Exclusive

Russian jets ‘simulate bombing raids’ on Britain as RAF faces monthly scramble to defend UK airspace

22 February 2024, 07:00 | Updated: 23 February 2024, 10:46

LBC visits RAF Lossiemouth

Alan Zycinski

By Alan Zycinski

RAF jets have been scrambled to respond to Russian military aircraft in British airspace at least 35 times in the last five years, LBC can reveal.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

LBC’s discovery is accompanied by a stark warning that Moscow uses these flights to carry out simulated bombing raids on the United Kingdom.

Ministry of Defence figures obtained by LBC show that planes from the UK’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) station have been deployed on 66 occasions since 2018, responding to Russian aircraft on the majority of occasions.

The QRA is designed to provide an immediate response to potential terror threats on commercial airlines, technical failures and the presence of hostile states in UK airspace.

Read more: Vladimir Putin 'has Parkinson's and there is something fundamentally wrong with him', ex-MI6 boss tells LBC

LBC gets a walkthrough of RAF Lossiemouth

Earlier this week, LBC was invited to visit RAF Lossiemouth in northeast Scotland, one of only two QRA stations in the UK, where Group Captain William Cooper, Commander of the RAF's Typhoon Air Wing at Lossiemouth, warned that his men and women had witnessed a “busy drumbeat” of Russian aircraft probing UK airspace.

“We have seen examples of Russian aircraft flying profiles which simulate some form of air to surface attack.

“Not only is that in itself quite alarming, but of course that means they might be getting quite close to the UK mainland and towards our territorial waters which is even more of a safety concern for us.

“I think we all understand that we are living in what is a very dangerous decade globally but especially in Europe and the Middle East.”

Read More: Putin plans to launch ‘killing spree’ against Russia critics in the UK after Alexei Navalny 'murder'

Read More: Putin's cod war: Russia tears up treaty that allowed UK trawlers to catch fish in Russian sea

Meanwhile, Wing Commander Rob McCartney, who leads the anti-submarine unit at Lossiemouth, emphasised that these concerns have resulted in British defence being on a “general push to become more lethal”.

“Increasing our lethality is all part of deterrence. The RAF is certainly on a push to become more lethal and more agile… we have procured a new Torpedo, a Stingray, a British torpedo, that gives us another option for that attack role.”

RAF Upper Heyford airbase Oxfordshire UK 1990. Home of 20th Tactical Fighter wing USAF
RAF Upper Heyford airbase Oxfordshire UK 1990. Home of 20th Tactical Fighter wing USAF. Picture: Alamy
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin. Picture: Alamy

Amid increased instability across the globe, the Chancellor has come under intense pressure to increase defence spending in his upcoming Spring Statement. Last week, LBC revealed that former Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is lobbying for the Prime Minister to set a firm date by which the UK will be spending 3% of GDP on defence.

The UK’s defence capabilities have faced further scrutiny, moreover, after it was revealed that a Trident missile failed to launch effectively during a test of the UK’s nuclear deterrent last month. Despite these concerns, the MOD insisted it has “absolute confidence” in the nuclear deterrent.

On the specific threat posed by the Kremlin, Air Marshal Edward Stringer, who served as Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, told LBC that Russian aircraft has come perilously close to violating the twelve-mile perimeter around the British coastline that forms the UK’s sovereign airspace:

“I’ve known them get within a couple of miles and then they turn around and go back. One can imagine that what they’re doing is trying to monitor our performance in intercepting them.

“Russian aircraft [have] come down the North Sea, setting up on what look like simulated attack profiles for the launching of air-launched cruise miles”.

Christopher Steele, who led MI6’s Russia Desk between 2006-9, believes LBC’s findings reflect Russia’s “profound interest in the UK as an intelligence target”.

He added that this interest includes “precisely the sort of hostile aircraft incursion, surveillance and threat” detailed in LBC’s data, as well as the UK’s position as “the staunchest ally of Ukraine” in the eyes of the Kremlin.

On the possibility of conflict spilling over into NATO territory, and potentially sparking global conflict, Mr Steele said the re-election of President Donald Trump, about whom he compiled the famous ‘Steele dossier’, which claimed the then presidential candidate had been “compromised” by Russia’s FSB, could prove to be the biggest threat.

“I think the most dangerous point would be if Donald Trump were to be reelected president, or were to either question, undermine or leave the commitments that the US has under Article Five of the NATO Treaty, which is mutual defence…so I think that’s probably the most dangerous scenario.”

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

The Israeli Iron Dome air defence system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran

Israel hails ‘success’ in blocking Iran’s unprecedented attack

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the Middle East is 'on the brink'

'The Middle East is on the brink,' UN chief warns, as Israel approves plan of attack after huge Iranian onslaught

Elections 2024 Media Debates

News organisations urge Joe Biden and Donald Trump to agree to debates

Survivors of the attack are set to sue MI5

Hundreds of survivors of Manchester Arena bombing to sue MI5

The UK is set to experience some warm, dry weather

Two-week period when Brits to bask in warm, dry weather revealed, after cold period ahead

Lennix died after being hit by a car on Saturday

Parents pay tribute to 'happy go lucky' son, 8, killed in crash while riding scooter on quiet Wiltshire road

Damien Guerot stepped in in Sydney

Builder who wielded bollard to defend children from rampaging Sydney knifeman says attacker's 'eyes were empty'

The IDF said over 300 weapons were fired by Iran.

Israel approves plan of attack after foiling massive Iran onslaught, as world leaders call for 'stabilisation'

The G7 have condemned the Iran attack on Israel

G7 leaders condemn Iran's 'unprecedented' attack on Israel and say they 'stand ready to take further measures'

Russia Ukraine War

More civilians die in Ukraine amid warning US aid delays will hamper Kyiv forces

The minibus lying on its side

Seventeen rushed to hospital after bus carrying football fans overturns on motorway in multiple car smash

Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy and Paloma Faith join celebrities demanding Government act over Sudan

Dawn Singleton was among six victims of the stabbings

Police officer fiancé of Sydney stabbing victim 'discovered she had been killed after being scrambled to the scene'

The IDF said over 300 weapons were fired by Iran.

Israel says Iran conflict 'not over' and vows to 'collect a price when timing is right', as US urges restraint

Poland Abortion

Polish opponents of abortion march against recent steps to liberalise strict law

A boy, 8, was killed in the incident.

Boy, 8, dies after crash on quiet Wiltshire cul-de-sac