RUSSIA has been risking war with the West with the reckless way its forces have buzzed US nuclear bombers and warships.
The bringing down of an American reaper drone is part of Russia’s increasingly dangerous pattern of behaviour that experts fear could spark a wider conflict.
Video from on board the US Reaper drone shows a Russian jet spraying fuel on it[/caption]
Russian planes have been performing aggressive manoeuvres for many years, say experts[/caption]
The drone was taken down while flying over the Black Sea near Russian-occupied Crimea and the Ukraine frontline on Tuesday, in a move reportedly authorised by top-level Kremlin officials.
The Su-27 jets swooped over the drone several times and on one flight over, the drone’s propeller was struck – forcing it to come down in international waters.
It is the first time since the height of the Cold War that a US aircraft has been brought down by the Russians.
Defence expert Robert Clark told The Sun Online the drone incident could mark a turning point that could see the West in direct confrontation with Russia.
“The Russians are absolutely increasing the risks of escalating this war, to draw in NATO troops more directly,” Clark, director of the Defence and Security Unit at the Civitas think tank, said.
The Russians reportedly said they have now won the race to retrieve the drone from the 3,000ft under the Black Sea.
US researchers the RAND Corporation have compiled a report detailing hundreds of such incidents in recent years which they describe as “coercive signalling”.
This is designed to send a message to the US and other NATO planes and ships through “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct – with Russian aircraft increasingly armed.
“In our research, which ended a few years ago, there were no examples of a Su-27 dumping fuel on an asset, so that’s a new one, Dara Massicot, a RAND senior researcher, said.
“But fits with a larger pattern of escalating signals before coming too close to a platform.”
Here are five incidents where the Russians could have sparked a war with their recklessness.
BUZZING NUCLEAR BOMBER
A Russian fighter performing a ‘headbutt’ on a B-52[/caption]
In footage released by the Pentagon a pair of fighters – also Su-27s – performed a manoeuvre known as a “headbutt” on a B-52 nuclear bomber.
The B-52 was conducting “routine operations” over the Black Sea when the two Russian Su-27s crossed within 100ft of its nose multiple times in international airspace, the US Air Force said.
Images taken from inside the bomber’s cockpit shows the standoff in 2020, with one of the fighters whizzing past terrifyingly close above it.
The Russian pilots did this by shifting into afterburner mode – where it injects fuel directly into the exhaust stream of a turbine engine to give the plane a massive burst of speed.
NEAR MISSES WITH SHIPS
In another incident the a Russian ship sailed right up to the USS Chancellorsville[/caption]
Footage from the deck of the USS Chancellorsville shows how close the ships came[/caption]
Russian warships have twice been filmed coming within yards of US Navy vessels on the high seas.
In one video, a Russian ship sailed dangerously close to the USS Farragut before the American ship sounded five short blasts in a bid to warn it off.
Footage shows the Russian ship getting ever closer as it cuts behind the American vessel during the 2020 incident.
A year earlier, a US navy destroyer narrowly collided with a US guided missile cruiser in the Philippine Sea in another close shave.
Aerial photographs show the warship closing in on the USS Chancellorsville as it sailed into its path – narrowly avoiding a collision.
Footage taken from the ship itself shows the huge Russian ship sailing right up to its side.
LOW LEVEL FLYPAST OVER SHIP
A Russian Su-24 sailed just 30ft above the USS Donald Cook[/caption]
As tensions between Kremlin and the West began to rise following Putin’s annexation of Crimea and seizure of other parts of Ukraine, Russian activity became noticeably more aggressive.
The encounter between the USS Donald Cook and a pair of Su-24 jets set a pattern for what was to follow in the coming years.
Admiral James Foggo later recounted the Baltic Sea incident.
He said one of the Russian’s fighter’s wingtip came within 30ft of the ship in the closest pass.
He added “if the guy sneezed he might have buried his wing into the Donald Cook”.
SUB COMMANDER PREPARED NUKES
Russian recklessness goes back to the days of the Cold War when it stood eyeball-to-eyeball in a nuclear stand-off with the United States.
One of the most terrifying actions by a Russian commander came during the 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world just seconds away from Armageddon.
On October 27, American destroyer USS Beale was patrolling the US blockade around Cuba.
The ship spotted the Soviet B-59 nuclear submarine lurking beneath the blockade and dropped a series of unarmed depth charges as warning shots to the Soviet sub.
But the submarine captain failed to realise the charges were non-lethal and ordered the ship’s nuclear-tipped torpedo to be prepared for launch.
It’s certain mistake would have started World War Three.
Bu luckily the submarine’s launch protocol didn’t need all commanding officers on-board the sub to sign off on it.
Vasili Arkhipov, B-59’s second in command, refused to agree to the strike and eventually talked his captain down.
TAKING DOWN DRONE
Earlier this week, horrified US military personnel in Germany watched a live feed from the drone as the Russian jets repeatedly flew around a US Reaper drone, dumping fuel to damage cameras and sensors.
The Kremlin’s playbook was clearly visible with fighters swooping past before one of them hit the drone’s propellers, forcing the US to crash land it.
The US has been sending drones over the Black Sea since the Ukraine war started.
But there are warnings the flights could be a flashpoint with Russia.
Clark, a former British Army Afghan war veteran, said that while there are communications channels to avoid war, Russia was increasingly pushing the boundaries.
“These systems will become exasperated and strained the more Russia continues to goad both the UK and the US with unsafe, unnecessary, and bellicose military behaviour,” he said.
“This may well represent a new turning point in the conflict which sees the Russian air force directly target US and NATO country’s unmanned vehicles – which is a grey area for retaliation when they’re un-crewed.
“The deliberate targeting of these platforms by Russia in international airspace violates international law and risks escalation with the US and NATO more broadly.
“This clearly forms part of a long-term strategy to harass NATO military units in order to appear strong when in fact coming from a position of military weakness.”
STALKING SPY PLANE
Footage taken from a US Navy EP-3 Aries spy plane shows a Russian Su-27 suddenly coming into view, just feet away from its wing.
The Russian fighter conducted a high-speed pass directly in front of the EP-3 and then chased after it a second time, in what the Navy slammed as an “unsafe interaction”.
The Su-27’s missiles can be seen menacingly on its wings during the high altitude stand-off, which took place in 2018.
It also performed a ‘headbutt’ this time using the afterburners to buffet the plane.
A Pentagon spokesperson said at the time this “put our aircrews in danger” and “there is no reason for this behaviour”.