Russian fighter flies within 3m of US spy plane: US official

A Russian fighter jet flew dangerously close to a US spy plane over the Black Sea on Sept 7, 2016.
A Russian fighter jet flew dangerously close to a US spy plane over the Black Sea on Sept 7, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A Russian fighter jet flew dangerously close to a US spy plane over the Black Sea on Wednesday (Sept 7), coming within just "10 feet" - or 3m - of the American aircraft, a US defence official said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of a Pentagon announcement, the official said a Russian SU-27 Flanker jet had initially flown to within 30 feet (9m) of the P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine and intelligence plane in international airspace, before getting closer still.

"During the intercept, which lasted approximately 19 minutes, the SU-27 initially maintained a 30-foot separation distance then closed to within 10 feet of the P-8A, which is considered unsafe and unprofessional," the official said.

Moscow, however, said the intercept was conducted "in strict accordance with international rules" because the Americans were trying to snoop on Russian army exercises.

The official said US Navy aircraft and ships routinely interact with Russian craft in the area, and noted that most encounters were safely conducted.

"However, we have deep concerns when there is an unsafe manoeuvre," the official said.

A similar "unsafe" intercept occurred in May last year over the Black Sea when a Russian Flanker intercepted an American RC-135 reconnaissance plane.