RAF quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth to monitor two Tu-142 ‘BEAR-F’ Maritime Patrol aircraft, say the RAF.
One of the Quick Reaction Alert pilots from RAF Lossiemouth, who intercepted the Russian Bears, was quoted in a Royal Air Force press release as saying:
“Today’s scramble demonstrated the close working relationships we have with our NATO colleagues. 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”
According to the RAF in a statement here:
“The two Russian Tu-142 ‘BEAR-F’ aircraft approached from the North East and flew in international airspace over the Norwegian and North Seas. At no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK sovereign airspace. additional air to air refuelling support was provided by an RAF Voyager aircraft from RAF Brize Norton, alongside comms and radar support from the National Air and Space Operations Centre (High Wycombe) and Air Surveillance and Control System (RAF Boulmer). All of these elements remain on constant vigil to provide the RAF’s contribution to the defence of the UK.”Norwegian Quick Reaction Alert was also launched in the form of F-16s and F-35s, and a NATO E-3A Airborne Early Warning aircraft was re-tasked while operating west of the Shetlands to enhance radar coverage in the area.
The primary role of the Royal Air Force is to defend the UK, 365, 24/7 and, when necessary, UK interests overseas; the RAF will continue to remain alert and ready to intercept any unidentified military or civilian aircraft around UK airspace. 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.QRA are launched to intercept unidentified aircraft because the aircraft cannot be identified by any other means. i.e. the aircraft is not talking to civilian or military Air Traffic Control, has not filed a flight plan and is not transmitting a recognisable secondary surveillance radar code.”
Why does the RAF intercept aircraft outside sovereign UK airspace?
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.