RAF Typhoon jets were scrambled to meet two Russian Tu-160 bombers off the coast of the Shetland Islands, a northern island archipelago off mainland Scotland.

The Typhoon jets were joined off Scotland by a Voyager tanker from RAF Brize Norton in what can only be described as a routine event for both air forces.

A Royal Air Force spokesman said:

“We can confirm that quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby scrambled to monitor two Blackjack bombers while they were in the UK area of interest.

At no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK territorial airspace.”

It is understood that the Russian aircraft flew around the top of Scotland before passing along the west coast of Ireland and France and then turned around near the Spanish coast.

The Russian Ministry of Defence said in a statement:

“At some stages of the flight the Tu-160s were accompanied by foreign aircraft, including pilots of the British air force, for whom escorting Russian aircraft and naval vessels is for some reason always considered an exceptional event and the main news of the day.

All flights by the Russian air force are carried out strictly in accordance with international rules on the use of neutral airspace and seas, and without violating the borders of other countries.”

The aircraft, understood to be Tu-160’s, are often referred to as ‘Blackjack’ in the west and are supersonic strategic bombers. The Blackjack is also the world’s largest combat aircraft and has the heaviest take off weight of any military aircraft besides transports.

The aircraft can carry 40,000 kg (88,185 lb) of weaponry including nuclear missiles. Sightings of the Tu-160 are incredibly rare as there only 5 combat capable examples in service.

In April last year, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying that Russia was resuming production of the Tu-160. Russian news agency TASS Russia reported that the Russian Air Force will purchase at least 50 new-build Tu-160s and that production of the aircraft will restart at the Kazan aviation plant.

According to the MoD, the Typhoon pilots visually identified the two Russian aircraft and escorted them whilst in the UK area of interest but crucially, not in British airspace. It is understood that air to air refuelling support was provided by a Voyager aircraft from RAF Brize Norton.


George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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5 years ago

Oh those rascally russians.

David Southern
David Southern
5 years ago

I hope they build lots of those. Eye candy for aircraft enthusiasts they look nice like our Vulcan, VC10 etc. But lets face it; they’re old and easily picked off before they get anywhere near us.

Bill Gibbons
Bill Gibbons
5 years ago

Perhaps we could buy in the Russia s400 AA system . They would know what they were up against and half a dozen would cover the country with a surefire anti bomber capability . One would think that after the London Coventry Birmingham blitz Britain would have the world’s best air defence system by far. If BAE had not been created we would have many aircraft companies giving us designs for aircraft , instead we have a manopoly company giving us nothing yet .Mantis and teranus should be in service by now . And loads of em . And Cameron… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
5 years ago

All this fuss about the Russians flying round the UKADR is hot air. NATO has been doing the same to Russia, and previously the USSR since the 1950’s, with Sigint flights around the perimeter of the USSR using RC135’s, Francis Gary Powers in his U2 right over the Urals, RAF Canberra’s overflying, Royal Navy and USN submarines operating off Murmansk, and god knows what else that is still classified.
And those naughty Russians are flying their ancient Bear and Blackjack bombers testing NATO!
Oh please…. gives QRA some practice I suppose.