A KLM Dutch Airline Boeing-777, and a SWISS passenger plane were put in danger over the Sea of Japan by an US Air Force spy plane over in international airspace over the between Japan and Russia.
..The [U.S.] plane was on an air reconnaissance mission with all of its transponders having been shut off, it added.
The US crew had not provided any information regarding its flight to air traffic controllers in the region, despite it flying at the same altitude as scheduled civil aviation flights.
The US military plane was reportedly flying at 36,000 feet and non-responsive to air traffic control. A KLM Boeing 777 “had to immediately change the flight path” and a Swiss aircraft reported “visual contact with a large four-engine aircraft, which was in direct proximity to their plane” leading to a change in altitude.
The US is going to operate clandestinely in or at the very least near Russian airspace. The Russians are going to excitedly use any potential incident as an excuse to criticize the U.S. for doing so — and argue that they shouldn’t be because they’re jeopardizing safety (the Russians get to cloak themselves in a good cause).
However the US should never give the Russians this opportunity. While there’s no world in which US spy planes are going to “[t]urn on transponders for automatic identification by our radars” as the Russians request, because that rather defeats the purpose of a spy plane. But if you’re going to spy gosh darn it do it in a way that:
- The Russians don’t know, or at least that leaves you with plausible deniability
- And doesn’t place civilian airliners at risk.
Because even if you dismiss the news emanating from Russia as self-serving, which it is, the US aircraft wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding and certainly should have done a better job staying away from commercial flights — especially over the Sea of Japan, where the Soviets downed Korean Air Lines KAL 007 in 1983 mistaking it for a spy plane weeks before NATO’s Able Archer exercise convinced much of the Soviet military apparatus that the West was preparing for a pre-emptive strike…