RAF intercepts Russian warplane headed for UK

Russian Bear aircraft photographed from an RAF Typhoon as it approached UK airspace. Picture: RAF/MoD

Russian Bear aircraft photographed from an RAF Typhoon as it approached UK airspace. Picture: RAF/MoD

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JETS from RAF Lossiemouth intercepted a Russian Bear bomber as it approached UK airspace, the Ministry of Defence said.

It was the second flypast by aircraft from Vladimir Putin’s air force in three days.

The Soviet-era Tupolev Tu-95 aircraft was flying in international airspace on Friday when it was met with Typhoon fighters from RAF Lossiemouth.

The intervention follows a similar incident on Wednesday when two Bear bombers were tracked over the North Sea as Nato radars picked up a series of Russian formations engaged in “significant military manoeuvres” ranging from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.

An RAF spokeswoman said the Russian aircraft has been detected by the RAF Control and Reporting Centre at Boulmer in Northumberland, which scrambled the Typhoons.

She said: “Following a similar incident on Wednesday 29 October, the RAF Typhoon pilots visually identified the Russian aircraft and escorted them through the them through the UK flight information region.”

Wednesday’s incident and the other exercises led Nato to warn of an “unusual” spike in Russian military flights in European airspace.

It involved two Bears that had originally been part of a larger formation of eight aircraft – including four Il-78 tanker planes – intercepted by Norwegian F-16 fighters in international airspace over the Norwegian Sea.

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While six of the planes returned back towards Russia, the two Bears carried on towards the UK where they were picked up by Boulmer. The Bears continued over the Atlantic to the west of Portugal, where they were intercepted by Portuguese Air Force F-16s before turning back.

The Russian flight coincided with similar incidents over the Black Sea and the Baltic where Russian military formations were intercepted by Turkish fighters and Portuguese jets assigned to the Nato Baltic air policing mission.

They come against a background of months of heightened tensions between Moscow and the West following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military incursion into Ukraine.

On Wednesday RAF Typhoon fighters were also launched to intercept a civilian aircraft which was causing concern to air traffic control authorities.

The aircraft, a Russian-made Antonov An-26 cargo airliner from Latvia, was safely escorted to London Stansted after being intercepted by aircraft from RAF Coningsby. It was later allowed to continue its original journey to Birmingham.

Air Vice-Marshal Gary Waterfall said: “The Royal Air Force was formed to secure the skies over the UK, and it remains our main task. This week’s news has shown yet again that the RAF’s quick reaction alert is an essential element of our nation’s security.”

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