Radar images appear to suggest that two of the Eurofighter Typhoon jets from RAF Lossiemouth are accompanied by an RAF Voyager plane from RAF Brize Norton for air-to-air refuelling
Two RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Russian BOMBERS in UK airspace – which approached to within less than 50 miles of the UK this morning.
The Royal Air Force refused to disclose any further details for operational reasons but MirrorOnline understands that they were acting as a Quick Reaction Alert intercepting TWO Russian TU-160 Blackjacks – supersonic, heavy strategic bombers.
The Russian bombers – which has two internal bays each capable of carrying 20,000kg (44,000lbs) of free-fall weapons or a launcher for nuclear missiles – are understood to have approached the UK ‘from the north’, according to sources.
The incident then developed at around 28,000ft off the east coast of Scotland.
At their closest the Russian aircraft were within 30 nautical miles (34.5 miles) of the UK’s sovereign airspace, the MoD said – around 40 nautical miles (46 miles) from British soil.
The fighters escorted the Russian aircraft north away from the UK and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) later said that “at no point” did the Blackjacks enter British sovereign airspace.
Radar images appeared however to suggest that two Typhoon jets travelling at 1,500mph were accompanied by an RAF Voyager plane from RAF Brize Norton which can provide air-to-air refuelling capabilities.
They took off from RAF Lossiemouth, off the north-east coast of Scotland, at 9.30am – with radar images appearing to show a ‘real game of cat and mouse’ with jets circling over the North Sea, although the RAF say they won’t comment on the “live operation”.
A huge swathe of the North sea appeared at one point to be empty of commercial flights according to live radar footage – suggesting that passenger planes were being diverted to keep the area clear – although by 1pm several planes appeared to be ‘allowed in’ to the airspace.
Two Belgian air force F-16s were also scrambled, according to reports, to intercept the bombers in Dutch airspace.
The BAF tweeted at 1.30pm: “Today, 2 F16 BeAirForce successfully intercepted 2 Russian TU-160 Blackjack bombers above the North Sea, within the Dutch area of responsability of NATO airspace. Due to supersonic flight, the Belgian F16 were able to complete their mission, guaranteeing your security.@
Two RAF Tornados spotted circling over the north-east of England around the same time are understood to have NOT be involved in the incident however.
Today, 2 #F16 @BeAirForce successfully intercepted 2 Russian TU-160 Blackjack bombers above the North Sea, within the Dutch area of responsability of #NATO airspace. Due to supersonic flight, the Belgian #F16 were able to complete their mission, guaranteeing your #Security. pic.twitter.com/M1wkqVCBdH
— Belgian Air Force🇧🇪 (@BeAirForce) January 15, 2018
A spokesman for the RAF said: “We can confirm that quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth scrambled this morning, this is a live operation and therefore we will not be providing any additional information until the mission is complete.”
The encroachment into UK airspace is thought to be one of the latest in a series of deliberate provocations by Moscow who routinely like to test UK defences.
Russian military activity near the UK in recent months has seen a series of planes scrambled and warships diverted to monitor naval vessels.
Earlier this month HMS Westminster, a Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate, was tasked to intercept two of Vladimir Putin’s warships and two supporting vessels as they passed close to UK waters.
The RAF Typhoon jets – which have been in use since 2007 and replaced the ageing Tornado fleet – have been used to target ISIS strongholds, with their pilots often enduring eight hour missions over Iraq and Syria.
They are armed with air-to-air missiles and are an integral part of the RAF’s Quick Reaction Alert.
The Typhoons are notorious for their sonic boom – which can be heard for miles when their pilots need to get somewhere within minutes when authorised to fly at supersonic speeds.
Last month Typhoons were scrambled to “intercept” PM Theresa May’s plane in an awesome test – and display – of British firepower.
MirrorOnline reported how a pair of 1,500mph Typhoon fighter jets thundered into the sky before pulling alongside the Prime Minister’s Voyager plane to tip their wings and flash their lethal missiles.
Amid mounting tensions with Moscow, Mrs May agreed to her aircraft being used for the mock mission, which helps pilots train for real sorties protecting British airspace from Russian bombers.
She watched the fearsome show of force from the cockpit of her Voyager, seeing first hand how the UK’s Quick Reaction Alert jets challenge suspected hijacked planes and Kremlin aircraft threatening British airspace.
The Eurofighter Typhoons roared away from their base at RAF Coningsby, Lincs, before pilots spotted the PM’s plane at 17,000ft above the North Sea.
The airmen – who are on standby round the clock – drew alongside the Voyager and tipped their wings, as they would in a real emergency, to display the fighter aircraft’s deadly air-to-air weapon systems.
The £100million Typhoons then hooked up to the Airbus Voyager’s refuelling lines for a tank top-up in a delicate 320mph mid-air operation at “Area 8” off the Norfolk coast.
They were each pumped with four tonnes of fuel at 600kg a minute just feet away from the Voyager.
The planes from 3 Squadron and 11 Squadron were taking advantage of the A330’s dual role as a “flying petrol station”, filling up with extra juice before disconnecting and peeling away with their afterburners ablaze.
The training sortie also helped readied crew for eight-hour patrols over ISIS-held territory where they refuel several times.
Mrs May said later: “I’m delighted to have the opportunity today to see our brave pilots and crew in action refuelling in the air to prepare to fight Daesh (ISIS) over Syria and Iraq.
“Witnessing the unique skill of the RAF at first hand is an absolute privilege and once again demonstrates that the British Armed Forces are the finest in the world.
“The work they do is admirable and impressive and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for everything they do.”
An RAF crew member who saw the PM watching the high altitude manoeuvres, said: “She seemed pretty happy.”
Mrs May was first offered the possibility of witnessing the impressive double spectacle during a flight to Brussels earlier in December.
She backed the move, which added an hour to her journey home from Cyprus after she made a surprise Christmas visit to British airbase, RAF Akrotiri.
As well as watching the skill of UK airmen up close and studying Government papers in her ministerial red box, the PM also indulged her hobby of Sudoku during the flight to Heathrow.