RAF jets scramble to intercept unresponsive Russian military plane after US drone downed in Black Sea

15 March 2023, 09:34 | Updated: 15 March 2023, 14:23

The RAF scrambled to intercept an unresponsive bomber
The RAF scrambled to intercept an unresponsive bomber. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

RAF jets scrambled to intercept a Russian military aircraft after it failed to respond to air traffic control in Estonia.

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The IL-78 Midas refuelling aircraft was flying between St Petersburg and Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave in eastern Europe, near Estonian airspace.

British and German planes raced to meet the plane after it did not communicate with air traffic control – the first time this kind of operation was carried out by two countries.

It comes just after a Russian fighter jet and a US drone collided in the Black Sea.

The two jets escorted the Midas and then intercepted an An-148 airliner that also passed close to Estonia's airspace.

An unnamed pilot from the RAF's IX (Bomber) Squadron said: "We were scrambled to intercept an aircraft that was approaching Estonian airspace. We identified and monitored it as it transited close to Nato airspace.

"Any aircraft that are not communicating with Air Traffic Control or on a recognised flight plan will be intercepted by us to ensure we know who they are and maintain flight safety for all airspace users.

"As a fighter pilot this was a routine business, even though I was flying alongside a German colleague. It is clear that all of our training and hard work paid off as we seamlessly operated together."

The RAF is going to be responsible for policing Baltic airspace over Nato’s members there from April, taking over from the German air force.

Read more: Russian ambassador accuses US of 'act of provocation' and denies Kremlin was behind downing of American Reaper drone

The "Midas", front, pictured refuelling a bomber, was intercepted by the RAF
The "Midas", front, pictured refuelling a bomber, was intercepted by the RAF. Picture: Alamy

Russian fighter jet hit American drone over Black Sea, says US military

But tensions between the alliance and Russia have increased even further after the jet and drone crash in the Black Sea.

A Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea, causing American forces to bring down the unmanned aerial vehicle in international waters, the US military said.

The White House said the incident, which involved two Su-27 jets and a US Reaper, was "unsafe and unprofessional".

Russia's ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said: "We view this incident as a provocation."

He was summoned by the US State Department to answer for the incident.

"What would the be reaction of the United States if you see such a Russian drone very close to, for example, San Francisco or New York?" Mr Antonov said.

"For me it's clear, for you as well."

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