Russian SU-27 ‘released missile’ in vicinity of RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint spy plane, MPs hear

A Russian fighter jet “released a missile” in the vicinity of a RAF spy plane due to a “malfunction”, the Defence Secretary has said.

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

He told MPs 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”.

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

Russian fighter jet 'released missile' in vicinity of RAF spy plane <i>(Image: (US Air Force/Alamy/PA))</i>A Russian SU-27 pictured in 2013 during a training exercise over Alaska (US Air Force/Alamy/PA) (Image: (US Air Force/Alamy/PA))

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.”

He added: “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”.

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