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The Royal Air Force (RAF) launched quick-reaction alert (QRA) Typhoon fighters to intercept two Russian long-range maritime patrol aircraft on the morning of 14 August 2023 as they transited within NATO’s northern air policing area, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported later that day.

The Russian aircraft, a Tu-142 ‘Bear-F’ and a ‘Tu-142 Bear-J’, were monitored by RAF Typhoons in international airspace as they passed north of the Shetland Islands.

An RAF Typhoon monitors the progress of a Russian Tu-142 on 14 August. The Russian aircraft had entered the UK Flight Information Region just north of the Shetland Islands. (Photo: Crown Copyright)

The Typhoons were launched out of RAF Lossiemouth: one of the RAF’s two QRA stations, where RAF fighters are constantly available to respond to potential threats to UK air sovereignty at a moment’s notice.

An RAF Voyager tanker was also scrambled and remained airborne for the duration of the mission to offer air-to-air refuelling, ensuring the Typhoons could remain in the air for the extended period necessary to complete their mission.

“Russian military aircraft entering the UK Flight Information Region, the UK’s controlled zone of international airspace, can pose a hazard to other aircraft,” the MoD stated. “These Russian aircraft often do not talk to air traffic control or ‘squawk’, broadcasting a code ensuring they are visible to other air users and air traffic controllers on the ground.”

The RAF has had more than its fair share of Russian intercepts recently. On 3 August an RAF detachment completed a four-month deployment to Ämari in Estonia to conduct NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission during which they intercepted 50 Russian aircraft.

Peter Felstead