Russian pilots rattled nerves aboard the destroyer Donald Cook, buzzing within yards of the ship in the Baltic Sea. Provocative, sure. But they weren't a credible threat.
So concludes a retired Navy commanding officer, who reviewed photos and videos from the run-ins on Monday and Tuesday, when unarmed Sukhoi Su-24 fighters flew within 1,000 feet of the ship — once coming as close as 30 feet in what U.S. officials called "simulated attacks." On Monday, a low-flying Russian Ka-27 Helix helicopter also appeared to take photos of the ship.
This was definitely provocative, but it doesn't amount to a threat, said the retired frigate and cruiser CO.
"Well, we’re not at war with Russia," Capt. Rick Hoffman said. "It would be one thing to be operating and have a threatening attack profile from someone who might not recognize me — that’s not the case here."
If you have visual identification of the jet, can see it isn't carrying weapons, and don't detect any electronic emissions suggesting there was a missile lock on the ship, there's nothing to be done.
"You don’t get to kill people just because they’re being annoying," said Hoffman, who commanded frigate DeWert and cruiser Hue City. Cruisers are the fleet's foremost air defense platform and are tasked with guarding flattops from incoming threats.