RAF jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers
A number of RAF jets have been scrambled to intercept two Russian long-range bombers off northern Scotland, the latest in a series of provocative operations by the country's air force.
As tensions between Nato and Russia have worsened over the Ukraine crisis, Moscow has significantly increased the number of military flights probing Nato airspace. The number of interceptions over the Baltic States trebled last year and Nato members including Britain have stepped up air policing support in the area.
The two RAF Typhoons were operating under a Nato command.
The Russian planes were spotted flying north of Scotland towards the UK. They were in international airspace throughout the incident.
The Bear bombers were not considered a threat at any time, according to sources briefed on the incident.
An RAF spokesman said: “RAF Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon fighter aircraft were launched today from RAF Lossiemouth after unidentified aircraft were tracked flying towards UK airspace.
"The aircraft were identified as Russian Bear aircraft which were escorted by the RAF Typhoon fighters until they were out of the UK area of interest.
"At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace.”
The Russian press attaché in London could not be reached for comment.
The incident is the latest in a string of probing manoeuvres toward Britain by Russian planes and ships in recent months.
In April, Typhoons out of Lossiemouth again intercepted Bear bombers flying near UK airspace, hours after HMS Argyll was deployed to monitor a destroyer and two other ships from the country as they passed through the English Channel.
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, previously told the Telegraph that when Russian aircraft were in the Channel "We had to scramble jets very quickly to see them off."
"It’s the first time since the height of the Cold War, it’s the first time that’s happened.
"That just shows you, you need to respond, each time he [Vladimir Putin] does something like that, you need to be ready to respond.”
Last year, RAF jets were launched to deter Russian aircraft eight times – more than a third of the 20 times they were scrambled.
None of the flights are understood to have crossed into UK airspace. It is not known what months of the year they incidents occurred.
Sir Tony Brenton, British ambassador to the Russia between 2004 and 2008, said there was no doubt Mr Putin’s decision to send planes close to Britain’s borders was deliberate.