Watch the skies

Quick reaction alert

The primary role for the RAF is to protect the skies of the United Kingdom

Skip to content

The primary role for the RAF is to protect the skies of the United Kingdom


Discover how different RAF personnel, stations and aircraft work together to meet a potential threat to the UK.



A rogue aircraft approaches UK airspace

Threat Detected

The approaching aircraft is detected by a team of Air Operations (Systems) Officers at the Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) at RAF Boulmer

We're using ground-based military and civilian radars to monitor, detect and identify all aircraft in and around UK airspace, 24/7, 365 days a year. We call this the Recognised Air Picture (RAP).
Air Operations (Systems) Officer

Coordinating the response

Using information from radar sites across the UK and from civilian air traffic and intelligence agency, the surveillance team in the Control Reporting Centre (CRC) at RAF Boulmer identify and share the Recognised Air Picture (RAP) with the National Air and Space Operations Centre (NASOC) at RAF Air Command in High Wycombe.

The NASOC decide that the threat is sufficient to scramble Typhoon jets and pass the order to the CRC at RAF Boulmer.

The CRC have direct contact with the pilots at RAF Lossiemouth and pass on the scramble message.

Pilots at RAF Coningsby are ordered to standby in the cockpits of their Typhoons.

Scramble, Scramble, Scramble...!

Typhoons from 1 (F) squadron at RAF Lossiemouth take off to intercept the rogue aircraft flying on the edge of UK airspace. The Typhoon is an extremely agile, multi-role aircraft used in all our current operations.

View the Typhoon 3D model

We have pilots and engineers on constant alert, for every minute of every day, ready to swiftly launch armed aircraft to defend the UK's interests


Find out about the role of RAF pilots

Ongoing coordination

RAF air traffic controllers at Swanwick (78 Squadron) work with their civilian counterparts to ensure the Typhoons can follow the most direct route to their target.

They are embedded within the Swanwick Centre run by NATS, the UK’s main civil air services provider.

RAF Aerospace Systems Operators at RAF High Wycombe and Air Traffic Controllers at Swanwick (78 Squadron) continuously coordinate the response with the scrambled Typhoon pilots.

Extending capability

An RAF Voyager with air-to-air refuelling capability is put on standby at RAF Brize Norton.

Typhoons can be refuelled in mid-air to extend their range and endurance.

Threat interrupted

The RAF Typhoons interrupt the rogue aircraft close to UK airspace and escort it north, out of the UK's area of interest.

Once the threat goes the Typhoons are ordered to return to RAF Lossiemouth.