A Russian Aerospace Forces Su-27 fighter jet intercepted a pair of US reconnaissance aircraft in the Black Sea as they approached Russia's maritime borders, the Ministry of Defence has announced.
"The crew of the Russian fighter jet gradually approached the air targets to within a safe distance and identified them as a US Air Force RC-135 strategic reconnaissance aircraft and a US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft," the MoD said in a statement.
"After the US reconnaissance aircraft turned away from the state borders of the Russian Federation, the Russian fighter jet safely returned home to its home airfield," the military added. "A violation of the state border...by the American reconnaissance aircraft was not allowed to take place."
The US is known to operate reconnaissance aircraft and drones in tandem, and regularly flies RC-135 and P-8A Poseidon planes and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones in combination with one another to collect more detailed information.
Thursday's incident comes amid a major uptick in intercepts along Russia's maritime borders, particularly over the Black Sea, in recent days and weeks. The MoD had previously reported on incidents over the strategic body of water on July 23, 24 and 27, with all of them similarly involving at least one Su-27 and the corresponding US aircraft. US and NATO planes have also engaged in similar surveillance activities along Russia's maritime borders in the Barents and Baltic Seas, as well as the Seas of Japan and Okhotsk, over the past two weeks.
Russian officials have repeatedly warned that the frequency of such flights poses the risk of accidental escalation, while US officials have accused Russian fighter pilots of engaging in 'unsafe and unprofessional' interceptions by flying by the spy planes at high speeds or approaching to within a few meters of their wings or fuselage during flight. The Russian military maintains that all of its flights are carried out in accordance with international law.
Earlier this week, Duma Defence Committee deputy chairman Andrei Krasnov told Russian media that Moscow has picked up on the increased frequency of US and NATO flights near its borders, and asked "what American reconnaissance aircraft are doing so far from" America's own borders. Krasnov promised that US actions "will not be left without a response," but did not specify what such a response might be.