Over the past week or so, virtual radar monitors have noted on numerous occasions the US Navy operating their P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) conducting operations over the Mediterranean Sea.
The region continues to be of significant interest for military radio monitors and political commentators following recent news revealing Russia has deployed fighter jets including MiG-29s to Libya to support Russian mercenaries.
There had been numerous reports online including in depth research and reports by The War Zone, with US Africom issuing an official statement on Tuesday stating:
“Moscow recently deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya in order to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors (PMCs) operating on the ground there.”
“Russian military aircraft are likely to provide close air support and offensive fires for the Wagner Group PMC that is supporting the Libyan National Army’s fight,” it said.
“The Russian fighter aircraft arrived in Libya, from an airbase in Russia, after transiting Syria where it is assessed they were repainted to camouflage their Russian origin.”
It has now been released by the US military there has been there intercepts of a US Navy P-8A Poseidon MPA, the most recent of which taking place yesterday, Tuesday 26th May 2020. Yesterday’s intercept included pictures and video released by the US of two fully-armed Russian Su-35 Flanker-E fighter jets flying exceptionally close to the reconnaissance aircraft.
In a release by the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs and U.S 6th Fleet Public Affairs, the statement reads:
“For the third time in two months, Russian pilots flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner while intercepting a U.S. Navy P-8A Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft in U.S. Sixth Fleet, May 26, 2020.
“On May 26, 2020, a U.S. Navy P-8A aircraft was flying in the Eastern Mediterranean over international waters and was intercepted by two Russian Su-35 aircraft over a period of 65 minutes. The intercept was determined to be unsafe and unprofessional due to the Russian pilots taking close station on each wing of the P-8A simultaneously, restricting the P-8A’s ability to safely manoeuvre.
“The unnecessary actions of the Russian Su-35 pilots were inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules, and jeopardized the safety of flight of both aircraft.
“While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible. We expect them to operate within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Actions like these increase the potential for mid-air collisions.
“This incident follows two unsafe interactions in April, over the same waters. In all cases, the U.S. aircraft were operating in international airspace, consistent with international law, with due regard for safety of flight, and did not provoke this Russian activity.”
The move comes as tensions between the US and Russia continue increase including last week’s announcement that the US was withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty which allows US and Russian surveillance aircraft to overfly each nation as part of an international treaty involving 24 nations.
As the US intelligence operation continues in the region it appears Russian forces are now actively involved in the tense game of cat-and-mouse in the air trying to prevent or limit the US monitoring activity in the area.
As the days go by and air activity increases we can’t help but remember certain scenes from the original Top Gun movie and other Hollywood movies such as The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide. For military radio monitors however the potential boiling pot which now exists between the US and Russia will undoubtably lead to interesting times ahead.