Russia’s National Defense Control Center reported that on Saturday Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet scrambled to intercept the US Air Force’s RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over the Black Sea.
“A Su-27 fighter jet of the Southern Military District’s air defense units on duty was scrambled to identify the air target and to prevent it from violating the state border of the Russian Federation,” the statement says. “The Russian fighter jet crew identified the air target as an RC-135 strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the US Air Force and escorted it over the Black Sea.”
Also noted that the flight of the Russian fighter jet was conducted in strict compliance with international airspace rules. No violation of the state border of the Russian Federation was allowed, the National Defense Control Center said. After the U.S. aircraft had turned away from the Russian border, the Russian fighter jet returned to the home airbase.
The RC-135 is a rapidly deployable aircraft, which flies Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed missions of national priority to collect optical and electronic data on ballistic targets. This data is critical to arms treaty compliance verification, and development of U.S. strategic defense and theater missile defense concepts.
According to the U.S. Air Force website, the current RC-135 fleet is the latest iteration of modifications to this pool of -135 aircraft going back to 1962. Initially employed by Strategic Air Command to satisfy nationally tasked intelligence collection requirements, the RC-135 fleet has also participated in every sizable armed conflict involving U.S. assets during its tenure.
RC-135s were present supporting operations in Vietnam, the Mediterranean for Operation El Dorado Canyon, Grenada for Operation Urgent Fury, Panama for Operation Just Cause, and Southwest Asia for operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. RC-135s have maintained a constant presence in Southwest Asia since the early 1990s.