The Air Force said Friday that a KC-135 Stratotanker's peculiar flight path, which aviation enthusiasts said resembled the shape of a penis while flying close to a Russian base in Syria, was not intentional.
Twitter accounts monitoring Flightradar24, a website that tracks planes, quickly pointed out Wednesday that the phallic-shaped flight path consisting of two circles and one large oval was suspect, and pointed directly at Russian forces. The Italian newspaper la Repubblica even wrote an article about the incident, stating "the shape in fact is unequivocally that of a penis," according to an English translation.
But the Air Force quickly responded that the crew of the KC-135 -- which was flying between the Middle Eastern island country of Cyprus and the coastal Syrian city of Tartus, where Russia has a naval base -- acted appropriately.
"We're aware of the incident and are talking with the KC-135 crew to determine the details," an Air Force spokesperson told Military.com in an email. "At this time, we do not believe the crew acted inappropriately, flying a refueling orbit consistent with requirements that met the needs of receiver aircraft."
The aircraft remained in the eastern Mediterranean, not Syrian airspace, the Air Force spokesperson added. Additional details about the KC-135's mission were not provided.
Whether the crew meant to follow a phallic-shaped flight path just outside a Russian naval base may never be known. But the incident reflects some of the geopolitical tensions amid Russia's continued invasion and destruction of Ukraine.
Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, in February, the U.S. Navy confirmed that Russian aircraft had made close intercepts of three maritime patrol planes while they were in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea, Business Insider reported.
Additionally, this isn't the first time the military has been involved with phallic shapes in the sky.
In 2017, Military.com reported that two Navy aviators who maneuvered an EA-18G Growler to draw genitals in the sky near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, were punished but were able to remain as aviators.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.