Stand off in the sky: RAF and German fighter jets intercept Russian spy plane near Baltic countries

17 April 2023, 16:54

The intelligence plane (top right, on the left) was intercepted by Typhoon jets, as was its Flanker (bottom right) escort
The intelligence plane (top right, on the left) was intercepted by Typhoon jets, as was its Flanker (bottom right) escort. Picture: Social media

By Will Taylor

RAF fighter jets joined German warplanes in intercepting Russian aircraft flying near Nato's Baltic members as tensions over Ukraine continue.

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Days after it emerged an RAF intelligence plane was involved in a "near-shoot down" with Russian fighter jets, the British and German aircraft intercepted three Russian planes.

Among them was a Il-20 Coot-A intelligence plane which was flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave between the Baltics and Poland.

It was flying with an escort of Russian Flanker fighter jets, which escorted it near Estonia.

Wing Commander Maccoll, who commands the RAF's 140 Expeditionary Wing, said: "This was another demonstration of our readiness and commitment to react at speed to conduct a live intercept.

"These combined RAF and German Air Force intercepts continue to enhance NATO cohesion, ensuring seamless cooperation and understanding during these missions.

"Our allies and partners in the region should remain assured that NATO is here to stay, and the UK continues its commitment to collective defence of NATO Airspace."

An RAF pilot from IX (B) squadron said: "We often see Russian military aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea and so this was a routine intercept for us.

"Nevertheless, the importance of intercepting these aircraft and our commitment to the collective defence of NATO airspace remains steadfast and resolute.

"What this intercept has proven is that together with our German allies, we are able to act with speed and decisiveness to effectively ensure the Alliance's security."

Read more: Seconds from disaster: Russia 'nearly shot down RAF plane' but malfunction stopped missile attack

It comes days after a leaked document and US defence officials revealed how close an RAF intelligence aircraft came to being shot down.

The British surveillance aircraft, which had a crew on board, was flying over the Black Sea when it was intercepted by Russian fighter jets in September.

Two anonymous US defence officials said a Russian pilot misinterpreted what a radar operator on the ground told him, and believed he had permission to shoot it down.

The intelligence plane was intercepted
The intelligence plane was intercepted. Picture: Alamy

The Su-27 locked on to the Rivet Joint, but the missile did not launch properly, the officials told The New York Times.

Their revelations came after a trove of documents were leaked to an online chat room. A suspect, who is part of the Massachusetts National Guard, was arrested by FBI agents.

It is considered the worst US intelligence breach since Edward Snowden. One document described the RAF incident as a "near-shoot down".

Read more: Putin opponent Vladimir Kara-Murza sentenced to 25 years in jail in Russia for treason

The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said in October that the encounter was "potentially dangerous" and a missile was released in the RAF jet's "vicinity".

But according to the officials, the incident was far more serious than was made out at the time.

A British defence official said: "A significant proportion of the content of these reports is untrue, manipulated, or both.

"We strongly caution against anybody taking the veracity of these claims at face value and would also advise them to take time to question the source and purpose of such leaks."

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