Russia claims it intercepted long-retired Italian airplane

Tim Felce / Wikipedia

According to the Russian Defence Ministry, an Italian Breguet BR-1150 Atlantic approached its state border on August 14, prompting the Southern Military District to scramble a Su-27 jet fighter. But the Italian Navy’s Atlantics were retired in 2017.

“An intrusion into the territory of Russian Federation was prevented. After the Italian spy plane turned away from the border, Su-27 returned to its base,” Russian National Defence Management centre claimed, as reported by the state informational agency TASS. Italian Ministry of Defence denied the presence of any of its aircraft in the region, let alone the type not operated for many years.

As noted by The Aviationist, the whole charade was most likely caused by a gross misidentification. First off, it was not an Atlantic – a maritime patrol aircraft from the 60s – but the Atlantique 2, an updated version with revised appearance and updated systems. Secondly, it belonged to the French Navy, not Italian one, and was returning from the Romanian Navy Day celebrations that took place the same day. 

A mix-up likely was caused by a Russian pilot misidentifying both the type of the aircraft and the roundel, as the French Marine Nationale symbol is similar to the Italian Marina Militare, but has a blue dot in the middle instead of the green, and an anchor over it. 

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