US Department of Defense officials have just released a series of videos and a statement on Russian Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers executing close-proximity passes near the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) in the Baltic Sea, soon after the Cook left the Polish port city of Gdynia. The Cook is currently on a scheduled patrol in the US Navy’s 6th Fleet’s area of responsibility.
Two Fencers can be seen in the above vide, passing close to the Cook, both directly across the ship’s path, and behind the vessel as well. Another video (DSC 0015) shows a Fencer coming even closer to the Cook than in other passes. The aircraft were flying at altitudes estimated at or below 100 feet, and within the envelope of 1000 feet of the Cook. The Su-24 has served with the Russian Air Force (formerly the Soviet Air Force) since the early 1970s, and can be configured to fly maritime strike and anti-shipping operations.
Just a day after the Cook was buzzed by these Fencers, a pair of Russian Kamov Ka-27 Helix helicopters flew close to the stern of the ship for an extended period of time before (presumably) returning to base. U.S. European Command was quoted as saying, in an official statement: “We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers. These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death.”
This is not the first time the Cook has experienced such an incident. In 2014, the vessel was also buzzed no less than 12 times by another Russian Air Force Su-24 Fencer detached from a two-ship flight. In that instance, the Fencer did not come more than a few thousand feet from the Cook, which was operating in the Black Sea at the time.