Russian jet ‘released missile’ near RAF aircraft during patrol over Black Sea

World

A missile was released from a Russian aircraft near an unarmed RAF plane on a routine patrol over the Black Sea, the defence secretary has revealed.

In a statement updating MPs on the war in Ukraine, Ben Wallace said the incident happened on 29 September and that Russia has acknowledged it took place in international airspace.

The RAF RC-135 aircraft was on routine patrol over the Black Sea when it was “shadowed” by two Russian armed SU-27 fighter jets.

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Mr Wallace said that while it is not unusual for aircraft to be shadowed in this way, “during that interaction however, it transpired that one of the SU-27 aircraft released a missile in the vicinity of the RAF Rivet Joint beyond visual range”.

He described the incident as a “potentially dangerous engagement” but said it was not deemed a “deliberate escalation”.

However, he said it did show the Russian military are “not beyond” deciding “the rules don’t apply to them”.

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“While this was obviously the release of a weapon, we have seen very, very close flying next to US, UK NATO assets over the last few years,” Mr Wallace said.

“In one event I was aware of, a Russian fighter went within 15ft of a NATO aircraft. You know that is reckless, unnecessary and puts at risk many people’s lives.”

The Commons heard Russia blamed the Black Sea incident on a “technical malfunction” of the SU-27 jet.

The British defence secretary said: “Our analysis would concur it was a malfunction.”

“The total time of the interaction between the Russian aircraft and the Rivet Joint was approximately 90 minutes,” he said. “The patrol completed and the aircraft returned to base.”

Royal Air Force 51 Squadron Boeing RC -135 Rivet Joint Airborne Early Warning Surveillance Aircraft, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire

Jul 2014
Image:
A RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft. File pic

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Mr Wallace raised his concerns directly with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, and the chief of defence staff in Moscow.

“In my letter I made clear the aircraft was unarmed, in international airspace, and following a pre-notified flight path,” he said.

“I felt it was prudent to suspend these patrols until a response was received by the Russian state.”

UK patrols over the Black Sea were initially suspended, but have now resumed and are escorted by fighter aircraft, Mr Wallace said.

The cabinet minister added that the UK had shared information on what happened with allies, and would continue to carry out regular sorties with the RAF Rivet Joint in international airspace over the Black Sea – which it has done since 2019.

Labour’s shadow defence minister Luke Pollard said the incident was a “serious reminder about the importance of avoiding escalation and miscalculation while continuing the UK’s united support for Ukraine”.

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