The destroyer USS Donald Cook is seen April 14 at the Constanta shipyard in the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta. A Russian fighter jet on Saturday made repeated 'provocative' close-range, low-altitude passes above the U.S. Navy destroyer while it was steaming in the Black Sea. (Petrut Calinescu / Getty Images)
U.S. Navy personnel are pictured aboard the USS Donald Cook on April 14. Romania's president Traian Basescu hailed the deployment of U.S. and French warships in the Black Sea, a 'token of solidarity' in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. (Petrut Calinescu / Getty Images)
A Russian fighter jet on Saturday made repeated “provocative” close-range, low-altitude passes above the U.S. Navy destroyer Donald Cook while it was steaming in the Black Sea, heightening Cold War-style tensions that have continued to escalate for weeks, a defense official said.
The Russian SU-24 Fencer made a total of 12 passes above the destroyer that is equipped with the powerful Aegis missile defense system. The incident occurred in international waters about 48 hours after the Navy ship arrived in the Black Sea.
The aircraft did not respond to multiple queries from the Donald Cook’s bridge. The Navy destroyer did not respond and the incident ended after about 90 minutes. The fighter jet did not appear to be carrying missiles under its wings, official said.
“This provocative and unprecedented Russian action is inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements on the professional interaction between our militaries,” Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday.
Warren said the incident was unprecedented. The U.S. and Russia have had no contact since the incident, he said.
“The Donald Cook was never in any danger. ... The Donald Cook is more than capable of defending itself against an SU-24,” Warrant said.
The provocative acts come about a month after Russia launched a ground invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea region and the Russian military amassed an estimated 40,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern border. Russia maintains a large naval base in Crimea.
The Donald Cook was dispatched to the Black Sea last week in an effort to reassure NATO allies, which includes Romania, of U.S. support in the face of Russian aggression.
The ship has now pulled into port in Constanta, Romania, Warren said, near the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, which is a permanent post for several thousand U.S. troops, including airmen and Marines.
Russia’s aggressive actions have prompted Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and chief of the U.S. European Command, to draw up a strategic shift in forces across his region. Breedlove is expected to make those plans public Tuesday.