Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff, said:
“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. 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.”
Chief of the Air Staff
Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston
One of the Quick Reaction Alert pilots from RAF Lossiemouth, who intercepted the Russian Bears, said:
“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”
This morning, 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.
QRA procedures entail RAF aircraft and crews being held at continuous high readiness 24/7, so that they can take off within minutes to protect UK sovereign airspace.