A year ago, a Russian Su-27 pilot came perilously close to shooting down a British Royal Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over the Black Sea.
The pilot launched two missiles, believing he had been authorized to do so. According to BBC this account contrasts with the official narratives provided by both Moscow and London.
On September 29, 2022, a British Royal Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint was on a surveillance mission over the Black Sea in international airspace.
The aircraft found itself confronted by two Russian Su-27 fighter jets. As they approached the British plane, they received an ambiguous message from ground control, interpreted by one of the Russian pilots as a green light to fire the missiles.
Sources indicate that the vague phrasing of the command highlights a significant lack of professionalism in the incident. In contrast, NATO pilots are explicit when requesting and receiving permission to engage.
After hearing the command, the Russian pilot fired an air-to-air missile, which failed to hit its target. This led to a heated argument between the two Russian pilots.
Three weeks after the incident, the British government confirmed its occurrence. Then-Defense Secretary Ben Wallace described it as a "potentially dangerous encounter," but clarified that it was not considered a deliberate escalation by the Russians.
A leaked classified U.S. military report described the incident as a "near miss." According to U.S. defense officials, the Russian pilot misunderstood a command from ground control, leading to the hazardous situation.
This incident has drawn sharp criticism from Tobias Ellwood, chair of the UK's House of Commons Defense Committee, who accused Wallace of withholding crucial details about the event.