P-8A Poseidon
© Reuters / Handout
P-8A Poseidon
A US patrol plane twice approached a Russian military facility in Syria, prompting an Su-35 fighter to ward off the American aircraft, Russia's defense ministry says. The US Navy accuses Moscow of an 'irresponsible' interception.

The Su-35 warplane took off from the Khmeimim base in Syria on Tuesday, as radars spotted an aerial target which was moving towards the Russian naval facility in Tartus, the Russian military said.

The fighter jet crew identified the approaching target as a US Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft. The responding Su-35 was maneuvering at a safe distance and returned to the airbase as soon as the American plane changed its direction, according to the statement. The US patrol aircraft, however, returned to the location of the encounter three hours later and was again warded off by the Su-35 fighter.

The incident has irked the US Navy which earlier issued a statement accusing the Su-35 of conducting "a high-speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which "put our pilots and crew at risk."

In the meantime, the Russian army maintains that its actions complied with international regulations.

There has been a surge in encounters between Russian and NATO planes in close proximity to Russian borders. The Russian Air Force reacted to such incidents by sending its jets to intercept and escort the rival planes to safer skies, drawing criticism from the US and its allies. The most recent event occurred in March, when an Su-27 fighter intercepted -and escorted away- another American aircraft.