The Pentagon released footage Monday of a close encounter between a U.S. Navy warship and a Russian Su-24 bomber off the coast of Crimea. U.S. officials decided to release the video – a rare occurrence in military circles – to refute “erroneous” descriptions of the incident in foreign media, the Pentagon said.
The video showed a purportedly unarmed Russian Su-24 bomber fly within about 1,600 feet of the USS Ross, a guided-missile destroyer active in the Black Sea near Crimea. U.S. officials confirmed the bomber was one of several Russia aircraft spotted in the ship’s vicinity, but denied the encounter led to an aggressive response on either side. Russian media outlets had reported the bomber had forced the USS Ross to abandon its mission and leave the area near Russian waters, Agence France-Presse reports.
U.S. Navy officials released the video “because we were unsatisfied with the press reporting, and we wanted to show exactly what happened,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren said at a press conference, as quoted by AFP. “This was simply a ship and a plane passing in the day in this case.”
The Russian military and the U.S. Navy never made contact during the encounter, Warren said, adding that the Ross did not “deviate from its mission” and that it had traveled through international waters.
Russia has stepped up training exercises and drills around the world in recent months as part of President Vladimir Putin’s plan to modernize the nation’s armed forces. Western nations, including the United States and members of the NATO military alliance, have expressed concern with the increase in Russia’s military drills amid the Kremlin’s purported intervention in the eastern Ukraine conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels.
Russia’s defense ministry extended long-range bomber patrols last November to reach as far as the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Circle, a move not seen since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russian bombers have been particularly active over NATO nation airspace.