The Black Sea Incident: The Near Shoot-Down that Exposed Russian Air Force Recklessness


In a startling revelation, the BBC has obtained information indicating that a Russian pilot came perilously close to shooting down a Royal Air Force (RAF) surveillance plane over the Black Sea last year. This information directly contradicts the initial Russian claims of a “technical malfunction” and raises serious concerns about Russia’s military professionalism and the ever-present risk of geopolitical escalation.

The Incident

On September 29 last year, an RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft was flying a routine surveillance mission over the Black Sea in international airspace. The plane, crewed by up to 30 individuals, encountered two Russian SU-27 fighter jets. A breakdown in communication and misinterpretation of orders led one of the Russian pilots to fire two missiles at the British plane.

September 29, 2022: The Mission

• Aircraft Involved: RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint
• Mission Objectives: Surveillance over the Black Sea
• Crew: Up to 30
• Russian Aircraft Encountered: Two SU-27 fighter jets

RC-135W Rivet Joint

What Really Happened

• Miscommunication or Deliberate Action?: A Russian pilot fired two air-to-air missiles at the RAF plane.
• Interception: The RAF aircraft’s sensors intercepted Russian communications, debunking Russia’s “technical malfunction” claim.

Miscommunication and Misfire

Intercepted communications by the RAF aircraft revealed that the Russian pilots received ambiguous instructions from their ground station controller. One pilot believed he had permission to engage, leading to the missile’s release. A subsequent argument broke out between the two Russian pilots over this dangerous misinterpretation, raising questions about Russia’s military discipline.

Official Responses

UK Ministry of Defence (MoD)

Initially, the MoD publicly accepted the Russian explanation, calling it a “potentially dangerous engagement” but not a “deliberate escalation.”

RC-135W Rivet Joint

The United States’ Standpoint

A leaked intelligence report revealed that the U.S. military termed the incident as “a near shoot-down,” with unnamed officials describing it as “really, really scary.”

The Underlying Issues

Risk of Geopolitical Escalation

This event is an unsettling reminder of the volatile geopolitical climate between NATO and Russia. One misstep could quickly escalate into a larger conflict, dragging NATO members into a military confrontation with Russia.

Professionalism and Discipline

The incident has raised significant questions about the Russian Air Force’s discipline and professionalism, especially in the context of similarly risky engagements in recent history.

Russian SU-27

Recent Developments

Following this near miss, RAF planes have continued their surveillance flights over the Black Sea, now escorted by Typhoon fighter jets. Despite the high stakes, the RAF remains the only NATO ally to conduct crewed missions in this sensitive area.


The incident serves as a stark reminder of the high geopolitical stakes and the thin line between routine surveillance and an international crisis. As tensions continue to rise, all eyes are on NATO and Russia’s next moves.

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