US and Russian warships come within 100 feet of each other, narrowly avoid collision, Navy says
By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 7, 2019
The USS Chancellorsville avoided a near-collision with a Russian Udaloy I class destroyer Friday morning in the Philippine Sea, with the ships coming between 50 to 100 feet of each other, according to a 7th Fleet statement.
The Chancellorsville was recovering one of its helicopters “on a steady course and speed” when the Russian ship, the Admiral Vinogradov, came from behind and to the right of the U.S. vessel, “accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance,” 7th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Clay Doss said in the statement.
“This unsafe action forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision,” Doss added.
The Navy released a video of the near-collision on Friday.
The Russian military said in a statement that the Chancellorsville “suddenly changed direction and crossed the path of Admiral Vinogradov just 50 meters (165 feet) away,” forcing the Russian crew to make a quick maneuver to avoid a collision. It said its navy sent a radio message in protest.
Doss stood by 7th Fleet’s description of the events when questioned about the Russian claims. The Navy released an image showing the ships at about the same distance from each other as the width of the Chancellorsville. The U.S. cruiser’s beam is 55 feet at the waterline, according to the Naval Vessel Register website.
“We consider Russia's actions during this interaction as unsafe and unprofessional and not in accordance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 'Rules of the Road' and internationally recognized maritime customs,” Doss said in the statement.
In Washington, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the U.S. will file a formal diplomatic complaint about the incident and will have military to military talks with the Russians. He added that the encounter will not deter the U.S. from conducting naval operations.
It was the first such incident involving warships in the region since September, when the Chinese warship Luoyang maneuvered close to the USS Decatur, a destroyer, in the South China Sea.
The U.S. said at the time that the Chinese ship came within 45 yards (41 meters) of the American ship, forcing it to maneuver out of the way. The Chinese said the Luoyang had been deployed to drive the U.S. vessel away from islands that China claims as its own.
The U.S. also has repeatedly complained in recent years that Russian planes have flown dangerously close to American aircraft, and the two nations routinely shadow each other in international airspace as during the Cold War.
The Associated Press and The Washington Post contributed to this report.