An American RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker in the Baltic Sea.
The US RC-135U Recon Aircraft was performing a routine flight near the Kaliningrad airspace—Russia’s easternmost Oblast. Kaliningrad is detached from Russia’s mainland and is surrounded by Poland and Lithuania—two NATO member countries.
The Su-27 Flanker was scrambled after the reconnaissance aircraft was steadily making progress toward Russian airspace. According to Major-General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman from the Russian Defense Ministry, the American aircraft was flying without his transponder on.
“No emergency situation was reported during the fly-by of the American reconnaissance aircraft,” Konashenkov said.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Russian Upper House Committee for Foreign Relations, told NATO that “In connection with the incident over the Baltic one should keep in mind that Russia is a Baltic country, whereas the US is not.”
However, FlightRadar24 confirmed via Twitter that the transponder was on.
@RT_com The US aircraft had transponder ON. Transponder code: AE01D5 Registration: 64-14849 Callsign: TELEX97
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) 11 Avril 2015
Russia’s Su-27 identified the incoming aircraft as an American RC-135US recon aircraft and immediately reported it back to his headquarter. The Russian pilot then peformed many fly-bys around the RC-135U until it changed its course away from the Russian airspace.
The Pentagon denied the allegations and denounced the Russian pilots manners.
“On the morning of April 7, a US RC-135U, flying a routine route in international airspace, was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” the Washington Free Beacon (WFB) cited Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez as saying.
“The United States is raising this incident with Russia in the appropriate diplomatic and official channels,”she added.
The US RC-135U was most likely monitoring Russia’s military activity in Kaliningrad. Since the recent deployment of Iskander mobile short-range ballistic missile systems in the Kaliningrad Oblast, NATO has been closely monitoring the situation.
NATO has built up a sizeable force along Russia’s western border. Adding to that, NATO’s Response Force has seen its numbers bolstered to 30,000 troops and have been conduct many joint multinational training in the Baltic States.
Russia warned NATO that recent intensification of military exercises in the Baltic States was “unprecedented and dangerous.”