Based on reports, the pilot of the Su-27 fighter plane launched two missiles at the British jet in September after believing he had clearance.
The unarmed RAF Rivet Joint was on normal patrol in international airspace when it was pursued by two Russian Su-27 fighter planes, according to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace at the time.
One of the jets fired two missiles near the RAF aircraft during the 90-minute engagement.
The first one failed to hit its objective rather than failing; Moscow had blamed the missile launch on a “technical malfunction.”
The Defence Secretary stated that Britain has paused patrols following the encounter, which he described as a “potentially dangerous engagement.”
The United Kingdom had accepted Russia’s explanation.
However, three senior Western defense officials have informed that intercepted Russian communications by the RAF jet suggest a different story.
According to reports, one of the pilots believed he was given the go-ahead to attack the British jet after receiving an unclear signal from a Russian ground station.
Miscommunication in the Skies: How a Phrase Led to a Near-Miss Incident
A Western source claims that the pilot mistook the phrase “you have the target” as authorization to fire.
In accordance to the sources, the missile launched properly but failed to lock onto the airliner, implying that it was a “near-miss” rather than a “malfunction.”
The second Russian pilot, however, understood the instruction and cursed his wingman after firing the first missile.
He is said to have asked his colleague what he thought he was doing.
However, the initial pilot launched another missile, which merely dropped from the wing, suggesting that it either malfunctioned or that the launch was canceled.
It may have turned into a war if the first pilot had succeeded in shooting down the Rivet Joint.
The Ministry of Defence has stated that it would not share information about the intercepted communications.
An MoD official responded to the findings, saying, “Our intent has always been to protect the safety of our operations, avoid unnecessary escalation, and inform the public and international community.”