The United States Navy said Friday that a Russian jet flew within six meters of an American spy plane earlier this week over the Black Sea, but that the encounter was professional.
The Russian jet was scrambled to greet the U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon in international airspace Tuesday as the U.S. plane flew near Russian territory, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
The Russian pilot approached the spy plane “at a safe distance” in order to identify it as a U.S. aircraft, the statement said, noting that the U.S. plane changed its course after the encounter and the Russian jet returned to its base.
U.S. Navy spokeswoman Pamela Kunze said in a statement the encounter was conducted in a “safe and professional” manner, downplaying the proximity of the Russian aircraft to the U.S. aircraft.
"For aviation interactions, distance, speed, altitude, rate of closure, visibility and other factors impact whether an event is characterized as safe or unsafe, professional or not professional," she said. "Every event is unique and any single variable does not define an event."
Kunze said that Navy aircraft and ships interact with their Russian counterparts in international waters on a routine basis, but did not provide any further details about Tuesday’s encounter.
The incident is the latest in a series of close fly-bys between U.S. and Russian planes. In February, four Russian aircraft buzzed a Navy destroyer in the Black Sea, flying within 91 meters of the ship.
Last month, the U.S. military intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace off Alaska’s coast. That encounter was similarly described as “safe and professional” by the Navy.