Cold War-era tactics resurface at sea, but this time, Moscow’s ultimate intentions are unknown.
In the opening dogfight of “Top Gun,” a sailor stares at a radar screen, nervously calling out the distance of fictitious MiG-28 fighter jets challenging Tom Cruise in his F-14 Tomcat. His commander watches the foreign aircraft edge closer to his carrier, and finally barks, “250 miles — get ’em outta here.”
A similar scene likely unfolded Tuesday as two Russian Tupolev Tu-142s approached the USS Ronald Reagan in international waters near the Korean peninsula. The carrier launched four armed F/A-18 Super Hornets to intercept and escort the maritime patrol aircraft, variants of the venerable Bear bomber. Still, the Russian planes pressed on, eventually passing within one mile of the U.S. carrier.
These kinds of encounters — staples of the Cold War — had dwindled since the 1990s. But with Moscow reasserting itself and China flexing new military muscles, run-ins in sky and sea are becoming more common.
Decades ago, encounters between the Soviets and the U.S. Navy were common and expected.
“During the Cold War, we always knew where their aircraft and ships were and where they were operating,” said Gregory Glaros, a retired fighter pilot and surface warfare officer who is now the CEO of Synexxus, a small Virginia-based defense firm. “We always expected to see their aircraft to come and see our battlegroup…We could always follow, and we always did follow, certain protocols and rules of engagement.”
But now, Russia’s intentions – which might be power projection or to probe and challenge reaction and response times – are not clear.
“Before we know what their intentions were and it was probing, it was challenging, it was finding out where the boundaries are. Today, I think we do not know what the intentions are,” Glaros said.
Full article: Expect the Russians to Keep Buzzing American Navy Ships (Defense One)