It turns out a Russian pilot tried to shoot down an RAF surveillance plane over the Black Sea because he mistakenly thought he had clearance.
The pilot of the SU-27 fighter jet fired two missiles at the RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft on September 29 last year, with the first missing the British plane and not malfunctioning as Russia claimed at the time.
At the time, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace acknowledged the incident, telling Parliament that two Russian jets had “recklessly” gotten within 15 feet of the RAF plane – with a crew of up to 30 men – and one had “a missile in “fired in the vicinity”.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu blamed it on a “technical malfunction,” and Wallace, after speaking with other Russian defense officials, accepted the explanation and drew closure to the incident.
But now three senior Western defense sources with knowledge of the incident have said so BBC that Russian communications intercepted by the RAF surveillance aircraft show that one of the Russian pilots believed he had been given permission to target the British aircraft.
The pilot of the SU-27 fighter jet (file image) fired two missiles at the British military aircraft, with the first missing its target and not malfunctioning, as Russia claimed at the time
At the time of the incident in September, an RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint spy plane (file image) was flying over international waters near Crimea
This happened after he received an unclear order from a Russian ground station, the sources said.
The second Russian pilot thought the opposite and insulted his comrade when he fired his first missile, which came dangerously close to the RAF reconnaissance plane.
If a Russian Rivet Joint missile had dropped from the sky over the Black Sea, Britain and its NATO allies might have been forced to go to war.
According to Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty, member states agree that an armed attack against one or more of them “shall be considered an attack against all of them.”
Should such an attack occur, each NATO member will support the attacked country with whatever measures “it deems necessary.”
The RAF regularly flies missions over the international waters of the Black Sea as well as the Baltics and eastern Poland to gather intelligence.
The role of the Rivet Joint aircraft is to soak up electronic transmissions and communications. Because of its ability to detect radioactivity, the aircraft is also known as a “nuclear sniffer.”
The Defense Department said it would not release details of the intercepted communications.
A Defense Department spokesman responded to the new revelations: “Our intention has always been to protect the security of our operations, avoid unnecessary escalations and inform the public and the international community.”
British and US aircraft continued to carry out these reconnaissance flights after the hair-raising incident in September, but RAF surveillance aircraft are now escorted by Typhoon fighters, while the US has resorted to the use of unmanned surveillance drones.
Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said in March that it was important to keep the Black Sea and the skies above open to all nations.
“The Black Sea is an important international sea route that supports many of our NATO allies, including Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, and does not belong to any country,” he said.
Ryder’s comments followed another aerial incident in which Russian fighter jets dumped fuel on a U.S. surveillance drone and ultimately crashed into it in March.
Video footage shows the Russian fighter jet approaching the American drone from behind in March and beginning to release fuel, the Pentagon said
After the collision, the onboard camera shows a broken propeller (L) and a comparatively operational propeller (R) spinning. Russia had previously said it had not made contact with the drone
Drone footage showed the shocking moment Moscow’s Su-27 jet approached the U.S. MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle from behind on March 14, clipping its propeller over international airspace.
After the clash, US forces were forced to shoot down the $32 million surveillance drone in international waters, sparking a race between Moscow and Washington to recover it.
On March 15, Russian ships were spotted at the crash site trying to find the wreckage. However, the Pentagon insisted that the parts could not be recovered and that any intelligence had been deleted.
Moscow insisted its jet had no contact with the drone and instead blamed the crash on “abrupt maneuvering.”
However, experts believe it was likely an accidental collision as Russian pilots used increasingly aggressive tactics to force the drone to change course.
This is breaking news, more to come…