In the latest incident of aggressive Russian probing of American military assets, a Defense Department official said Wednesday that two Russian military jets engaged in an “aggressive” overflight maneuver of a U.S. Navy vessel sailing in international waters off the Russian coast.
The official, speaking on background, said the two jets flew uncomfortably close to a U.S. guided-missile destroyer in what the official called “simulated attack profiles” in Tuesday’s incident.
The Russian Su-24 jets were not armed, but the fly-by was so close that the planes created a “wake in the water” near the USS Donald Cook, according to wire-service accounts from both Reuters and Agence France-Presse.
The Pentagon said the Russians also dispatched a Ka-27 Helix helicopter, which took photographs of the Cook while it circled the vessel seven times.
The USS Donald Cook is now operating in the Baltic Sea after leaving the port of Gdynia, Poland earlier this week, according to the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet website. The same destroyer encountered similar close passes by a Russian fighter jet in the Black Sea in April 2014 when it was deployed in international waters.
As tensions between Moscow and the West have soared in recent years, the Russian air force has repeatedly tested the defenses of NATO forces in Europe, including incursions into NATO country airspace and simulated attacks on the alliance’s warships.
“We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers,” the U.S. European Command said in a statement Wednesday. “These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death.”