Hidden Content
The Air Force plane was over the Baltic Sea when the Russian fighter jet caught up to it.

A dramatic new video shows the moment when a Russian air force fighter jet intercepted a U.S. Air Force spy plane. The video, allegedly taken over the Baltic Sea, is typical of encounters between American and Russian military aircraft and they’re pretty safe, until they aren’t.
Uploaded to the Russian Ministry of Defense’s YouTube account early this morning, the video shows a Su-27 “Flanker” jet fighter following the contrails of an American RC-135 “Rivet Joint” intelligence gathering aircraft. The video is described merely as, “Interception of targets by the Su-27 fighter over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea."

The Su-27 is a fourth generation fighter aircraft originally fielded in 1985. A twin engine heavy fighter, it’s roughly the equivalent of the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle. Like the Eagle it’s also an older jet, though upgraded through the years with new features including improved fire control and new missiles. Two Saturn AL-31F afterburning turbofans generate approximately 55,000 pounds of thrust, giving the jet a top speed of Mach 2.35 clean, without weapons or fuel tanks.
The target aircraft is a U.S. Air Force RC-135. There have been many flavors of RC-135 built over the years to suit all kinds of intelligence gathering, from geolocating electronic signals to harvesting and analyzing the electronic emissions of potential adversaries. This particular aircraft appears to be a RC-135V/W as it features a large blister on the top of the aircraft just forward of the vertical stabilizer. The aircraft’s tail code, OF for Offutt Air Base, is also visible.
These sorts of interceptions over neutral waters are very common and entirely within international law. This intercept seems safe, but others can be quite unsafe. In a 2017 incident a Russian fighter closed to within five feet of a RC-135, drawing sharp criticism from the Pentagon.