The RAF has confirmed that two fighter jets were scrambled earlier today to divert Russian Bear bombers away from UK airspace.
The Typhoon fighters were launched from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland alongside a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, against ‘unidentified aircraft’ approaching the UK area of interest, the RAF said in a statement.
‘Subsequently we intercepted and escorted four Russian Bear aircraft,’ a spokesperson confirmed.
‘Our Typhoon fighters escorted the Russian aircraft out of the UK’s area of interest. At no time did the Russian bombers enter UK sovereign airspace.’
This type of operation, known as a Quick Reaction Alert, is not uncommon for the RAF, and typically involves fighter jets escorting Russian military planes within the UK area of interest – international airspace for which the UK is responsible.
The RAF said it ‘routinely’ intercepts Russian planes and ‘works closely with NATO partners to monitor such aircraft.’
‘Bear’ is the official NATO designation for Russian strategic bombers. The aircraft are frequently intercepted by NATO fighters as they often perform patrols on the boundaries of NATO airspace.
Typhoon jets were most recently scrambled in November last year in order to escort Russian TU-160 Blackjack strategic bombers away from UK airspace. The BBC reports that Russian military aircraft often do not communicate with air traffic control or identify themselves to other air traffic.
Today’s incident comes amid rising tensions between the two countries as fears build over the possibility Russia may be preparing to invade Ukraine, and just one day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned from a visit to Kyiv to discuss the ongoing crisis with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
A scheduled call between Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin was cancelled on Monday, January 31 after the prime minister was called to the House of Commons to respond to the publication of the Sue Gray report.
Johnson has previously warned Putin that war in Ukraine would be a ‘military disaster’ and urged him to avoid further ‘bloodshed’ in the region.
According to Sky News, the Royal Navy is also currently monitoring two Russian ships transiting through the English Channel which are travelling on the way to conduct ‘combat exercises.’