Rafale Fighters ‘Chased Out’ By Russian Sukhoi Jets; Su-27s Remain Guardian Of Russia’s Frontiers

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on March 5 that its Air Force scrambled Su-27 fighter aircraft to intercept an airborne early warning aircraft (AWACS) and two Rafale fighters of the French Air Force over the Black Sea. 

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The Ministry revealed that Russian radars detected three air targets heading towards the state border of Russia. In response to the potential violation of the Russian Federation’s state border, a Su-27 fighter from the on-duty air defense forces was deployed. 

The Russian pilots identified the approaching air targets as an E-3F AWACS aircraft and two Rafale C fighter jets. Subsequently, the foreign military aircraft altered their course away from Russian airspace, and the Russian fighter aircraft returned to its home airfield without any breaches reported. 

Highlighting adherence to international airspace regulations, the Russian Defense Ministry stressed that the Su-27 fighter jets strictly followed established protocols while operating over international waters. 

The flight was conducted without crossing established air routes or engaging in any dangerous maneuvers with the intercepted foreign aircraft. 

The interception underscores Russia’s heightened response to the presence of NATO reconnaissance aircraft near its borders, suspected of gathering intelligence for Ukrainian forces. 

These intelligence-gathering activities are believed to be utilized by Ukrainian forces to target Russian military assets and positions. 

What remains unclear is whether the French AWACS aircraft intercepted by the Russian fighter jets were engaged in similar intelligence-gathering operations. The latest interception follows previous encounters between Russian and foreign military aircraft in the region. 

In February 2024, the French Defense Minister disclosed an incident where Russian forces threatened to shoot down a French surveillance aircraft patrolling international airspace over the Black Sea.

In October 2023, a Russian MiG-31 fighter escorted a Norwegian Air Force Poseidon patrol aircraft over the Barents Sea. In the same month, a Russian Su-27 intercepted two US Air Force B-1B bombers over the Baltic Sea.

Before these incidents, on October 9, 2023, Russian fighters intercepted British Air Force aircraft over the Black Sea, preventing the violation of Russian airspace by RC-135s and Typhoons.

Su-27 Flanker: Guardian Of Russia’s Frontiers 

Developed by the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, the Sukhoi Su-27 was envisioned as Moscow’s response to the formidable F-15 Eagle. Initially deployed as an air superiority fighter, the Su-27 has evolved into a versatile family of aircraft over the years. 

These models include the Su-30, Su-33 designed for naval fleet defense operations on aircraft carriers, the Su-34 optimized for strike and fighter-bomber roles, and the Su-35, boasting enhanced capabilities for both air superiority and multi-role missions.  

Even with the introduction of more advanced models, the “Flanker” continued to serve as the cornerstone of the Russian Air Force, showcasing its effectiveness in high-intensity aerial confrontations on numerous occasions. 

In March 2023, for instance, Russian Su-27 fighters made international headlines when the aircraft intercepted an American MQ-9 Reaper drone in a dramatic encounter. 

The two Su-27 jets executed 19 close passes over the drone within a time frame of at least 30 minutes. During the encounter, the Russian fighters dumped fuel onto the MQ-9 Reaper before colliding with its rear propeller, resulting in the drone crashing into the Black Sea. 

File Image: Su-27 Fighter Jet

Shortly thereafter, the Su-27 once again captured attention when Turkish media released a video allegedly showing a Russian Air Force (VKS) Su-27 fighter attempting to disrupt a Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 drone. 

Employing a technique known as jet wash, the fighter jet aimed to disrupt the thrust of the Turkish drone. However, the Bayraktar TB2 drone managed to maintain operational capability and survived the encounter. 

In a separate incident in September 2022, a Russian Su-27 Flanker fired a missile near a UK Royal Air Force RC-135W Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft over the Black Sea. 

Initially, Russia attributed the missile launch to a technical malfunction. However, leaked classified materials from the US Department of Defense later suggested that the missile was intentionally fired after the Flanker pilot misunderstood an order. 

Even before Russia’s incursion into Ukraine in 2022, the strained relationship between NATO and Russia was apparent, the Su-27 played a significant role in safeguarding Russian borders. 

In 2020, the USA released a video depicting two Russian Su-27 Flankers flying in an unsafe and unprofessional manner near a B-52 bomber. The Su-27s crossed within 100 feet of the B-52’s nose multiple times at the same altitude, and while in the afterburner, they caused turbulence and restricted the B-52’s maneuverability.