RAF chief hits out at Russia after two 'cold war' bombers intercepted

30 April 2020, 07:05

One of the Russian Tu-142 'BEAR-F' aircraft that approached the UK and NATO's area of interest.
One of the Russian Tu-142 'BEAR-F' aircraft that approached the UK and NATO's area of interest. Picture: RAF Lossiemouth
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The head of the RAF has hit out at his Russian counterpart after two of the country's maritime patrol bombers were intercepted north-east of Scotland.

Royal Air Force 'quick reaction alert' fighters took off from a base in Lossiemouth, Moray, as the Russian Tu-142 "Bear-F" aircraft approached from the north-east on Wednesday.

The Russian bombers remained in international airspace over the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea, but the RAF said they were flying in the UK's area of interest.

Norwegian airforce assets were also deployed to intercept the Russian plans as they had not made radio contact or filed a flight plan with air traffic control.

The RAF often scrambles aircraft to monitor Russian jet straying close to UK airspace.

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."