By Jonah Bennett
Two Russian Su-24 attack aircraft Monday conducted a “simulated attack profile” against the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea, with one of the jets on Tuesday flying within 30 feet of the destroyer.
The USS Donald Cook was in the Baltic Sea conducting a training exercise with a Polish helicopter. According to one defense official, this particular run-in with the Russians is “more aggressive than anything we’ve seen in some time.” The Polish helicopter’s operations were interrupted by the overflight.
The destroyer was about 70 nautical miles from Kaliningrad on April 11, and the two SU-24s apparently made about 20 passes of the vessel.
“We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers,” U.S. European Command said in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death. U.S. officials are using existing diplomatic channels to address the interactions, while the incidents are also being reviewed through U.S. Navy channels.”
The incident was important enough to attract the attention of White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who condemned the flyovers as “entirely inconsistent with the professional norms of militaries operating in proximity to each other in international waters and international airspace.”
Russian jets routinely buzz U.S. ships deemed to close to Russian territory. Two Russian Tu-142 aircraft were intercepted in October by U.S. Navy jets after the Tu-142s flew too close to the USS Ronald Reagan. This time around, the jets flew remarkably close to the U.S. Navy’s destroyer.