RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint PA
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Russian fighter jet blames 'malfunction' after releasing missile near UK plane

The SU-27 ‘released a missile’ near an RAF aircraft over the Black Sea last month, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace revealed on Thursday.

THE UK DEFENCE Secretary has revealed that a Russian fighter jet recently “released a missile” in the vicinity of an RAF aircraft over the Black Sea.

Ben Wallace told the Commons the incident occurred in “international airspace over the Black Sea” on September 29.

He added that an “unarmed RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint” – a spy plane – was “interacted with” by two Russian SU-27s, one of which “released a missile in the vicinity of the RAF Rivet Joint beyond visual range”.

The Commons heard that the Russians blamed the incident on a “technical malfunction”.

In a statement updating MPs on the war in Ukraine, Mr Wallace said: “I would also like to share with the House details of a recent incident which occurred in international airspace over the Black Sea.

“On September 29 an unarmed RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint, a civilian-style aircraft, on routine patrol over the Black Sea was interacted with by two Russian armed SU-27 fighter aircraft. It is not unusual for aircraft to be shadowed and this day was no different.

“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.

“The total time of the interaction between the Russian aircraft and the Rivet Joint was approximately 90 minutes.

“The patrol completed and the aircraft returned to base.”

He added: “In light of this potentially dangerous engagement, I have communicated my concerns directly to my Russian counterpart, Defence Minister (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.

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

“The reply by the Russian minister of defence on October 10 stated they have conducted an investigation into the circumstances of the incident and stated it was a technical malfunction of the SU-27 fighter.

“They also acknowledge that the incident took place in international airspace.”

Concluding his report on the incident, the Cabinet minister said: “The UK Ministry of Defence has shared this information with allies and, after consultation, I have restarted routine patrols, but this time escorted by fighter aircraft.

“Everything we do is considered and calibrated with regard to ongoing conflict in the region and in accordance with international law.

“We welcome Russia’s acknowledgement this was in international airspace, and the UK has conducted regular sorties with the RAF Rivet Joint in international airspace over the Black Sea since 2019 and we will continue to do so.”

Mr Wallace suggested the Black Sea incident shows the Russian military are “not beyond making the wrong calculation or indeed deciding that the rules don’t apply to them”.

He also asked the public to have faith in the Government’s support for Ukraine, adding: “I ask them to have faith in us, and indeed all of us in this chamber, that we do work this very detailed response to try and make sure we walk that sometimes tightrope and make sure it is in the right place to do it.”

Shadow defence minister Luke Pollard thanked the Defence Secretary, who is also MP for Wyre and Preston North in Lancashire, for his “calmness and professionalism” amid “much Government chaos”.

The Labour MP described the Russian fighter jet incident as “serious” and welcomed the restarting of RAF flights.

Press Association
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