Navy says CNN report about being harassed by Russian jets was fake news

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) departs Larnaca, Cyprus, April 9, 2018. Donald Cook, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is on its seventh patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of regional allies and partners, and U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alyssa Weeks / Released)

The US Navy is calling “fake news” on a recent CNN report that a US Destroyer was buzzed several times by a Russian attack aircraft off the coast of Syria.

The offending report was submitted by CNN Turk, the Turkish affiliate of CNN that claimed the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Donald Cook had not only entered Syrian waters loaded with Tomahawk missiles but was buzzed four times by a Russian attack plane.

The US Navy has since spoken up about the report, particularly on the topics of the ship’s whereabouts and the matter of being buzzed by Russian flyboys.

“There are elements of that story that are just simply not true,” said Navy spokesman Cmdr. Bill Speaks, who told Task and Purpose that the reports were “completely bogus.”

Still, content posted to the internet is forever and once a report breaks, it is generally aggregated quickly by other online news outlets.  Such seems to be the case of this bogus story, which has been shared by outlets* ranging from the UK’s Daily Express and Russian Sputnik International.

The Donald Cook has been the subject of both factual and fictional stories concerning Russian aircraft encounters. On 11 and 23 April 2016, a pair of Russian Navy Su-24 “Fencer” swing-wing aircraft (an inferior knockoff of the long-retired US F-111 Aardvark) during military exercises in the Baltic Sea. The incident was widely covered by media.

A second account, which proved to be a hoax, was an April 2014 electronic warfare attack on the Donald Cook. The report circulated the internet, claiming that the warship was momentarily crippled and forced to flee after several passes from a Su-24. Though met with skepticism by US defense analysts, the issue was put to rest once and for all by the actual manufacturers of Russia’s electronic warfare systems, which said the Su-24 cannot be outfitted with the system.

Disinformation has long been a Russian military strategy, though it is no secret that mistakes and outright fabrications are nothing new in today’s modern, politically-charged “infotainment” industry.

While the Donald Cook recently stopped for a port visit in Cyprus, the missile destroyer’s actual destination is unknown, as per US Navy policy.

*Editor’s note: This article originally stated that American Military News reported the incident of “Russian jets buzzing a US Navy destroyer” as occurring but its report actually indicated the Pentagon denying the report.

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