Latest aerial encounter occurred near new Russian missile sub
A Russian MiG-31 jet flew within 50 feet of a U.S. surveillance aircraft in Northeast Asia last week, Moscow’s latest aerial saber-rattling against American ships and planes, according to defense officials.
“On April 21, a U.S. Navy P-8 Maritime Patrol reconnaissance aircraft flying a routine mission in international airspace was intercepted by a MiG-31 Russian jet in the vicinity of the Kamchatka Peninsula,” Cmdr. Dave Benham, a spokesman for the Pacific Command, told the Washington Free Beacon.
A defense official familiar with the MiG-31 intercept said the jet flew within 50 feet of the P-8, a maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
The incident took place near the Russian city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, a port located on the southeastern end of the peninsula.
Kamchatka is Russia’s main military hub in the Pacific and the focus of a buildup of Russian military forces that Moscow has said is intended to match the U.S. military rebalance to Asia.
The P-8 flight appears to have been part of an effort to spy on Russia’s deployment of a new missile submarine at Petropavlovsk.
Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the Pacific Command, told a Senate hearing in February that Russia is building up its military in the Pacific, where Moscow’s Far East forces had declined sharply after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
“Russia continues modernizing its military forces, homeporting its newest Dolgurukiy-class ballistic missile submarine in Petropavlovsk, and revitalizing its ability to execute long-range strategic patrols, highlighted by last July’s deployment of Tu-95 Bear bombers near Alaska and California, and last month’s bomber flights around Japan,” Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 23.
Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell said the close-in MiG-31 intercept is significant.
“The 50-foot closest point of approach by Russian Far East MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors to a U.S. Pacific Fleet P-8 reconnaissance flight is an indicator the Russian Navy has likely transferred their first Dolgorukiy-class SSBN to the Pacific Fleet,” Fanell said, using the acronym for ballistic missile submarine.
The new missile submarine, armed with Bulava nuclear missiles, marks a significant upgrade of Russia’s aging fleet of Delta III missile submarines.
The arrival of the first Dolgorukiy “places an additional ‘hold at risk’ tasking on the U.S. Pacific Fleet which has also had to account for the introduction of [People’s Republic of China] Navy JIN-class SSBN patrols in 2015,” Fanell said.
The need to monitor new Russian missile submarines adds to the already overloaded requirements for U.S. submarine forces.
“This clearly represents another clear and present danger to U.S. national security,” Fanell said. The “nation needs more ballistic missile and fast attack nuclear submarines, and fast.”
Full article: Russian Warplane Flies Within 50 Feet of U.S. Spy Plane in Asia (Washington Free Beacon)