According to some news sources, an incident occurred on April 11th, 2014, between a Russian SU-24 fighter jet (some articles refer to it as a "tactical bomber") and USS Donald Cook (a guided missile destroyer) which at the time was doing "patrol work" on the western Black Sea.

This article here explains the events as follows:

Meanwhile, the Russian Su-24 that buzzed the USS Donald Cook carried neither bombs nor missiles but only a basket mounted under the fuselage, which, according to the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta 2, contained a Russian electronic warfare device called Khibiny.

As the Russian jet approached the US vessel, the electronic device disabled all radars, control circuits, systems, information transmission, etc. on board the US destroyer. In other words, the all-powerful Aegis system, now hooked up - or about to be - with the defense systems installed on NATO’s most modern ships was shut down, as turning off the TV set with the remote control.

The Russian Su-24 then simulated a missile attack against the USS Donald Cook, which was left literally deaf and blind. As if carrying out a training exercise, the Russian aircraft - unarmed - repeated the same maneuver 12 times before flying away.

Above article further states that 27 US Navy sailors requested to be relieved from active duty as a result:

Since that incident, which the Atlanticist media have carefully covered up despite the widespread reactions sparked among defense industry experts, no US ship has ever approached Russian territorial waters again.

According to some specialized media, 27 sailors from the USS Donald Cook requested to be relieved from active service.

I am not depending purely on above article for this story, however. An issue here is that I have not been able to find what I would consider "mainstream" English language news sources that would corroborate above statements about the event and the 27 sailors.

A reason for this lack of information in English language media is likely as explained in this article at UK's Daily Mail, which states:

The official was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to some news sources, the Russian fighter came as close as 10 feet from USS Donald Cook (implying that the harassment was more based on flying too close to the navy ship), while others, such as above Daily Mail article, state that it was as close as 1000 yards (3000 feet).

I have seen some references to Russian electronic warfare around Ukraine in mainstream European media. One example is this article (in Swedish) in the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet which refers to statements made by US Lt. Gen. Frederick ("Ben") Hodges to the US-based Defense News.

Above article in the Swedish daily is probably referring to this article in Defense News, which says the following about Russian electronic warfare:

Ukrainian forces have grappled with formidable Russian electronic warfare capabilities that analysts say would prove withering even to the US ground forces. The US Army has also jammed insurgent communications from the air and ground on a limited basis, and it is developing a powerful arsenal of jamming systems, but these are not expected until 2023.

"Our soldiers are doing the training with the Ukrainians and we've learned a lot from the Ukrainians," said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges. "A third of the [Ukrainian] soldiers have served in the ... combat zone, and no Americans have been under Russian artillery or rocket fire, or significant Russian electronic warfare, jamming or collecting — and these Ukrainians have. It's interesting to hear what they have learned."

Hodges acknowledged that US troops are learning from Ukrainians about Russia's jamming capability, its ranges, types and the ways it has been employed. He has previously described the quality and sophistication of Russian electronic warfare as "eye-watering."

Still these quotations do not say much about what (if anything) happened on April 11th, 2014 to cause 27 sailors to ask to be relieved from active duty.

  • 8
    Even if the event went down as stated why would sailors resign? If they can get a fighter right over the ship they can simply sink it anyway. A short range electronic kill weapon would be no better than bombs against ships. Aug 17, 2015 at 1:23
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    This seems extremely unlikely just from an international diplomacy standpoint. You'd risk a massive diplomatic incident if you decided to buzz another nation's warships with the intent of testing out a new electronics warfare weapon. Besides, the Mail is not what you'd call a reliable source (check out how many ghost stories they have in their science section!)
    – GordonM
    Aug 17, 2015 at 7:53
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    @Loren Pechtel You hit upon the central irony that whomever first came up with the story clearly didn't appreciate: an Electronic Weapon that could only be deployed by an aircraft flying at very low level directly over a target ship would in fact be a really crappy weapon. Feb 11, 2016 at 8:54
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    Complement of USS Donald Cook is: 33 officers, 38 NCOs and 210 enlisted. So 27 is probably normal personnel rotation rate.
    – vartec
    Mar 23, 2016 at 0:46
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    no need to put quotes around "tactical bomber". The Su-24 is exactly that. It's the USSR's/Russia's equivalent to the US F-111 and FB-111 attack aircraft, which is a pure bomber/ground attack strike aircraft.
    – jwenting
    Aug 12, 2016 at 21:16

1 Answer 1


I started researching this out of interest and found essentially two stories. You'll have to decide on your own which you want to believe, because there's too little information to say conclusively either way.

The Russian Story

On the 21st Of April 2014, the Russian state-run Sputnik news agency reported that:

Russian Sukhoi Su -24 with the newest jamming complex paralyzed in the Black Sea the most modern American combat management system "Aegis" installed on the destroyer "USS Donald Cook". Pavel Zolotarev, Deputy Director, Institute of USA and Canada, shares details about this version which is being actively discussed in the Russian media and by bloggers.

This has been reported on a bunch of conspiracy websites and other questionable sources, probably because to some, this can seem like a decent source. So it's not just a bunch of conspiracy nuts- this is a story endorsed (or at least allowed to propagate) by Russia's government.

The American Story

Defense.gov, the website of the US's DoD, had an article on this claiming:

A Russian attack aircraft repeatedly flew near the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Black Sea on April 12

It mentions nothing about an IW attack.

Unfortunately, this article has been removed, but is still available by Google caching. This is the closest I can get to an authoritative source from the US, as I can't find any other official statements. Elsewhere sources claim that a Col. Steve Warren held a Pentagon briefing on this. I reckon either it was low-importance enough that it wasn't reported very widely, or the DoD tried to cover it up afterwards. The latter option doesn't explain the lack of coverage by other reputable sources, and the fact that the article just says it was a close flyby and nothing more.

The only article from the mainstream media is from NBC News, which confirms the American story.

Another thing which is interesting is that the image from the Wikipedia page on the Donald Cook is dated to after the alleged event. It likely wouldn't have been taken had it been disabled.


As people have said in comments, it seems very unlikely that Russia would show their hand in a move like this, or risk a confrontation with the US in such a manner. It would make sense that the US would deny that this happened if it really had been a crippling IW attack, but I suspect more would have been made of it from the Western media had it been such.

The idea that they would all have resigned because of this incident is a bit silly too. These people know there's danger in what they do. There's far less danger from an IW attack than a normal bombing run.

I'd say that people will believe who they're predisposed to believe. If you shun Western news sources and believe the Russians, you'll believe their story. But to me their story doesn't fit. I'm going to believe that the fact that the Russians made such a grandiose claim is as big a story as the incident itself, which while likely unnerving for those sailors, didn't make them spontaneously resign and didn't wreck a US Navy vessel.

Other Sources

Christian Science article on the incident

  • 2
    thanks! +1 for "I'd say that people will believe who they're predisposed to believe." This is very true and often the people are not even much aware of their predisposition.
    – x457812
    Aug 19, 2015 at 3:12
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    In terms of whether or not to believe the account from the Russian sources, there's something that I think a great many people who are reading this and saying "It's gotta be an American cover up!" don't understand. Which is, if things went the way the conspiracy theory says U.S. military and political leaders wouldn't have kept quiet about it; more than a few who see Russia as an enemy would have been announcing it from the rooftops. What better proof of Russia's dangerousness could policy hardliners --and defense contractors for a reversal of budget cuts--possibly ever ask for? Feb 11, 2016 at 8:10
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    People who come up with such stories often have very little exposure to how American political culture works, and it usually shows. They tend to assume that in the U.S. there is a similar popular impulse not to talk about governmental (especially military) failings like what exists in their own political culture. But we Americans love to talk about the failings (real and imagined) of our government. We do it ceaselessly, attacking political leaders we don't like and government ineptitude on any/every ground we can find. (Even military faults.) It's The Great American Sport. Feb 11, 2016 at 8:42
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    I think it depends on how much control there really is. If only a handful of people knew, people who had an interest in keeping it quiet, it seems half-plausible. This particular theory seems to rely on the military being behind the cover-up. Remember that a lot of Americans believe this- Russian media is hailed by some in the US as being more open because of the more outlandish stuff they publish. Feb 11, 2016 at 9:38
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    If the Russian's have the capability of deactivating a ship in that way, it would be very costly for them to reveal that capability, so the story doesn't make much sense.
    – Christian
    Apr 15, 2016 at 14:15

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