‘Hot-headed’ Russian fighter jets are increasingly threatening the safety of British RAF pilots on reconnaissance missions over the Black Sea, a former senior diplomat said.
This week, a damaging US intelligence leak revealed that a Russian Su-27 pilot attempted to blow down a manned RAF reconnaissance aircraft over the Black Sea last September, but the missile malfunctioned.
But despite increased Russian aggression in the region, British pilots continue to defy Putin’s fighter jets on a weekly basis as they carry out daring missions over the Black Sea, the report notes. The times.
Since the near miss, the spy planes have been escorted by Typhoon fighter jets from Akrotiri, a Cypriot RAF base, to deter further aggression from Putin’s forces.
John Foreman, who was Britain’s defense attaché in Russia until September last year, said last year’s attempted downing of the British plane was a sign of Moscow’s increasing “Black Sea hotheadedness”.
John Foreman, who was Britain’s defense attaché in Russia until last September, said a number of Russian failures in the Black Sea region have made service personnel more aggressive.
A blundering Su-27 pilot mistakenly believed that a radar operator on the ground gave him permission to fire on and bring down the British jet on September 29 last year
The former diplomat said the shooting – and subsequent near miss – was evidence of growing Russian “hotheadedness” in the region.
Mr Foreman said Russian paranoia was “off scale” after HMS Defender passed through the occupied territorial waters of Crimea in 22021.
In addition to the passing of the Type 45 destroyer, a series of military failures, including the loss of the flagship Moskva, had further fueled Russian sensibilities.
The Russia expert said an order appeared to have been issued to Russian pilots not to let British and American planes get too close to Russian airspace.
“As a result of all the disturbances in the south, the Black Sea Fleet’s planes are much more aggressive than elsewhere, unsafe and unprofessional.”
Mr Foreman believes the deployment of Typhoon jets will help ‘restore the rules’ and that the Russians have admitted their mistake after the near miss as it is not ‘in their interest’ to escalate.
Escorting British aircraft through international airspace is not an escalation. The Russians should not fire missiles at reconnaissance planes out of their own incompetence.’
An RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint spy plane was flying over international waters near Crimea at the time of the September incident (file image)
British Rivet Joints have flown once every ten days this year, flight tracking shows.
The flights have been stepped up in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and began to intensify in 2021 when Putin began pulling massive troops at the border.
The aircraft also regularly fly missions in the international airspace around the Barents Sea and the Baltic Sea.
Since the first incident, Russian aircraft have responded to at least six reconnaissance flights by NATO allies, documents show.
The downing of a US drone by a Russian Su-27 on March 14 is not included in the data, which covers the period up to February 26.
Details about flights, including the planned route, are made public before takeoff and planes fly with identification beacons that relay details to civil aviation authorities – meaning the location can be tracked on the internet.
The Russian jet locked onto the RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft and released – but the deadly missile failed to launch properly and missed. It was previously believed that the missile was launched accidentally – not an intentional act of war.
The incident happened as the British plane was flying through international airspace near the Russian-occupied Crimea peninsula. It was buzzed by a squadron of Moscow’s Su-27 fighters and chaos ensued.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace acknowledged the incident at the time, telling parliament that the Russian jets “recklessly” came within 15 feet of the RAF aircraft and that one “fired a missile nearby.”
But two U.S. defense officials commenting on top-secret intelligence documents leaked online told the New York Times that the incident was much more serious than expected.
The Pentagon sources claimed that the Russian pilot completely misinterpreted what a radar operator on the ground told him, assuming he was authorized or ordered to fire on the RAF.
The role of the Rivet Joint aircraft is to suck up electronic transmissions and communications – the aircraft is also known as a ‘nuke sniffer’ for its ability to detect radioactivity.
Earlier this week, a British defense source disputed the version of events, telling MailOnline: “These reports contain inaccuracies and do not reflect what happened in international airspace over the Black Sea,” referring to Defense Secretary Wallace’s comments to the parliament.
If a Russian missile had blown Rivet Joint out of the sky over the Black Sea, the UK and its NATO allies might have been forced into war.