Report: Russian Pilot Tried to Shoot Down UK Military Jet

BBC reports 2 missiles were fired deliberately, not in a 'technical malfunction' as Russia claimed
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2023 2:25 PM CDT
Report: Russian Pilot Tried to Shoot Down UK Military Jet
A Russian Su-27 fighter jet, left, flies next to the French Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker, right, and Dassault Rafale, second from left, and Dassault Mirage 2000 fighter jets near Russian territorial waters over the Black Sea, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021.   (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

A Russian pilot deliberately tried to shoot down a British plane last year, the BBC is reporting, contradicting Russia's claims of a "technical malfunction." The pilot fired two missiles at the Royal Air Force plane in international airspace over the Black Sea on Sept. 29, 2022. The RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft, carrying up to 30 people, was on a surveillance mission off the coast of Crimea when it encountered two Russian SU-27 fighter jets. According to "senior Western defense sources," intercepted communications show one of the two pilots believed he had permission to fire on the RAF plane following "an ambiguous command from a Russian ground station." A source said the pilot was told "you have the target."

In response, he fired an air-to-air missile, which missed as it failed to lock onto the RAF plane, per the BBC. Though the pilot was berated by the pilot of the second jet, who didn't believe the pair had been given permission to fire, he then fired a second missile. This one "fell from the wing—suggesting the weapon either malfunctioned or that the launch was aborted," per the BBC. The outlet notes the RAF plane has sensors to intercept communications and the crew "would have been able to listen in to the incident which could have resulted in their own deaths." Yet when the Russian government claimed the incident had been caused by a "technical malfunction," the UK's Ministry of Defense (MoD) publicly accepted the account.

"We do not consider this incident to constitute a deliberate escalation on the part of the Russians, and our analysis concurs that it was due to a malfunction," Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said last October. Months later, intelligence allegedly leaked by airman Jack Teixeira revealed the US military viewed the incident as "a near shoot-down," the New York Times reported in April. The Times noted the incident "could have amounted to an act of war." A rep for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak now says Wallace "provided the level of detail he was able to give to Parliament at that stage," per the Independent. An MoD rep adds "our intent has always been to protect the safety of our operations, avoid unnecessary escalation, and inform the public and international community." (More Russia stories.)

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