A Russian SU-24 Fencer fighter jet made multiple “close-range low-altitude” passes at the USS Donald Cook earlier today, in a move the Pentagon dubbed a deliberate provocation. Russia has not attempted to explain the incident.
Pentagon officials said the plane refused all attempts at radio contact, but did not appear to be armed with any bombs, suggesting a SU-24MR or SU-24MP, both reconnaissance planes. They said a second Fencer was with the plane initially but kept its distance.
One Pentagon official, who insisted on anonymity, also claimed that a Russian frigate is following the USS Donald Cook, keeping within visual range but not so close as to be unsafe.
Since the Russian annexation of Crimea, the US has been keen to send warships to the Black Sea, though the individual ships don’t pose a serious challenge to Russian naval control of the region. The real danger, rather, is that an incident like today’s overflights could provoke a clash between the US and Russia.