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Russian MOD Releases Video Of Su-27s Shadowing RAF RC-135 And Typhoons Over Black Sea


Su 27 intercepts RC 135 and escort
A screenshot from the Russian MOD video edited to show the positions of the various assets.

The Russian Ministry Of Defense has released footage of a close encounter between Su-27 Flankers and RAF Rivet Joint with Typhoon escort.

On Oct. 19, 2023, an RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint intelligence gathering aircraft, escorted by two Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 jets, flew a mission over the Black Sea. The British trio were not alone though, as they were intercepted and shadowed by two Russian Su-27 Flankers off Crimea.

A short clip of the close encounter was released by the Russian MOD. The footage shows the moment the lead Su-27 breaks aways from and the second Flankers turns to follow the leader.

“Russian airspace control systems over the Black Sea detected three air targets approaching the State border of the Russian Federation,” says the Russian MOD. “To identify air targets and prevent violation of the State Border of the Russian Federation, a pair of Su-27 fighters from the air defense forces on duty were scrambled into the air. Russian fighter crews identified the air targets as an RC-135 electronic reconnaissance and electronic warfare aircraft and two RAF Typhoon multi-role fighters.”

“As Russian fighters approached, foreign military aircraft made a turn from the State border of the Russian Federation. Russian planes returned safely to their home airfield. There was no violation of the State Border of the Russian Federation. The flight of Russian fighters was carried out in strict accordance with international rules for the use of airspace over neutral waters without crossing air routes or dangerously approaching aircraft of a foreign state.”

The three British aircraft could be tracked online on flight tracking websites during most of their mission over the Black Sea.

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The three RAF aircraft tracking off Crimea during the mission on Oct. 19, 2023. (Image credit: FR24.com)

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The three RAF aircraft tracking off Crimea during the mission on Oct. 19, 2023. (Image credit: FR24.com)
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The three RAF jets on their way back home (Image credit: FR24.com)

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The three RAF jets on their way back home (Image credit: FR24.com)

As we reported in detail last year, a Royal Air Force RC-135W had a close encounter with two armed Russian Su-27 Flanker jets while flying a surveillance patrol in international airspace over the Black Sea on Sept. 29, 2022. During the “interaction”, that lasted about 90 minutes, one of the Russian fighters “released a missile in the vicinity of the RAF Rivet Joint beyond visual range”.

While initially depicted as a “potentially dangerous engagement” that, however, did not appear to be a “deliberate escalation” but the result of a technical malfunction, the incident was referred to as a “near-shoot down” in U.S. military documents made public as part of the so-called Pentagon Leaks. Russian communications intercepted by the RC-135 show that one of the Russian pilots thought he had been given permission to target the British aircraft, following an ambiguous command from a Russian ground station.

Here’s what we explained in a previous post on the incident:

According to unnamed senior Western defence sources, the communication received from the ground station controller was to the effect of “you have the target” and interpreted as permission to fire. The Su-27 pilot released an air-to-air missile, which successfully launched but missed its target after failing to lock on to it. The pilot of the second Flanker is said to have begun to swear to other one, thinking they had not been given permission to fire and asking him what he thought he was doing.

The first pilot then released a second missile, something that has never been acknowledged since the incident. According to the BBC’s sources, “the second missile simply fell from the wing, suggesting the weapon either malfunctioned or that the launch was aborted”.

While it did not release details of those communications, the British Ministry of Defence told the BBC: “Our intent has always been to protect the safety of our operations, avoid unnecessary escalation and inform the public and international community.” The spokesperson also added that “this incident is a stark reminder of the potential consequences of Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine”.

Since then, NATO manned and unmanned ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platforms have continued to operate in the Black Sea region, but at an increased distance from Crimea. This appears to be related to the presence of a “SECDEF [Secretary of Defense] directed standoff” distance which separates the ISR routes from Crimea, as shown by the Pentagon Leaks. Since the incident, RAF Typhoon FGR4 jets fly escort mission in support of the RC-135s operating in the area.

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