Published On: Thu, Sep 14th, 2023
World | 4,486 views

Rogue Russian pilot deliberately tried to shoot down RAF plane despite Kremlin denial | World | News

A fighter pilot deliberately fired at an surveillance aircraft over international waters last year, it has been revealed, despite an acceptance by the British Ministry of Defence at the time of the Russian excuse that the incident was the result of a “technical malfunction”.

On September 29 last year, two Russian SU-27 fighter jets tailed an RAF spy plane conducting surveillance over the Black Sea near and occupied .

Two missiles were fired at the surveillance aircraft, one of which missed and the other failed, but the Kremlin quickly claimed that this was an accident. The British MoD accepted this explanation.

When an intelligence leak this year showed that the US military had called the incident “a near shoot-down”, prompting the New York Times to write that the incident was “far more serious than originally portrayed and could have amounted to an act of war”, the MoD retaliated by accusing the leaks of containing “untrue and/or manipulated” information.

But three Western sources with knowledge of the incident have now told the BBC that one of the Russian pilots deliberately fired at the RAF plane after misinterpreting a message from his command as an order to fire.

As the two fighter jets approached the RAF spy plane, they received a communication from their ground station controller, according to the sources, roughly saying: “You have the target.”

This ambiguous language, which the sources said was evidence of a high degree of unprofessionalism at odds with standard NATO means of communications, was interpreted by one, but not both, of the Russian pilots as permission to fire.

They then released an air-to-air missile that successfully launched but failed to lock on to its target, the sources added.

Had this missile struck the RAF plane, misunderstanding aside, this would likely have amounted to an act of war, in turn putting to the test the rest of the NATO alliance given the Article 5 stipulation that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

And these Russian communications have been available to the Ministry of Defence, who have repeatedly played down the incident, from the second it happened.

The RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft is loaded with sensors to intercept communications. The crew onboard would have been able to listen in to the incident that could have resulted in their own deaths.

Why exactly the MoD dismissed the original incident before doubling-down on their public assessment in light of the US intelligence leaks is unclear.

But responding to the new revelations published by the BBC, they said their “intent has always been to protect the safety of our operations and avoid unnecessary escalation”.

Confusingly, they added that their intention was also to “inform the public and international community” of potentially dangerous incidents.

After the first missile was successfully launched at the RAF spy plane, the second Russian fighter pilot was heard swearing furiously at his colleague, effectively asking him what he was doing.

Nonetheless, the first pilot attempted to fire another missile.

Fortunately for that pilot, the RAF crew and potentially the security of Europe, the second missile simply fell from the wing, suggesting the weapon either malfunctioned or that the launch was aborted.

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