Reports by CNN Turkish that Russian warplanes on at least four separate occasions buzzed the American destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Eastern Med have been denied by the Russians. Indeed that would have been unlikely since until recently Cook was anchored in Cyprus, quite a distance from Syria.
A different, earlier incident where the Russians buzzed a French warship which was much closer appears to be true however. Reuters:
A Russian warplane this weekend flew over a French warship at low altitude in the eastern Mediterranean, a deliberate breach of international regulations, a French naval source said on Tuesday.
The incident, first reported by Le Point magazine, comes as tensions mount between Russia and Western nations following a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria on April 7. At least 60 people were killed in the attack, according to a Syrian relief agency.
France, the United States and their allies are considering a coordinated military response after accusing the Russia-backed Syrian government of being behind the attack. Damascus and Moscow have denied a chemical attack took place.
The weekly magazine said the Russian plane had flown over frigate Aquitaine over the weekend and was fully-armed.
The Aquitaine is equipped with 16 cruise missiles and 16 surface-to-air missiles. It is currently operating off Lebanese shores alongside U.S. ships as part of France’s contingent fighting Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.
Aquitaine which Reuters calls a destroyer is actually a helicopter-carrying frigate. It is the only French ship in theater capable of firing cruise missiles and would therefore be part of the anticipated US-French-British attack on Syria.
The French deemed the overfly was conducted at an alarmingly low attitude and tried to complain to the Russians who did not bother picking up the phone:
“The flight took place several days ago,” a French naval source said, adding that France had contacted Russian authorities over the matter.
“Passes by military aircraft over warships are things that happen at sea. When it is deemed too close, the opposing party is notified,” the source said.
The Russian air force has already carried out such “aggressive” flights over Western warships in the past.
In April 2016 two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea, so low they created wake in the water.
Phone calls to the Russian defence ministry in Moscow were not answered after business hours on Tuesday.
Meanwhile Russian jets over Syria are being spotted carrying anti-ship missiles:
A Russian Su-34 fighter jet armed with what looks like Kh-35 cruise anti-ship missiles has just been spotted over the Syrian city of Tartus.
According to reports from local sources, this is not the only Russian jet armed with Kh-35 cruise missiles, which are now flying in this part of Syria and in eastern Mediterranean.
The Kh-35U is a jet-launched version of the Kh-35 subsonic cruise anti-ship missile. It has a HE fragmentation shaped charge warhead and the operational range of at least 300km.
Indeed a real Russian strike on French or American ships would not take place at close range. Instead the Russians would fire weapons like the Kh-35 from afar.