British RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled Wednesday afternoon to intercept two long-range Russian Bear bombers spotted on the borders of British airspace off the coast of Cornwall, says the UK’s Ministry of Defense.
The long-range Russian Bear bombers were reportedly seen in the skies off the south west coast of Cornwall, England in international airspace.
RAF scrambled two Typhoon fighters from the RAF base in Coningsby in Lincolnshire, to escort the two long-range Russian Bear bombers.
Meanwhile, footage has emerged apparently filmed from inside the cockpit of a Russian TU-95 Bear bomber, showing the military aircraft being escorted by RAF Typhoons and NATO jets, including a French Mirage jet.
The footage was first broadcast on Russian TV channel TV Zvezda, owned by Russia’s defense ministry. The video, which shows two British fighters approaching the Russian plane very close, also gives a clear view of the bomber’s turboprop engines.
The jet fighters came so close to the Russian bomber that the pilots could signal to each other.
TV Zvezda confirmed that one of its correspondents filmed the footage from inside the Rusisan bomber. The channel said the “Bear Bomber” was flying in international airspace.
However, the UK Ministry of Defense said the footage was not from the latest incident, but likely from similar previous interceptions.
“RAF Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon fighter aircraft were launched yesterday after Russian aircraft were identified flying close to UK airspace.”
“The Russian planes were escorted by the RAF until they were out of the UK area of interest. At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace.”
According to the Daily Mail, some defense experts said that the flights were probably intended to allow the Russians to “probe the RAF speed of reaction,” and detect weaknesses in Britain’s air defense.
The incident is the latest of similar interceptions involving Russian long-range bombers at a time that relations between Russian and the West are deteriorating over the crisis in Ukraine.
In January, two Russian long-range bombers flew over the English Channel close to UK’s airspace, forcing Britain to scramble two Typhoon jets from bases at Lossiemouth in Scotland and Coningsby in Eastern England.
The British government summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the incident, raising concern that the Russian military flights over the English Channel could disrupt civilian traffic or even lead to a collision between a military aircraft and a passenger airliner.
However, a Russian Air Force spokesperson said the flights were being conducted strictly in compliance with international regulations and that the bombers did not violate the airspace of other countries.
Also earlier this week, a Russian warship, a heavily armed Russian frigate, was intercepted by the Royal Navy as it passed through the English Channel. The Russian military authorities said the ship was on its way back to its base in the Baltic Sea.
The incident also comes the day after the British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, warned of the threat of Putin’s regime to Britain, saying that the threat was as big as that posed by the Islamic State.
Defense Secretary Fallon said NATO was ready to counter Russian aggression.
Prime Minister David Cameron also said Moscow appeared bent on making “some sort of point” with the flights of its bombers close to British airspace.
“I think what this episode demonstrates is that we do have the fast jets, the pilots, the systems in place to protect the United Kingdom.
“I suspect what’s happening here is that the Russians are trying to make some sort of a point and I don’t think we should dignify it with too much of a response.”
There has been an increase in the number of interceptions of Russian military aircraft in international airspace close to NATO borders lately as tensions between Russia and the West mount over the crisis in Ukraine.
[Images: MoD, via Huffington Post, UK]