Russian Pilot Mistakenly Fires at RAF Plane during Black Sea Surveillance Mission

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In a startling recent development, it was uncovered that a Russian pilot attempted to bring down an RAF surveillance aircraft, misinterpreting what he believed was permission to launch a missile. This sheds a new light to the narrative presented last September when the incident occurred, attributing it to a so-called “technical malfunction”.

Contrary to Russia’s assertions at the time, and the UK’s Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) acceptance of the explanation, disquieting new details have surfaced. Three established Western defence insiders have now shared information, suggesting that the pilot fired two missiles, the first of which didn’t malfunction but rather missed the target.

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The events took place as an RAF plane, carrying up to 30 crew members, was executing a surveillance mission over the Black Sea within international airspace. The mission unexpectedly encountered two Russian SU-27 fighter jets. As per intercepted Russian communications, one of the pilots mistakenly believed he had received approval to target the British aircraft due to an unclear command from a ground station. Surprisingly, his counterpart didn’t hold the same conviction and openly reproached his wingman for launching the first missile.

As for the Rivet Joint, it was equipped with sensors capable of intercepting communications, allowing the RAF crew to observe the event which could’ve led to their demise. Much to their disregard, the MoD is keeping the details tightly under wraps.

Reacting to the newly uncovered sequence of events, MoD stated their intentions were always to safeguard operational safety, prevent any unnecessary escalation, and keep the public and international community informed.

Insider accounts suggest that the ambiguous phrase “you have the target” was misinterpreted by the Russian pilot as permission to engage, a display of unprofessional conduct given that NATO pilots employ precise language for permissions to fire. Despite failing to hit its target, the first missile was no malfunction but actually a miss. When the first pilot disregarded his partner’s confusion and launched a second missile, it dropped from the wing—suggesting a possible malfunction or an aborted launch.

Three weeks after the episode, the UK government conceded the occurrence of the incident, accepting Russia’s explanation of technical malfunction. Meanwhile, leaked US intelligence documents labelled the incident as a “near shoot-down”, a term far more alarming than Russia’s description and one that could suggest an act of war.

Secrecy around the incident arises from several factors. Firstly, to avoid exposing the depth of intelligence gathering and details of communications intercepted. Moreover, preventing an escalation that might potentially lead to a military clash between Russia and a NATO member was also a concern.

Echoing these fears, the MoD acknowledged that the incident is a “stark reminder of the potential consequences of Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine”. This isn’t an isolated case, however, earlier this year another Russian jet downed a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea, evincing serious questions about the discipline and professionalism of Russia’s air force.

Despite close calls, RAF surveillance flights persist over the Black Sea—a testament to the crew’s bravery and resilience. Following the incident, RAF missions have been escorted by Typhoon fighter jets armed with air-to-air missiles, making the UK the only NATO ally still conducting crewed missions over the Black Sea.