U.S. Fighter Jets Scrambled As Russian Planes Approach Warship

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U.S. Fighter Jets Scrambled As Russian Planes Approach Warship
WikiImages / Pixabay

Fighter jets were scrambled from the USS Ronald Reagan after two Russian planes came within one nautical mile of the aircraft carrier.

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Russian naval reconnaissance planes flew past the U.S. warship as it sailed in international waters to the east of the Korean Peninsula. 7th Fleet officials told the press that two Tupolev Tu-142 Bear aircraft were as low as 500 feet above the Reagan, writes Erik Slavin for Stars and Stripes.

Russian aircraft fly close to U.S. aircraft carrier

A number of incidents involving Russian aircraft have occurred of late, but this latest is perhaps the most serious. Four F/A-18 Super Hornets were scrambled from the flight deck of the Ronald Reagan in response, said 7th Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Lauren Cole.

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The Ronald Reagan was in the area on scheduled maneuvers with South Korean navy ships. After the presence of the Russian planes was detected, U.S. officials attempted to make radio contact but received no reply. A U.S. escort ship later followed the planes after they withdrew.

Officials at the Russian Embassy in Seoul could not be reached for comment on Thursday. This is far from the first time that Russian aircraft have engaged in provocative actions. Several times in the past 12 months Russian planes have entered other countries’ airspace or flown close to U.S. and NATO ships.

Russian aviation practices called into question on multiple occasions

A Russian SU-24 fighter jet made 12 passes over the USS Donald Cook in April, and the Pentagon specified that they were “close-range, low-altitude” flights. The ship was in international waters in the Black Sea near Romania at the time. According to NATO officials Russian fighter planes violated Turkish airspace on several occasions in September.

Japan has also accused Russia of violating the airspace over the northern island of Hokkaido. The incidents have called Russian navy aircraft safety practices into serious doubt.

According to U.S. Navy officials, Washington understands that Russia and any other nation has the right to operate where international law allows. “We are advocates of any country being able to operate within international norms,” Cole said. “We do caveat that with the fact that all of these operations need to be conducted in accordance with the rights and regulations of other countries, and within a safe manner.”

Lack of radio contact violates good aviation practice

The USS Ronald Reagan functions as a floating airport, boasting an air traffic control center to coordinate with planes. During flight operations a carrier control zone is implemented, covering a 5-mile radius and up to 2,500 feet in altitude.

There was no confirmation from Navy officials whether flight operations were underway when the Russian planes flew past. “Even if we don’t have flight operations ongoing, we are still very cognizant of what is going on in the airspace, within a good distance,” Cole said.

In general aviation practice two-way communication is expected when an aircraft comes within a certain distance. This is the case even at commercial airports, according to international aviation guidelines.

The Russian flyby was not the only incident for the U.S. Navy in Asia this week. USS Lassen provoked protests from China after it sailed within a 12-nautical-mile territorial zone imposed by China around a reef claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea.

Busy period for U.S. Navy in Asia-Pacific region

According to the U.S. the maneuver was part of a demonstration of “freedom of navigation” because the waters are international and accessible by any nation. For its part China claimed that the move presented a violation of its “indisputable sovereignty.”

Subi Reef is believed to be completely submerged in its natural state, although China has reclaimed the land from the sea. Subi is one of a number of reefs that have been built on by Beijing as it attempts to strengthen its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Under international law territorial claims cannot be generated by submerged objects, although China has repeatedly attempted to claim sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea. The issue has led to increased tensions in the region due to competing claims from a number of countries including China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

The U.S. has intervened in an attempt to maintain freedom of navigation in the vital shipping lanes. The South China Sea also boasts rich fishing grounds, and there is speculation that oil and gas fields may also be located in the area.

As China grows increasingly assertive in the region, the U.S. has stepped in to support the claims of its regional allies. The Obama administration has little to lose by taking a tough stance on the issue given criticism at home for its lack of action in the face of Chinese provocation.

Updated on

While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. <i>To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at theflask@gmail.com</i>
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87 COMMENTS

  1. it about is choice of means to achieve that; US cannot impose own “right and regulations” over international water/airspace as you imply author did, at least with some countries that can stand their ground.

  2. Apparently “Top Gun” is the only movie you have to reference in your very misinformed rant. First, I assure you that our carrier-based aircraft were airborne long before the Russian antique bombers arrived. However, while we may shadow them defensively, you do not just blow them out of the air – no matter how close they may get. Doing so would be considered an act of war and would trigger a military response from Russia. Second, none of the MIGs have ever carried an Exocet missile; a missile built by France and purchased by 27 other nations – of which Russia is not one of the recipients. The range of the Exocet missile depends on whether they are block I, block II, or block III missiles, and the distances vary from 72 km/45 miles, to180 km/112 miles. As for training, when I was in the U.S. Navy – back when Reagan was President of the United States, we trained constantly for every type of possible scenario and, while we trained…it was ALWAYS real. I doubt that the policy has changed all that much since then.

  3. It’s not a sovereignty issue. It’s a safety issue. It’s like saying that you have the right to tail a military aircraft in international airspace, but keep your distance to avoid accidents or air collission. If we follow your reasoning, then any aircraft can just about crisscross atop an aircraft carrier at will. How’s that for you, safety wise?

  4. Yes. Enjoy our time now as thing look they about to turn ugly fast. America as a whole know more about “Dancing with the Stars” and delivered pizza than world affairs. I am not a “prepper” (who wants to hang around for good realestae deals) or “dooms day” propigator but facts and trends sure have a specific direction. Peace to all.

  5. all over the world yes u can see their presence unless one country seek for their help…. Chinese claiming whole part of south china sea u think its not being arrogant ? flying above US carrier is not? violating airspace is not a habit of arrogance? that’s what i’m trying to say!

  6. if author really meant that, it is far reaching power grab attempt on USN. There is a principal difference between airport on sovereign soil and a floating one in international waters, let alone in proximity to other’s sovereign soil. Expectations that you can bring your floating airport 1/2 way around the globe close to other countries shores and expect them to study, let alone abide, by your “rights and regulations” equal to an airport on your sovereign soil are…just too much for any nation that can stand its ground.
    Common courtesy and striving for safety – sure, but keep your home “right and regulations” back there.

  7. Brendan, couldn’t your help find a picture of the bear bomber? The pic with the article is wrong. These encounters happened all the time during the cold war. Just another day at the office.

  8. “Russian aircraft have engaged in provocative actions”. Am not sure what the definition of “engaged in provocative actions” mean! US, the West and NATO are amassing arms and war equipment at the borders of Russian. What is the definition of that? I would define it as “engaged in provocative actions”! Turkey is sending 500 trained “moderate rebels/terrorists” to Syria (there is nothing “moderate” about terrorists), this is also “engaged in provocative actions”. How can another country involve in actions to overthrow the government of another sovereign country? And no one lifts a finger? Neither the US, the West nor NATO! This is purely irresponsible! Especially when we see the destruction of lives, families, homes and properties as well as the influx of refugees into Europe! This is worse than the holocaust if we consider how civilized we are now compared to Hitlers time!

  9. Get a brain, dummy. What would you have the US Navy do, shoot down the plane? It was apparent that the Russian Tupolevs (they are reconnoisance planes, not fighter aircraft) are just reconnoiting, and not hostile.

  10. Brendan Byrn, report this “BOMBSHELL” in your future report. A map released by US government in 1947 marked all the islands in South China Sea as China’s POSSESSION. War crazy US generals might hunt after you though.

  11. It’s you who do not fully understand what the author meant in that context. He was referring to the aircraft carrier as a floating airport. As such, it should be treated just like an airport with an airspace radius and safety zone. Communication should be establish with air traffic controllers to prevent possible midair collisions.

  12. Carrier killing missiles can sink a carrier from hundreds of miles away. Flying within one mile is the most primitive way of attacking a vessel.

  13. You’re right about socialism not being workable. But none of those three countries has threatened U.S. interests. Instead, we go looking for trouble and when they react, our leaders say they are threatening U.S. interests. And we sheep just follow along.

  14. China claimed sovereign rights before Vietnam and the Philippines became independent after WWII. The media will never tell you this. They just keep repeating official statements from U.S. officials.

  15. Wrong, it’s the U.S. being arrogant and looking for fights all over the world, even though we can’t even handle little countries in the Middle East.

  16. Why didn’t the U.S. object 7 decades ago when China codified its claim with the so-called 11-dash line (subsequently reduced to the 9-dash line)?

  17. HEY! Here’s another chance for obammy to show how wimpy he is. He wouldn’t authorize retalliation even if the Reagan were hit by Russian weaponry. He would sit down and ask if we’re sure it was them How many casualties? Oh, only a few? Well, let’s not escalate this. Time to turn tail and run away. NO, what time it is, is it’s time for obammy to dry up and blow away.

  18. Our rules of engagement are sucked. We are playing as nice guy but they don’t. Our leader does not have balls like Putin.

  19. WW3 started some time ago! Say your prayer’s, hug your kid’s, and live your life to the fullest! Because we are on borrowed time…

  20. china and Russia (ex- communist country) have the same wings… both arrogant!!!… me want to F@#%$^k Chinese and Russians….am going to red district…

  21. Throughout the 5000 years history of China, no one (not even ONE fish),
    encounter any problem in navigation in China’s South China Sea, except
    war mad Carter and his generals. What is wrong with them? What is their damn intention? What are they hiding? What do they want? Have they eyes but blind?

  22. War crazy Carter and his generals are inflicting themselves with conflicts, problems, tensions in and out of their homeland. What is wrong with these rogues? On the contrary, China is promoting peace and development in parallel with the wish of the world community (except US and its rogue allies Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Australia).

  23. Do not be cheated, no country is more powerful than others.
    USA suffered heaviset loses on that sad day, 911. None of its carriers came to its help!!

  24. have you not read? it is not international area it is for s. korea means russian jets doing illegal entry to area allied by u.s.

  25. Russia is exercising what the US is called “Freedom of Navigation” in South China Sea. Now the US has the taste of it. It’s not far away before WW3 occurs if everyone bullshits around.

  26. article quotes Navy officials making contradictory statements : “We are advocates of any country being able to operate within international norms,” Cole said. “We do caveat that with the fact that all of these operations need to be conducted in accordance with the rights and regulations of other countries, and within a safe manner.”

    The “caveat” defeats the 1st statements as if international norms (laws?) allow them to operate there, no “other countries regulations” matter.
    Too bad reporters could not spot it and press on it, tell about reporting qualities nowadays.

  27. I seriously doubt the Navy waited until they were one mile away before scrambling, at least I hope this is just a typical Yahoo misinformation story and not fact.

  28. Here my solution. You can bet they are listening to the radio on the correct frequency for the carrier so you give them a warning call. Tell them to back off, NOW, arm the SAMs, get missile lock which they can detect and if they do not turn shoot them out of the sky. Any foreign military plane could do serious damage if not sink any ship if they were within a mile, and just what would be the loss to the “enemy”? one aircraft and maybe two or three crew vs a billion dollar plus carrier and thousands of lives. That equation balances if you are the enemy.

  29. Are you capable of realizing what would be at stake here if the US were to do something drastic. Or does your mouth work faster than your brain. The phrase “When Shit Hits the Fan” would be an understatement.

  30. They’re trying to pick a fight because they are not going to allow China to monopolizes off the vast riches lying under the seafloor there. Nor are the surrounding countries. I’m from SE Asia and people living in that region know very well what this is all about. North Korean and Chinese oil companies are buying up all the waterfront property in southern Cambodia.

  31. Thanks for your post. When I read the story, I figured there was a reason the Navy allowed the Russian airplanes to fly so close. Putin’s saber rattling appears to be a smoke screen. You are right…Russia is weak, and the low unit cost of a barrel of crude oil continues to wreak havoc on their economy. I agree with you; the fly-by was no big deal. I miss seeing the Tomcat at the tip of the spear of the Navy’s fleet defense though…iconic aircraft forever.

  32. name calling only serves to deflate your argument. Prove me wrong or acknowledge the truth. Do yourself a favor and read Albert Pike’s 1871 letter to Mazinni. This is set up and you are falling for it. Our government is trying to pick a fight.

  33. Yahoo has no aviation editors to match pictures with aircraft types and names, or check on the half truths passed off as aviation facts.

  34. So here’s the thing…one mile is way to close. If the Russian fighter wanted to kill the carrier it was a foregone conclusion that the carrier would be sunk. Get it together US NAVY!! Is any branch of the federal government competent? I don’t think so.

  35. “is he a west point graduate ?” If you actually think that Tomahawks are useful enemy against aircraft I have to ask myself if your even a high school graduate,

  36. Yup, this is Putin’s intimate goal to return Russia to the ‘Good ‘ole Soviet Union Days.’ During my 24-year U.S. Navy career, there were many occasions when the aircraft carrier in our battle group would be
    infiltrated by either one or two Tupolev TU-142 Bear aircraft. The two cruisers I served onboard, which provided screening for the carriers, would always pick them up well in advance, and we might even put live missiles on the missile launchers, both as a matter of precaution, and also to send the Soviets a message that we were ready for them.

    But in EVERY instance, the respective aircraft carrier would scramble at least two F-14Tomcats per Bear aircraft. One F-14 would fly right above and behind the tail of the Bear, and the other F-14 would position itself on either the port or starboard (left or right) wing of the Bear, depending on where it was in orientation to the carrier, and peacefully “guide” it away from the carrier. If the Bear actually were able to fly directly over the aircraft carrier, then that would mean the Soviets got the best of us. But that NEVER happened – we ALWAYS intercepted them well in advance! It was all part of the Soviet reindeer games, that, yes, we always necessarily joined in.

    The good news is that it is the exact same turboprop TU-124 Bear aircraft that are overflying our ships’ areas of operations that were the ones that overflew our battle groups in the late 1970s to the late 1980s, until the Soviet Union was dissolved.

    So Putin is not only living in the past as far as his Communist ideology goes, he is still plagued by having to use mostly Soviet-era aircraft and ships. Meanwhile, most of the Russian Navy ships and Russian aircraft are getting older and older, and more out of date, as compared to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, and that of all our main allies both within and outside of NATO.

    So I put this in the “no big deal” category, at least until Russia can come up with the hundreds of billions of Rubles they urgently need to upgrade their Air Force and Navy. And that will take decades, even with a strong economy — which Russia DOES NOT HAVE!!!

    In the meantime, Putin will continue his silly and futile Soviet-era saber rattling. The worst thing we can do is make a huge deal out of it, as doing so plays directly into Putin’s hands.

  37. The only place that MiG’s carry Exocet missiles is Hollywood movies. Try a website like Jane’s the next time you’re looking for a reference to support your opinion on military matters.

  38. Tomahawk missiles are SSM’s (look it up). They’re useless against enemy aircraft. Next time you might want to get a basic grasp of the subject matter before chiming in.

  39. Learned people teach that Communism is the best from of government but why are these communist countries like Russia,China and NK bullies? Why does communism,produce leaders who are evil? People who brought out the concept that Communism is the best from of government are morons because the end result of their idea says so. This idea taught in school must be rectified to conform with actuality so that learners won’t be misled

  40. How on earth does an aircraft carrier allow a foreign aircraft within one mile of itself? This aircraft could have shot a nuclear missile even before it got that close and obliterated the whole carrier. Were I the top admiral, heads would be on the floor over this and you could call me Admiral ISIS America.

  41. Don’t worry people. Someday soon, some body is going to cause this cluster-fork of military powers to bump heads. Hope you are ready!

  42. if an enemy jets fly that closed to my ship i will not let the jets chase them . i will be damn if i dont release a tomahawk missile to drop them. period. this commander is basically naive a democrat and so again we will be losing the war.who is this commander to wait till the wings of that jet will scrape the side of his ship before taking action.wrong move again.is he a west point graduate ?what a shame? no respect he should work for lockheed instead.an act like baboon.

  43. A mile away!!! did we not learn anything from Top Gun???

    “Those MIGs carry the Exocet anti-ship missile.
    They can fire that missile from a 100 miles away.
    Gentlemen, this is the real thing. This is what you’ve been trained for.”

  44. “close-range, low-altitude” flights… what in the US arsenal can do that or be highly maneuverable two engine interceptor?
    F-14 Tomcat was certainly a 1960’s technology…

  45. because there is a Russian sentiment asking the US Navy what ever happened to the F-14 Tomcat. Su-24 is a variable swept wing all weather aircraft. it was built to contest the Tomcat.
    the Tu-142 is a bomber with 4 turboprop engines. maybe the Bomber Corp of the Russian Air Force recently watched Top Gun and wanted to do a fly by after knowing they can’t land their bird on an Nimitz class carrier. maybe the Russians were seeing if a land based strategic bomber known for high altitude can take out a ship.
    they should’ve use the MiG-25 picture instead because aside as an interceptor that is truly the Russian Reconnaissance Aircraft.

  46. From the same article.

    A Russian SU-24 fighter jet made 12 passes over the USS Donald Cook in April, and the Pentagon specified that they were “close-range, low-altitude” flights.

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