Quick Reaction Alert Typhoons were scrambled today from their temporary base at Leuchars Station in Fife, say the Royal Air Force.

The scramble was in response to Russian military aircraft operating in international airspace, but within NATO‘s Air Policing Area.

It is understood that the Royal Norwegian Air Force, scrambled their Quick Reaction Alert F-16s to intercept and identify these aircraft.  They were visually identified as two Russian Tu-160 Blackjacks – long-range, supersonic bombers.

The RAF say in a Tweet that the Russian Tu-160 Blackjacks continued to fly south towards UK airspace, and so QRA Typhoons operating out of Leuchars Station in Fife were scrambled.

Yesterday we reported that Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon jets were launched from Leuchars Station to intercept two Russian Bear F aircraft off the Scottish coast.

The Russian aircraft were identified as a TU-142 Bear F maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

The MoD say that this scramble was caused by the Russian aircraft entering the UK Flight Information Region, the UK’s controlled zone of international airspace. Monitoring this zone ensures the safe passage for all other aircraft, including civilian transatlantic airliners that are under UK civilian air traffic control.

Why does the UK intercept aircraft outside of its own airspace?

Andy Netherwood, a former Royal Air Force pilot, explained why this is done.

“A country’s sovereign airspace extends 12 miles beyond its coastline, sitting above its territorial waters.  However, there are 3 main reasons why unknown or potentially hostile aircraft must be intercepted before they reach this point.”

All airspace around the world is divided into Flight Information Regions (FIRs). Each FIR is managed by a controlling authority (in this case the UK) that has responsibility for ensuring that air traffic services are provided to the aircraft flying within it. UK Airspace is divided into three FIRs; London, Scottish and Shanwick Oceanic.

“The first is flight safety. Whilst sovereign airspace only extends 12 miles from the coastline, countries are responsible for ensuring the safety of civil aviation, including the provision of ATC services, within areas known as Flight Information Regions or FIRs. These extend well beyond the 12-mile limit. Russian long range aviation often transits the London and Scottish FIRs without filing a flight plan, talking to ATC or ‘squawking’ (operating their transponders).  This makes them effectively invisible to civilian ATC and is very dangerous as airliners are also flying through this airspace.  By shadowing Russian aircraft, the intercepting aircraft can show ATC where they are, allowing controllers to move airliners safely out of the way.

The second reason is because of the speed at which aircraft travel.  An aircraft flying at 600 knots will travel 12 miles in little over a minute.  Waiting until an unknown or hostile aircraft has entered sovereign airspace before intercepting is too late. It leaves insufficient time to safely carry out the intercept, visually identify the aircraft, provide all the required information back to decision-makers, and carry out any necessary action. Russian aircraft will normally be intercepted by the Norwegian Air Force and then handed over to RAF aircraft ensuring they are continually shadowed.”

A Typhoon is pictured intercepting a Russian aircraft in the UK FIR.

“The final reason is to demonstrate capability and intent. One of the reasons Russia carries out these exercises is to test NATO and the UK. A failure to intercept would be interpreted as weakness and encourage further probing.”

For more on why the RAF intercept aircraft around the UK, you can read the full piece.

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I’m guessing the NATO pilots remained professional during the intercept unlike their Russian counterparts when they perform an intercept of a NATO aircraft.

Nigel Collins

I remember reading that China keeps sending up aged aircraft into Japanese air space wearing out both there fighters and pilots.

Replacing all of our current tranche 1 fleet given that many new developments for Tempest can be incorporated into them would make a great deal of sense to me, especially if we intend to cut the numbers of our F35 by half.

After all, Germany is planning on 90 so if we did the same on the back end of this order we could expect a very good price and cover the Tranche 2’s as well give or take.

Robert Blay

Pilots and aircraft fly far fewer hours when on QRA duties compared to routine day to day operational flying training.

Nigel Collins

Cleary we have no idea of how many QRA’s actually take place. No doubt some people on here know better! 9 April 2019 “Dear Mr xxxxxx, Thank you for your e-mail of 7 March 2019 asking for information about the Typhoon, the F-35 Lightning and Quick Reaction Alert launches during 2018. Specifically, you requested the following information: “I am writing a dissertation on military spending and would like to know the following: – 1) Hourly running cost of the Eurofighter Typhoon 2) Hourly running cost of the Lockheed Martin F35B 3) How many QRA launches did the RAF do in… Read more »

David Barry

This is just typical of the ‘secrecy’ bubble that surrounds Defence. Exactly who are they keeping this information secret from? The Russians? Is Paul Webb anally retentive in his real life?


Keep off the grass Ivan.


What does that mean? I searched the meaning but does not seem to fit what article is about

Daniele Mandelli

Morning Ulya. Still trying to understand British Idioms I see!


Hello Daniele, I am, I think it mean “keep alway”? but not sure. Another question, name Ivan used as generic term for Russian man, is there one for woman?

Daniele Mandelli

Yes, more or less!

I thought Ivan was a term for the stereotypical, tough, simple, cannon fodder Russian foot soldier, who served you so well in the Great Patriotic War. That is how I have always seen it.

Women? I don’t know, actually! Babushka maybe??


Babushka is grandmother or Nane in my language (I think that is correct spelling in Latin letters), it is respectful term. When I was in UAE, Svetlana was often used to describe Russian “models” but not same context as Ivan 🙂 I will research more

Daniele Mandelli

Agree. When Babushka is mentioned I visualise an elderly lady with head scarf.
So not the same. Cannot think of another term.


Very funny. Russians are actually nice people but a shame about Putin.

Love the fact Ulya doesn’t understand the idiom!

Daniele Mandelli

Ulya is a welcome addition to the characters here.
A differing perspective that is not outright trolling is welcome.


I hope I am not considered troll Daniele, I am guilty sometime of wanting to tease or argue with some here when it comes to their view of Russia as we see thing very different but much better to not reply at all I think


Never seen as a troll Ulya, always good to have a different view. “Keep off the grass” you are right means “keep away”. Comes from signs that some people put in parks or in front gardens for others not to step on to their grass/property. Kind of saying “keep away” without saying “keep away” – a more polite way of saying it. But now in general terms means exactly that – “keep away” 🙂


I think this kind of mission would be good to test drone fighters.


This is why defence is an afterthought in this country these days. Literally the most mundane information possible that could of scared the crap out the general populace in the early days of the cold war, now I doubt most people even know what a blackjack is


Of course we know what a blackjack is…. it’s a card game! I doubt many people know or care about the nato names associated with Russian/Soviet aircraft…. Fishbed, Flogger, Flanker’s…. the average member of the public would think your talking a foreign language!

David Barry

I’ve been in <illom, Cumbria for a week, English defo is a foreign language.

Taking the train to Carlisle yesterday, at 06:45 a red flag was flying at Eskmeals… early start or late finish?

David Barry