The US army accused a Russian fighter jet of endangering the lives of the crew of a US Navy reconnaissance aircraft, while conducting a high-speed manoeuvre as part of an unsafe interception on Wednesday, over the Mediterranean Sea.
This comes at a time when the US Army Space and Missile Defence Command (USASMDC) announced that Moscow conducted an anti-satellite missile test on Wednesday.
The US Navy explained that a Russian Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft conducted an unsafe manoeuvre to intercept a US P-8 reconnaissance plane on Wednesday, while flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea.
The US Navy’s Sixth Fleet announced in a statement that: “The interception was determined to be unsafe because the Sukhoi Su-35 conducted an inverted, high-speed manoeuvre, 25 feet facing directly the mission plane; thereby exposing our pilots and crew to danger.”
The statement indicated that: “The P-8 crew reported travelling through wake turbulence caused by Russian interception, which lasted about 42 minutes.” Navy officials called the actions of the Russian aircraft “irresponsible”.
The US has accused Russia in the past of making similar unsafe interceptions of US surveillance aircraft, over the Mediterranean and other locations. However, reports about similar incidents have decreased over the past years.
A similar incident occurred last June, when another Russian fighter jet intercepted a US P-8 several times.
On Wednesday, Russia also tested an anti-satellite missile, according to the USASMDC.
USASMDC revealed in a statement that: “Russia’s DA-ASAT test is being closely monitored.”
General John W. Raymond, chief of space operations and the US Space Force, disclosed that the Russian anti-satellite missile test: “Provides yet another example that the threats to US and allied space systems are real, serious and growing.”
“The Russian missile system is capable of destroying satellites in a low Earth orbit,” Raymond added, describing Wednesday’s anti-satellite missile test as: “A proof of Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control proposals, while clearly having no intention of halting their counterspace weapons programs.”
The Russian and Chinese anti-satellite weapons were cited as one of the reasons why the US needs a military force in space, which prompted the creation of a space force currently led by Raymond.
US satellites play a critical role in everything from navigation, weapons targeting and intelligence gathering, including monitoring North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and monitoring Russian and Chinese military activity; and there is concern over Beijing and Moscow’s growing ability to target satellites.
The USASMDC asserted that the latest Russian DA-ASAT test followed: “Russia’s on-orbit testing the US highlighted in February.”
The USASMDC considered that those satellites: “Behaved similar to previous Russian satellites that exhibited characteristics of a space weapon, conducted manoeuvres near a US Government satellite that would be interpreted as irresponsible and potentially threatening in any other domain.”
Despite these growing tensions, Washington and Moscow managed to cooperate in space projects, namely, a NASA astronaut has joined Russian astronauts on a mission to the International Space Station earlier this month.