The chief of Britain’s air force has condemned its Russian counterpart after two Russian maritime patrol bombers were intercepted north-east of Scotland.
Royal Air Force Typhoon fighters were deployed from a base in Lossiemouth, Moray, as the Russian Tu-142 “Bear-F” aircraft approached from the north-east on Wednesday.
The Russian planes stayed in international airspace over the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea, but were flying in the UK’s area of interest, the RAF said in a statement.
These Russian bombers are relics of the Cold War, do not comply with international air traffic regulations and are a hazard to civilian and military aircraftMike Wigston, RAF chief
Norwegian F-16s and F-35 jets, and a NATO E-3A were also deployed to monitor the Russian planes, which were regarded as unidentified as they had not made radio contact with civilian or military Air Traffic Control, or filed a flight plan.
Such flights by Russian air force planes are not uncommon. RAF jets were also scrambled twice in one week last month to monitor similar Tu-142 Bear aircraft.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, said the flights of the “Cold War era” Russian bombers contravened air traffic regulations.
“These Russian bombers are relics of the Cold War, do not comply with international air traffic regulations and are a hazard to civilian and military aircraft,” he said.
“Despite the global pandemic, the Royal Air Force and our allies continue to ensure Russian military flights pose no threat to NATO and UK airspace.”
One of the RAF pilots involved said the operation showed the benefits of cooperation between NATO allies such as Britain and Norway.
“Today’s scramble demonstrated the close working relationships we have with our NATO colleagues,” the pilot, who was not identified, said in the RAF statement.
“After scrambling to intercept the two Russian aircraft, we were in close contact with Battlespace Managers from the RAF and Norway, who directed us towards the aircraft and relayed orders throughout, ensuring we could confirm where they were and what they were doing at all times.”
The RAF statement added: “Recent events have increased awareness of Russian military activity, however, the RAF have routinely intercepted, identified and escorted Russian air assets that transit international airspace within the UK’s area of interest.”