A Russian Su-27 fighter jet violated NATO airspace by entering "well into Danish airspace" on Friday after intercepting a US Air Force B-52 bomber in international airspace, according to NATO's Allied Air Command.
“This incident demonstrates Russia’s disrespect of international norms and for the sovereign airspace of an Allied nation. We remain vigilant, ready and prepared to secure NATO airspace 24/7,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, Commander of NATO’s Allied Air Command, in a press release.
Danish Quick Reaction Alert aircraft were launched to counter the Russian jets, but the jets left Danish airspace before they could be intercepted. The Danish aircraft remained in the air to patrol and protect Danish sovereignty.
According to NATO, Friday's violation is the first of its kind in several years and "indicates a new level of Russian provocative behavior."
The US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Public Affairs announced on Friday that two Russian Su-27 Flanker pilots intercepted a US B-52 bomber in an "unsafe and unprofessional manner." The Air Force stated that the B-52 bomber was conducting "routine operations" over the Black Sea.
The Russian jets crossed within 100 feet of the nose of the B-52 multiple times, causing turbulence and restricting the B-52's ability maneuver, according to the Air Force.
“Actions like these increase the potential for midair collisions, are unnecessary, and inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules,” Harrigian said. “While the Russian aircraft were operating in international airspace, they jeopardized the safety of flight of the aircraft involved. We expect them to operate within international standards set to ensure safety and prevent accidents."
Russia's Defense Ministry, for its part, denied that Russian aircraft had violated Danish airspace, claiming that a Russian Su-27 fighter was scrambled to identify the B-52 bomber over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea, according to the Russian TASS news agency.
The ministry additionally reported that the incident occurred on Monday, while NATO and the US Air Force had reported that the incident took place on Friday. TASS reported that Russian Su-27 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept three US bombers over the Baltic Sea after they were detected approaching Russia's state border. The Russian fighters approached the bombers at "a safe distance" and the Russian state border was not violated, according to TASS.
An Su-27 was scrambled to intercept four German, Danish, US and Swedish warplanes over the Baltic Sea earlier on Monday as well, according to TASS.
The B-52 bomber was taking part in a long-planned NATO event called "Allied Sky," during which six B-52 Stratofortress bombers overflew all 30 NATO allies in a single day. Four B-52s flew over Europe while another two flew over North America. The aircraft were accompanied by about 80 fighter planes from throughout the treaty organization.
Testy encounters between American and Russian forces are not a rare occurrence, both in the air and on land.
According to the US military, Russian aircraft have intercepted US aircraft in an "unsafe and unprofessional manner" over the eastern Mediterranean Sea multiple times this year alone. They have also been scrambled to intercept US aircraft over the Black Sea and Baltic Sea multiple times in recent months.
US aircraft have intercepted Russian aircraft near Alaska in recent months as well.