Venezuelan fighter 'aggressively shadowed' US Navy intel aircraft over Caribbean: Pentagon

Clay Curtis
July 22, 2019

A Venezuelan fighter jet "aggressively shadowed" an American intelligence plane over the Caribbean Sea, US defense officials said Sunday, slamming the maneuver as "unprofessional".

Authorities said the incident occurred Friday when the U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II was in global airspace on a routine "detection and monitoring mission" when the Russian-made SU-30 flanker "approached in an unprofessional manner" at an "unsafe distance".

The two planes did not collide and no one was hurt in the incident.

The incident comes several months after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro became engaged in a power struggle with opposition leader and self-declared interim president of Venezuela Juan Guaido, who the U.S. has thrown support behind. "Despite the Venezuelan people's suffering, his nation's vital infrastructure crumbling, and children starving, Maduro chooses to use his country's precious resources to engage in unprovoked and unjustified acts".

The US Southern Command insisted that the US plane was targeted while it was "performing a multi-nationally recognized & approved mission in worldwide airspace" over the Caribbean.

SOUTHCOM condemned the move, saying it shows Russian Federation is providing military support to embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government, whose administration U.S. government officials publicly opposed in April.

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GET THE NEWS at your fingertips and download the News24 app for Android here now. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Twitter the incident happened around midday on Friday, and created a safety risk for commercial aircraft from the country's main airport.

Upon identifying the plan as a US electronic intelligence gathering aircraft, the fighter jet escorted it from the region, Venezuelan authorities said, adding that there have been 76 such incidents this year.

U.S. Southern Command says aggressive military tactics over the Caribbean Sea 'underscores Maduro's recklessness'.

The Venezuela SU-30 Flanker that "aggressively shadowed" a U.S. Navy EP-3 aircraft endangers and jeopardized the mission, according to U.S. military officials.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called Guaido a USA puppet, and accused Washington of trying to orchestrate a coup in his country aimed at securing U.S. access to Venezuela's vast oil riches.

The opposition leader is recognised by the United States and more than 50 other countries, but has been unable to dislodge Venezuela's socialist leader. The U.S. P-8A Poseidon aircraft was flying in global airspace on June 4 at the time of the intercepts, Navy officials added.

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