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Ukraine conflict: Russian fighters released missile near UK surveillance aircraft

An RAF Rivet Joint ISTAR aircraft was “in the vicinity” of a Russian Su-27 fighter when a missile was fired, UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace said. (Crown Copyright)

A Russian fighter aircraft released a missile “in the vicinity” of an unarmed UK surveillance aircraft during a recent patrol over the Black Sea.

UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace disclosed the encounter, telling British parliamentarians that he had conveyed his concerns over the encounter between a Russian Air Force (VKS) Su-27 ‘Flanker' fighter and a Royal Air Force (RAF) L3 Technologies RC-135 Rivet Joint intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft to his counterpart in Moscow.

“An unarmed RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint civilian ISTAR aircraft on routine patrol over the Black Sea was interacted with by two Russian, armed, Su-27 fighter aircraft,” Wallace said on 20 October. “It is not unusual for aircraft to be shadowed, and this day was no different. During that interaction it transpired, however, that one of the Su-27 aircraft released a missile in the vicinity of the RAF Rivet Joint [at] 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 its base.

“In light of this potentially dangerous engagement, I have communicated my concerns directly to my Russian counterpart, Defence Minister [Sergei Kuzhugetovich] Shoigu, and the chief of the [UK] defence staff [Admiral Sir Tony Radakin] has also communicated his concerns.”

With the encounter taking place on 29 September, RAF Rivet Joint sorties into the Black Sea area of operations have since been accompanied by Eurofighter Typhoon escort fighters.

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