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A Russian fighter jet fired a missile while shadowing a Royal Air Force recon plane on patrol over the Black Sea, UK says

Business Insider logo Business Insider 10/20/2022 jepstein@insider.com (Jake Epstein)
Russian Air Force Su-27 Russkiye Vityazi fighter jets in 2011. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin © REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin Russian Air Force Su-27 Russkiye Vityazi fighter jets in 2011. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
  • A Russian fighter jet recently released a missile near a Royal Air Force reconnaissance aircraft.
  • The UK's Ben Wallace said the plane was patrolling over the Black Sea when the engagement happened.
  • Moscow told London that a technical malfunction caused the issue.

A Russian fighter jet recently released a missile "in the vicinity" of a Royal Air Force reconnaissance plane conducting a patrol mission in Eastern Europe, UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace said Thursday.

The unarmed RC-135W Rivet Joint was in the middle of a routine patrol over the Black Sea on September 29 when two armed Russian Su-27 fighter jets "interacted" with the surveillance aircraft, Wallace told lawmakers in London while delivering an update on the war in Ukraine.

"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," Wallace said, adding that the interaction lasted about 90 minutes. 

The RAF Rivet Joint returned to its base once the patrol finished, Wallace said, and he's since communicated his concerns with his Russian counterpart, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, "in light of this potentially dangerous engagement."

In a letter to Shoigu, Wallace said he made it clear that the RAF Rivet Joint was unarmed, operating in international airspace, and following a "pre-notified flight path."

He said Thursday that Moscow delivered a response earlier this month that blamed the incident on a technical issue with the fighter jet.

"The UK Ministry of Defense has shared this information with allies, and after consultation, I've restarted routine patrols — but this time escorted by fighter aircraft," Wallace said.   

This wouldn't be the first instance where a fighter jet fired a missile when it wasn't supposed to. A Spanish jet taking part in a NATO mission over the Baltic states in 2018 accidentally fired a missile — leading to warnings from Russia at the time.   

Russian forces have previously engaged in provocative actions around US and NATO forces in the Black Sea, but the recent incident comes during a time of extreme tension between the Western alliance and Russia over its war in Ukraine. 

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