The two fighters launched on Tuesday to intercept a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft flying close to Estonian airspace and not responding to communications, the British Ministry of Defence said.
The ministry said it was a first for the allies under the planned Joint NATO Air Policing but was in itself a routine mission for the jets.
“We were scrambled to intercept an aircraft that was approaching Estonian airspace. We identified and monitored it as it transited close to NATO airspace,” a typhoon pilot from IX (Bomber) Squadron said, in a statement provided by Defence.
“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.”
UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said the joint deployment “clearly demonstrates our collective resolve to challenge any potential threat to NATO’s borders”.
The mission came on the tail of what the US said was a Russian Su-27 fighter jet dumping fuel and eventually colliding with a US MQ-9 Reaper drone, forcing US forces to bring it down in international waters.
Russia said the drone was flying near the Russian border and went down “as a result of sharp manoeuvre”.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday the US would “continue to fly and to operate” in accordance with international law.
“This hazardous episode is part of a pattern of aggressive and risky and unsafe actions in international airspace,” Austin said.
“So make no mistake, the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows. And it is incumbent upon Russia to operate as military aircraft in a safe and professional manner.”
Lieutenant General Mark Hertling said shadowing and intercepts were typical in Europe, particularly around the Black Sea, which Russia falsely considers “their national lake”.
“You will see Russian aircraft continuously having these kinds of intercepts or shadows, but nothing like this,” he told CNN.
“Aeroplanes get close. You certainly will see there have been years where there are over a couple of 100 of these kinds of these incidents occurring every year and it’s normal procedure.
“But when you get this close, and you interfere with flight paths of other aircraft, either manned or unmanned, it’s certainly not under international law.”
The drone has not been recovered — and it may never be, according to John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council.
“I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to recover it. I mean, where it fell into the Black Sea, very, very deep water. We’re still assessing whether there can be any recovery effort mounted. There may not be,” Kirby told CNN.
“We did the best we could to minimise any intelligence value that might come from somebody else getting their hands on that drone,” he added.
When pressed further, Kirby said, “I certainly can’t speak for Russian efforts or what they may or may not be trying to take off the surface of the water”.
“I can just tell you that we’re still assessing that situation ourselves.”
Russia wants to recover the fragments of the surveillance drone, a Russian security official said Wednesday.
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, claimed in televised remarks that Tuesday’s incident was “another confirmation” of direct US involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. He said Russia planned to search for the drone’s debris.
“I don’t know if we can recover them or not, but we will certainly have to do that, and we will deal with it,” Patrushev said.
“I certainly hope for success.”
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said US-Russia relations were between at their “lowest point” and in a “deplorable state”.
According to Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the incident, but there was no contact at the highest level between Moscow and Washington.
“Russia did not refuse constructive dialogue, and is not refusing it now,” he said.
He pointed to a Russian Defence Ministry statement published on Tuesday claiming that there was no physical contact between the aircraft.
“I suggest that you focus on the statement of the Ministry of Defence, which clearly states that no weapons were used, and there was no physical contact,” Peskov said.
Countries with the highest military expenditure in the world
The Russian ambassador to the US said Russia does not want “confrontation” with the US, but “as we see it, American aircraft have no business being near the Russian border”.
The incident marks the first time Russian and US military aircraft have come into direct physical contact since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago and is likely to increase tensions between the two nations, with the US calling Russia’s actions “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional”.
(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)
Last modified: March 7, 2023