian jet fighters buzzed the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk within a few hundred feet, correcting earlier statements that the warplanes did not come close to the ship during a Cold War-style encounter on Oct. 17.

As a result of that threatening aircraft encounter and a second incident on Nov. 9, the Kitty Hawk battle group has increased its alert status, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said.

"They have changed their procedures to deal with flyovers like this," Mr. Bacon said. "I can't get into details of how they've changed them."

The new procedures will allow the carrier and its accompanying ships to respond more quickly to threatening incidents, he said.

The Washington Times, quoting Navy sources, reported yesterday that the Kitty Hawk was buzzed by Russian Su-24 and Su-27 jets and that it took 40 minutes to launch F-18 interceptor jets to confront the warplanes.

Mr. Bacon told reporters he "misspoke" at an earlier Pentagon briefing in explaining the affair because of "misinformation" he had been provided.

"This is very similar to events that happened routinely during the Cold War, but have not happened very often, if at all, since," Mr. Bacon told reporters yesterday, noting that U.S. planes generally do not conduct similar overflights of Russian ships.

During the Nov. 9 incident, two Il-38 reconnaissance aircraft flew within 1,000 to 2,000 feet of the Kitty Hawk as it conducted exercises in the Sea of Japan.

Mr. Bacon said that radar on the Kitty Hawk spotted the incoming planes numerous miles away.

Mr. Bacon also confirmed that the Russian Defense Ministry then e-mailed reconnaissance photographs taken by the jets during the overflights to the Kitty Hawk's captain.

Mr. Bacon and Navy spokesman Rear Adm. Steve Pietropaoli sought to play down the incident.

"It's a curiosity more than anything," Adm. Pietropaoli said. "We didn't regard it as any big deal."

Mr. Bacon said no protest was lodged with the Russians after the incidents and Defense Secretary William S. Cohen did not bring up the matter during a meeting in Belgium earlier this week with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev.

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