RAF scrambles to intercept Russian bombers
RAF fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian strategic bombers heading for British airspace yesterday, as the spirit of the Cold War returned to the North Atlantic once again.
The incident, described as rare by the RAF, served as a telling metaphor for the stand-off between London and Moscow over the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.
Russian military aircraft based near the northern port city of Murmansk fly patrols off the Norwegian coast regularly, but the RAF said that it was highly unusual for them to stray as far south as the Outer Hebrides Scotland.
Two RAF - Tornado F3fighters, part of the RAF’s Quick Reaction Alert, took off from RAF Leeming, in Yorkshire, to confront the Russian aircraft, after they were shadowed by two F-16 Fighting Falcon from Royal Norwegian Air Force, The Times has learnt.
“The Russians turned back before they reached British airspace,” an RAF spokesman said. There was no evidence to suggest that the incident was connected with the diplomatic row over the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, the main suspect in the murder of Litvinenko
* Reports in the British media that two Russian strategic bombers violated U.K. airspace are untrue, an aide to the Russian Air Force commander said