Earlier this week, two Russian aircraft flew within one nautical mile of the USS Reagan, prompting the U.S. Navy to scramble its jets in response.
The USS Reagan was sailing in international waters east of the Korean Peninsula for the purpose of conducting exercises with South Korea’s navy when two Tupolev Tu-142 Bear aircraft swooped down to just 500 feet. In response, the U.S. Navy sent off four F/A-18 Super Hornets, Stars and Stripes reports.
Interestingly, the incident took place at almost the exact same time the USS Lassen conducted a sail-by within 12 nautical miles of reefs claimed by China, suggesting possible coordination between China and Russia. While Russia flew close to the USS Reagan, Chinese ships and aircraft tracked the USS Lassen during its time in the South China Sea. (RELATED: US Navy Sending A Destroyer Within 12 Miles Of China’s Artificial Islands Within 24 Hours)
Despite attempts to establish radio contact, the Russians did not communicate back, effectively violating generally accepted aviation practices. A nearby U.S. ship following the USS Reagan tailed the aircraft as they left the vicinity.
This latest swoop-by is another instance of well-noted Russian tactics over the past year. To intimidate other countries, Russian aircraft often violate airspace and engage in risky actions. Back in April, a Russian SU-24 jet menaced the USS Donald Cook a total of 12 times by conducting low-altitude passes over the vessel. At the time, the USS Donald Cook was operating in the Black Sea. Just last month, officials from NATO alleged that Russian aircraft violated Turkish airspace.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that he will not abide by deliberate Russian interference of Turkish airspace. Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general for NATO, added that the airspace breaches occurred twice and for long periods of time, making it much less plausible that they were simple mistakes.
U.S. Navy officials have no problems with any other country exercising their right to operate in international waters, so long as those operations don’t interfere with the rights of other countries.
These officials did not clarify whether the USS Reagan had ongoing flight operations at the time of the incident.