Highlands & Islands

Bear hunt: RAF pilots up close to Russian bombers

The Ministry of Defence has released images of Fife-based RAF Typhoon jets shadowing two Russian bombers after the aircraft flew close to UK airspace earlier this week.

The images of the Russian Tu-95 Bear H planes were taken high in the sky north of Shetland by RAF Leuchars-stationed Flt Lt Gary Montgomery.

Image copyright Flt Lt Gary Montgomery/MoD/Crown/PA

The Tu-95s were detected close to UK airspace on Wednesday. Two Typhoons with 6 Sqd at Leuchars were scrambled to investigate.

The air station in Fife has a quick reaction alert (QRA) role which involves intercepting suspicious aircraft.

Image copyright Flt Lt Gary Montgomery/MoD/Crown/PA

The RAF described the appearance of the Russian Bears as "routine". Similar incidents have occurred in the past.

In March 2010, two Tu-160 Blackjacks were shadowed by two F3 Tornados from Leuchars after they appeared off the Western Isles.

And in 2007, Tornado jets intercepted two Tu-95s spotted observing a Royal Navy exercise off the islands.

Three years ago, elements of Russia's Baltic Fleet gathered 30 miles (48km) off the Moray Firth to shelter from bad weather.

Image copyright Flt Lt Gary Montgomery/MoD/Crown/PA

Speaking about Wednesday's encounter, Flt Lt Montgomery said: "We monitored their progress, including handing them over to Danish F-16 QRA aircraft as the Bears flew towards Denmark, then continued to monitor them as they returned and then departed towards Norwegian airspace."

Image copyright Flt Lt Gary Montgomery/MoD/Crown/PA

The RAF Typhoon pilot added: "Intercepting Russian Bear aircraft is a routine occurrence for us, it's what we do to maintain UK sovereign airspace."

The MoD said similar incidents happened eight times during 2013.

A spokesman said: "Russian military flights have never entered UK sovereign airspace without authorisation."

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