Russian jet fired missile near RAF plane flying over Black Sea

UK defence chief Ben Wallace vows Russian air force malfunction will not affect unwavering British support for Ukraine

An RAF plane was flying over the Black Sea when a Russian jet fired a missile in its vicinity. EPA
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A Russian jet fired a missile after engaging with an RAF plane that was flying over the Black Sea, Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

Speaking to MPs in the House of Commons after returning from consultations on Ukraine in Washington, Mr Wallace on Thursday revealed details of the incident.

He said an unarmed RAF RC-135, a civilian plane named Rivet Joint, was on a routine patrol in international airspace when it 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,” he said of the incident on September 29.

“During that interaction, however, it transpired that one of the SU 27 aircraft released a missile in the vicinity of the RAF [aircraft] beyond visual range.

“The total time of the interaction between the Russian aircraft and the [RAF flight] was approximately 90 minutes.

“The patrol completed and the aircraft returned to its base.”

UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace said the UK's staunch support for Ukraine would not be affected by the incident involving a Russian fighter jet and an RAF plane. EPA

While the missile did not hit the RAF plane, Mr Wallace said it was a “potentially dangerous engagement”.

Russia blames 'malfunction' for missile release

He wrote a letter to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoigu, expressing his concern and all RAF flights were subsequently suspended over the Black Sea. After Moscow replied and acknowledged that the incident occurred in international airspace, Mr Wallace said RAF flights resumed in the region but would from now on be escorted by fighter jets.

“The reply by the Russian Ministry of Defence on October 10 stated that they have conducted an investigation into the circumstances of the incident and stated it was a technical malfunction of the SU 27 fighter,” he said.

Mr Wallace said the UK government had shared details of the incident with its allies.

He also vowed the UK would not be cowed by the engagement and would continue to support Ukraine in its war against Russia.

He noted how the UK had conducted “regular sorties of the RAF Rivet Joint in international airspace over the Black Sea since 2019” and said the flights would continue.

“I want to assure the House [of Commons] that this incident will not prevent the United Kingdom's support for Ukraine and resistance to Russia's illegal invasion,” he added.

“The UK government mission remains unchanged with consistent support, I'm pleased, from across the House.”

Mr Wallace earlier this week travelled to the US to hold talks with his American counterpart Lloyd Austin. The trip appeared to have been hastily arranged and meant Mr Wallace had to cancel a planned appearance at a meeting of the Commons Defence Committee in Parliament on Tuesday.

Speaking in the chamber on Thursday, Mr Wallace said the UK is not convinced by Iran’s denials of supplying the Russian army with drones.

He said Ukrainian fighters “are having success” shooting down the drones but urged Tehran to stop supplying the unmanned devices.

“I would urge the Iranian government to understand that surely supplying Russia to indiscriminately kill civilians, women and children, babies in prams, is not an activity that Iran wants to be associated with,” Mr Wallace said.

“And I would urge them to desist as soon as possible. And we are not convinced by the denials from the Iranian government at all that this is not being supplied by them.

“We will however invest and use some of our funding … to invest in what other novel capabilities we can find to deploy in the meantime.

“We are continuing to supply and will step up our supply of our low velocity missiles into Ukraine to work with the Stormer system and also make sure that we can help with detection or electronic warfare schemes.”

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Updated: October 20, 2022, 2:02 PM