Venezuelan fighter jet 'aggressively shadowed' USA intelligence plane

Venezuela SU-30 Flanker as it aggressively shadowed a U.S. EP-3 Aries II at an unsafe distance in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea

Michael Wimbish U.S. Southern Command

In a statement, Southcom said the U.S. Navy EP-3 Aires II was flying in worldwide airspace off the coast of the South American nation on July 19 when it was approached in an "unprofessional manner" by a SU-30 Flanker Venezuelan fighter.

A Venezuelan Su-30 fighter "aggressively shadowed" an American spy plane over the Caribbean Sea, the USA military said, claiming the jet was at an "unsafe distance" and blaming Russian Federation for its "irresponsible" support for Caracas.

It happened Friday - the same day that the Trump administration announced it was sanctioning four top officials in Venezuela's military counterintelligence agency.

SOUTHCOM said that the U.S.

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Venezuela identified the US plane as an EP-3E Aries II, which is a reconnaissance version of the P-3 Orion produced by Lockheed Martin Corp.

At 11.33 a.m. local time two Venezuelan fighter jets intercepted the aircraft and it was escorted out of Venezuela's airspace, the statement said.

Venezuelan defense officials sad the US aircraft entered local airspace over the Caribbean in a one-hour flight in breach of global treaties, until it was pursued by the Venezuelan air force.

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.

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Venezuelan officials claimed the aircraft entered Venezuelan airspace without notification and was "a clear provocation" in addition to being in violation of worldwide treaties.

The flight created a safety risk for commercial aircraft in the vicinity of Simon Bolivar International Airport in Maiquetia, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Twitter.

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"This action demonstrates #Russia's irresponsible military support to Maduro's illegitimate regime & underscores Maduro's recklessness & irresponsible behavior, which undermines int'l rule of law & efforts to counter illicit trafficking", it tweeted.

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The opposition leader is recognized by the United States and more than 50 other countries, but has been unable to dislodge Venezuela's socialist leader.

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