On Sept. 29, 2022, Russian Su-27 nearly shot down a Royal Air Force RC-135 spy plane over the Black Sea.
According to the leak of classified materials from the Department of Defense, the encounter between a U.K. Royal Air Force RC-135W Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft and a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet over the Black Sea.
On that day, a Royal Air Force RC-135W performing a routine surveillance patrol in international airspace was intercepted by two armed Russian Su-27 Flanker jets that “interacted” with the British spy plane for about 90 minutes. At a certain point, one of the two fighters released a missile. Wallace attributed the incident to “technical malfunction,” a version in agreement with the outcome of the Russian investigation.
However, the close encounter has been described in leaked U.S. military documents part of the so-called Pentagon Leaks, as much more dangerous than previously reported.
As explained by the Washington Post, the Pentagon document, labeled “SECRET/NOFORN:
At the time of the incident, the British RC-135 was listening to intercepted communications between a Russian radar controller on the ground and the pilot of one of the Russian Su-27s that were sent to intercept the spy plane, which was in international airspace off the coast of Russian-occupied Crimea.
The Su-27s were not within the visual range of the RC-135 but were equipped with beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (AAMs).
One of the Su-27 pilots misinterpreted an instruction from a radar operator on the ground and thought he had permission to fire on the RC-135. The Russian pilot achieved a missile lock on the British aircraft, then fired an AAM. However, the “missile did not launch properly.”
The incident was judged by one of the U.S. defense officials as “really, really scary.”