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A Russian fighter jet pilot tried to shoot down a Royal Air Force (RAF) surveillance plane in an incident last year, believing he had been authorized to fire, the BBC reported on Sept. 14, citing three senior Western defense sources.
The news outlet said that the RAF's RC-135 Rivet Joint with a crew of up to 30 was flying a surveillance mission over the Black Sea in international space on Sept. 29, 2022, when it encountered two Russian Su-27 Flanker fighters.
According to Russian communications intercepted by the Rivet Joint, one of the pilots received ambiguous orders from the ground that he mistakenly understood as permission to fire.
Subsequently, he fired an air-to-air missile against the British plane, but the projectile failed to lock on the target and missed, the BBC said.
Despite reprimands from the pilot of the second Su-27, the Russian aviator tried to launch a second missile, but it reportedly simply fell off the wing, suggesting malfunction or aborted launch.
At the time, the Russian Defense Ministry tried to explain the whole incident as a result of a "technical malfunction." Then Defense Secretary Ben Wallace called it a "potentially dangerous engagement" but accepted Moscow's explanation.
According to the so-called Pentagon Leaks published online in the spring, the U.S. intelligence described the incident as a "near shoot-down" that could have potentially amounted to an act of war.
NATO aircraft regularly patrol the Black Sea, which at times leads to incidents with the Russian Air Force. In March, a Russian Su-27 forced down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone over international waters of the Black Sea.