Navy releases video of Russian aircraft buzzing USS Porter
By BROCK VERGAKIS | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: March 2, 2017
NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. military released video Thursday of Russian fighter jets buzzing the USS Porter last month while it operated in the Black Sea in an episode the U.S. has deemed "unsafe and unprofessional."
The Spain-based guided-missile destroyer had recently finished participating in a Romanian-led multinational exercise when the ship was approached Feb. 10 by multiple aircraft that did not have their identifying transponders on, according to U.S. European Command.
The Porter attempted to contact the aircraft, but received no response, European Command spokesman Lt. Col. David Faggard said in an email.
"Incidents like this concern us because they could possibly result in accident or miscalculation," Faggard said.
The U.S. Navy released video in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Virginian-Pilot showing the aircraft flying close to the Porter. The video does not include audio and at times the videographer has difficulty keeping track of the speedy jets. Several sailors can be seen standing on deck observing the maneuvers.
The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The Porter is equipped with the sophisticated Aegis radar system and is capable of tracking and shooting down ballistic missiles. It is forward deployed to a base in Rota, Spain, as part of a NATO defense plan that Russia opposes to protect against ballistic missile attacks. The Porter was formerly home-ported in Norfolk.
Faggard said the Porter was approached on three separate occasions. In one incident, a pair of Su-24 attack aircraft passed the Porter at low altitude and high speed. A different Su-24 also passed the Porter the same way, Faggard said.
In a separate incident, a Russian IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft passed at an "unusually low altitude."
The Porter exited the Black Sea the next day.
Russian ships and aircraft have repeatedly come into close contact with their U.S. counterparts in recent years, but February's incident was the first the U.S. Navy has publicly acknowledged since President Donald Trump's inauguration.
Since the episode with the Porter, a Russian spy ship also has been spotted operating in international waters off the East Coast of the United States.
Trump has frequently said he'd like to have better relations with Russia, and questions have continued to mount about his administration's connections to Russia during his campaign.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned last month after it was revealed he had contacts with Russia's ambassador before the inauguration, while The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Attorney General Jeff Sessions also had been in contact with Russia's ambassador in the past year.
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