- 26 Russian aircraft ran ‘military manoeuvres’ in 24 hours including two Bear bombers followed by RAF fighters
- Nato steps up its defences as it says two planes near Britain did not file flight plans or contact controllers
- Alliance reported ‘unusual’ activity after intercepting 100 Russian planes in 2014 – triple the number in 2013
Nato has sounded a warning after 26 Russian bombers, tankers and fighter jets on military exercises were intercepted around Europe in just 24 hours.
Jets were scrambled by the RAF and allies in Germany, Portugal and Turkey after the ‘unusual’ spike in activity, which saw two giant Tu-95 Bear H bombers fly close to Britain yesterday.
The alliance said Russia had conducted ‘significant military manoeuvres in European airspace’ – though it then added none of the planes had strayed into any specific country’s territory.
Military manoeuvres: Nato has sounded a warning after 26 Russian bombers, tankers and fighter jets on military exercises were intercepted around Europe in just 24 hours. Above, a map of all the activity reported by the Nato alliance between Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon
Closely watched: RAF Typhoon jets were scrambled yesterday to track this Russian Tu-95 Bear H bomber, one of two which flew close to Britain without filing flight plans or communicating with air traffic controllers. Some 26 intercepts were made in around 24 hours, said Nato
The two Bear bombers had been part of an eight-plane formation which was first intercepted by Norwegian F-16s over at 2am yesterday.
While six of the planes returned back towards Russia, the two Bears carried on south west towards the UK where they were picked up by RAF Boulmer, Northumberland.
Chiefs the scrambled Typhoon jets from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, northern Scotland, which tracked the Bear bombers as they continued through Britain’s ‘flight information region’.
Nato said: ‘The bomber and tanker aircraft from Russia did not file flight plans or maintain radio contact with civilian air traffic control authorities and they were not using on-board transponders.
‘This poses a potential risk to civil aviation as civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft or ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.’
Followed: These images were all issued by the RAF and showed the moment the aircraft were escorted by Typhoon jets near British airspace
Nato stepped up defences and said: ‘These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace’
The Bear bombers which flew near Britain (one is pictured) were just two of 26 Russian planes intercepted over Europe in 24 hours
‘MILITARY MANOEUVRES’: WHERE 26 RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT INTERCEPTED
Norwegian air force intercepts eight Russian planes – four Tu-95 Bear H bombers and four Il-78 tankers – flying in formation at 2am on October 29. Six turn back
Two of the Tu-95 Bear bombers continue towards British airspace. Typhoon jets scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth
The bombers continue to Atlantic where they are intercepted by Portuguese air force, and turn back. They are still airborne at 3pm
Seven Russian fighter jets intercepted on afternoon of October 29 by Portuguese F-16 Fighters. Just 24 hours earlier, German Typhoons intercepted the same seven types
Turkish jets intercept four Russian planes – two Tu-95 Bear H bombers and two Su-27 Flanker fighters – on afternoon of October 29
The British Typhoon pilots identified the Bear bombers visually and ‘escorted’ them around the edge of British airspace, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.
The Bears then continued towards the Atlantic to the west of Portugal, where they were intercepted by Portuguese F-16s before turning back.
They appeared to be heading back to Russia but were still airborne by 3pm.
Nato said the ‘sizeable Russian flights’ represented an ‘unusual level of air activity over European airspace.’
But the alliance added that all the planes intercepted were, in legal terms, still in international airspace.
Russian bombers and jets were also intercepted over the Baltic and Black Seas between Tuesday and yesterday afternoon.
Some 26 interceptions were made in the space of just 24 hours, although seven could have been the same planes returning to the same area.
More than 100 Russian planes have been intercepted by Nato this year – triple the number in the whole of last year.
The movements come after months of heightened tension between Moscow and the West following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military incursion into Ukraine.
Nato’s new chief said today the alliance is increasing its readiness and air policing after yesterday’s flurry of activity.
Jens Stoltenberg said that while Nato is not back on a Cold War footing with Russia, its former arch-enemy as the Soviet Union, recent behaviour has severely undermined mutual trust.
Mr Stoltenberg said the trans-Atlantic military alliance ‘remains vigilant and ready to respond’.
‘We need to keep our forces ready, therefore we are investing in high readiness, new capabilities,’ he said.
‘We are… increasing air policing as an answer to the increased air activities we are seeing from Russia.’
He also urged Russia to remove its forces from Ukraine – Russia denies they are there – and warned against plans by pro-Russian separatists to hold local elections in eastern Ukraine.
This photo, released by the Norwegian Air Force, shows a Norwegian Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon (left) accompanying a Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-95MS (right) (file pic). Portugese F-16s were used to escort seven Russian fighter jets on October 29
A Russian Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber – the same model which flew close to Britain yesterday – refuels over an unknown location during a military exercise (file pic)
The interceptions yesterday were unrelated to a sonic boom caused by RAF fighter jets which shocked residents across Kent.
Typhoons from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, flew to Kent at supersonic speeds to dramatically halt a Latvian cargo plane on its way to Birmingham after it ’caused concern’ to air traffic controllers.
The swoop, which resulted in the Lativan-registered plane being grounded at Stansted airport yesterday evening, sparked a massive sonic boom which was heard across a 50-mile radius.
Soon after the incident, an unverified audio clip was posted online which appeared to have recorded the moment an RAF pilot warned the plane it risked being ‘shot down’.
A man was heard saying: ‘I’m instructed by Her Majesty’s government of the United Kingdom to warn you if you do not respond you will be shot down’.
The incidents happened on the same day Kent was rocked by a sonic boom as a Latvian cargo plane was intercepted, but were unrelated
Grounded: The Latvian Antonov An-26 cargo airliner (pictured) was escorted into Stansted Airport after causing a brief scare yesterday
The interceptions were also not said to be linked to another huge sonic boom heard yesterday over the Outer Hebrides.
The blasts rattled buildings and left islanders shaken from Benbecula and Barra, a distance of more than 55 miles.
At first locals thought there had been a blast at a local quarry or military ordnance blown up at a beach – but the RAF later said it was ‘most likely a supersonic jet belonging to the RAF or US Air Force on a routine training flight’.
A spokesman added: ‘These flights take place all the time around the UK and we don’t announce them. To hear a supersonic boom is rare. However in certain climatic conditions they can be heard and this is what most likely happened in this case. It was probably us.’
Sheila MacCormick, of the Borrodale Hotel in South Uist, said: ‘The actual building shook. When we looked out there was people walking on the road – who were standing looking around to see what had happened.’
MILITARY EXERCISES AS TENSIONS MOUNT WITH NATO OVER UKRAINE
The exercise is a rebuke to Nato, which was founded as a Cold War-era defence body in 1949, less than a week after it insisted the Russia still had troops in eastern Ukraine.
Russia strenuously denies the claims – but Nato said although it has withdrawn ‘partially’ it still maintains a capable force on the border.
U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, Nato’s top military commander, told reporters: ‘Make no mistake, there remain Russian forces inside eastern Ukraine.’
Some Russian troops stationed near the Ukraine border had left and some others appeared to be preparing to leave, he said.
‘But the force that remains and shows no indications of leaving is still a very, very capable force and remains a coercive capability to the nation of Ukraine.’