Over the past few months, many news articles have followed the increasing tensions between Russia and the US. Two key events have greatly increased concerns, both involving the activities of Russian jet pilots. Reports show these jets getting within exceptionally close proximity to US warships and aircraft. The acts are being interpreted by many as intimidation. To understand how these events have increased tensions and the possible repercussions, read below.
The USS Porter warship experienced fly-bys from three Russian Su-24 jets on 10 February 2017. The USS Porter was close to Azerbaijan in the Black Sea. The incident raised concerns by the crew of the warship and the US military. A fly-by is a low-altitude, high speed pass. They are considered extremely dangerous because there is no room for pilot or equipment error. Altitude gives a pilot time to make adjustments if something goes wrong. If a pilot tries to perform a steep turn during the fly-by, results can be fatal. Estimates put one of the Su-24 jets flying within 75 feet of the USS Porter.
Two separate barrel roll incidents occurred 2016 in the Baltic Sea. The first occasion involved an RC-135 aircraft and a Russian Su-27. The RC-135 flew from the Royal Air Force (RAF) base in Mildenhall, England headed over the Baltic Sea towards Russia. The aircraft crew were on a routine reconnaissance mission over Russia. The RC-135 is not well-equipped to detect approaching aircraft. The Su-27 is reported to have appeared very close to the RC-135 without warning.
The US military has remarked that it is not unusual for Russian aircraft to accompany US reconnaissance teams during flight. The situation quickly changed as the Su-27 came closer to the RC-135, an aggressive move. The Su-27 then performed an aerial barrel roll around the RC-135. The barrel roll process begins with the Su-27 flying under the wing of the target aircraft. The Su-27 then moves in a 360° motion, circling the aircraft midsection. In this situation, the pilot that is being rolled must fly in as straight a line as possible to avoid a collision.
Reports indicate that the barrel roll incidents are increasing between Russian and US pilots. The situation is especially dangerous because the US aircraft crew has no option other than to stay the course. Worries surround what will happen if a barrel roll maneuver results in a collision. To make matters worse, crews of up to 24 staff the reconnaissance aircraft which results in a higher potential loss of life. As for now, we hope that these incidents don’t result in any fatalities.