During a statement in the House of Commons, Ben Wallace, the British Minister of Defence, announced that on September 29, a Russian Su-27 fired into the patrol area of a British RC-135W after being intercepted. This dangerous manoeuvre raises questions and the RC-135Ws are now escorted by armed fighters.
A statement in the House of Commons
"[...] an unarmed RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint, a civilian ISTAR [Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition & Reconnaissance] aircraft, on routine patrol over the Black Sea was interacted with by two Russian armed Su-27 fighter aircrafts. 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 [the Rivet Joint] returned to its base.[...]"
An interaction that raises questions
The firing of a missile during an intercept intrigues:
- Is it a shot fired by error, whether technical and/or human?
- Did the Russian aircraft have orders to intimidate the British RC-135W Rivet Joint?
As a reminder, the RC-135W Rivet Joint is an electronic reconnaissance aircraft capable of intercepting, analyzing, identifying and geolocating various COMINT (communication) or ELINT (jammers, radars, etc) signals.
This incident implies two consequences:
- Since that day, the flights of English RC-135W are systematically escorted by fighters of the RAF.
- On the diplomatic level, the British Minister of Defence and the Chief of Staff of the British Armed Forces have communicated their fears to their respective counterparts in Russia.
The overall trend on this incident fortunately seems to be moving towards de-escalation, important at a time when relations between the UK and Russia are strained following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
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