Russian naval aircraft buzz US warship: Pentagon
The Pentagon on Friday said Russian naval aircraft buzzed close to a US warship in the Berents Sea last week, just days before Moscow's defense minister paid a high-profile visit to Washington.
A Russian IL-38 plane on September 10 flew at low altitude within 50 yards (meters) of the American frigate, the USS Taylor, which had just visited the port city of Murmansk, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told reporters.
The next day, a Russian helicopter took off from a nearby ship and also buzzed to within about 50 yards of the warship, at an altitude of only 100 feet, he said.
“They were pretty close,” Lapan said.
The incident sounded a discordant note after US officials took pains to portray Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov’s visit on Wednesday as a sign of warmer relations between the former Cold War foes.
The head of the US Navy, Admiral Gary Roughead, discussed the incident with his Russian counterpart, who was part of the defense minister’s delegation, Lapan said.
US and Russian officers are discussing whether “protocols” had been violated in the incident, which occurred in international waters, he said.
The episode, however, did not come up during talks between US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Serdyukov, he said.
When the Russian aircraft flew low and close to the ship, the American crew did not man battle stations, Lapan said.
“The ship did not take this as hostile,” he said.
The USS Taylor had come to Murmansk for ceremonies honoring veterans from World War II. During the conflict, US and allied ships used the port to deliver supplies to Soviet forces battling the Nazis.
Despite the end of the Cold War, Russian aircraft — including bombers — have buzzed low over US ships in recent years. US military officials tend to play down the flyovers in public comments, saying the incidents pose no threat.