Media reports always call the U.S. Navy P-8 a ‘spy plane.’ That title leaves images of skulking around and skulduggery. That is a far stretch as to how it actually operates as a reconnaissance aircraft. Yes, it collects information. No, there is nothing illegal about what it does. It basically flies around looking and listening to targets of interest, in a most innocuous way. Sometime the targets of the P-8’s interest do not respond so innocently. Most times they respond professionally. This is one of those times.
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.
Benham said the intercept was “characterized as safe and professional.”
“Intercepts between the United States and other militaries occur often and the vast majority are professional,” he noted. “For intercepts that are deemed unprofessional, the U.S. takes appropriate measures through military and diplomatic channels.”
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.