A missile was launched by a Russian plane near an unarmed RAF plane during a routine patrol over the Black Sea, the Defense Secretary has revealed.

In a statement informing MPs of the war in UkraineBen Wallace said the incident happened on September 29 and that Russia acknowledged that it took place in international airspace.

The RAF RC-135 aircraft was on a routine patrol over the Black Sea when it was ‘tracked’ 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 masked in this way, “during this interaction it appeared that one of the SU-27 aircraft dropped a missile nearby of the RAF Rivet Joint beyond visual range”.

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

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

“Although it was obviously a weapon release, we saw flying very, very close next to the United States, United Kingdom NATO assets over the past few years,” Mr. Wallace said.

“In one event I know of, a Russian fighter flew within 15 feet of a NATO aircraft. You know that is reckless, unnecessary and endangers the lives of many people.”

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

The UK Defense Secretary said: ‘Our analysis will agree that this is a malfunction.

“The total duration of the interaction between the Russian aircraft and the Rivet Joint was around 90 minutes,” he said. “The patrol is over and the plane has returned to base.”

Image:
An RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft. File Picture

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Mr. Wallace raised his concerns directly with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu and the Chief of the Defense Staff in Moscow.

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

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

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

The Minister added that the UK had shared information about what had happened with its allies and would continue to fly regular sorties with the RAF Rivet Joint in international airspace over the Black Sea – what he has been doing since 2019.

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

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