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.
? Quick Reaction Alert Typhoons were scrambled today from their temporary base at Leuchars Station in Fife.
✈️ This was in response to Russian military aircraft operating in international airspace, but within @NATO's Air Policing Area.
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— RAF Lossiemouth (@RAFLossiemouth) September 14, 2020
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.”
“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.”
“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.