Pentagon Releases Terrifying Video Of Russian Su-27 Turning Directly In Front Of A B-52

This unsafe intercept is the latest evidence of a concerning escalation in Cold War-like posturing between the U.S. and Russia in recent days.

byTyler Rogoway|
Russia photo


The Pentagon has released what is possibly the most troubling video we have seen of a so-called 'unsafe intercept' between one of its aircraft and Russian fighters. The incident occurred on August 28th, 2020, when the U.S. Air Force sent six B-52s, including four from a contingent forward deployed to RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom, to traverse every NATO member country's airspace in a show of strength and solidarity for the alliance. This included flights over Eastern Europe and the tense Black Sea region, where the intercept took place. You can read all about this highly unique large-scale bomber mission in this recent War Zone piece.

The maneuver the Su-27s executed is sometimes referred to as 'thumping' or a 'head-butt' and it has the potential to be extremely dangerous depending on how it is performed. Regardless, it's never welcome. In the video, can see the Su-27 pull up close to the B-52's left-wing before pulling forward, up, and crossing in front of and above the bomber's forward path. It's easy to miss, but another clip towards the end of the video shows a Su-27 doing a similar maneuver, but directly in front of the nose of the B-52 at incredibly close range. To call the maneuver dangerous or unprofessional would be an understatement. 

The Pentagon states:

At approximately 11:19 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2020, two Russian Su-27 Flanker pilots intercepted a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber that was conducting routine operations in the black sea over international waters. The Russian pilots flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner while crossing within 100 feet of the nose of the B-52 multiple times at co-altitude and while in afterburner causing turbulence and restricting the B-52’s ability to maneuver.

The B-52 Stratofortress aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace exercising our freedom of navigation and overflight. The U.S. Air Force routinely operates aircraft in the region in accordance with recognized international safety standards as prescribed in International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules of flight.

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Just for reference, at cruise speed, a B-52 covers about 750 feet per second. So, crossing 100 feet or so near perpendicular to the bomber's direction of travel is literally a blink of an eye away from a collision.

The Su-27 Flanker seen in the video likely originated out of Crimea. A contingent of the heavy fighters are deployed to Russia's primary airbase on the peninsula and are tasked with standing alert to intercept NATO aircraft venturing east over the Black Sea. B-52s and B-1Bs have been active in the area in recent months, including practicing launching cruise missile strikes, an act that Moscow is clearly not pleased with. 

We constantly hear of unsafe intercepts between U.S., Russian, and Chinese aircraft, but rarely have we seen such remarkable footage that highlights exactly what went on. In fact, the lack of good video evidence has been an issue in the past. Considering that the B-52 crew was ready and waiting with a video camera in the cockpit shows that this is now changing.

This incident is yet another sign that we are barreling into a timeframe of peculiarly strong posturing on both sides. You can read a summary of these recent events here.

We will update this post as more information comes available.

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