Russia’s Su-27 Released Missile Near RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint Aircraft

Image:A RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft.

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.

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”.

Mr Wallace raised his concerns directly with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, and the chief of defense 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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