February 22, 2024

Russian jets 'simulate bombing' of UK, RAF faces monthly scramble to defend…


February 22, 2024 07:00 | Updated: February 23, 2024 10:46

LBC visits RAF Lossiemouth

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LBC can reveal that RAF jets have been scrambled to intercept Russian military aircraft in British airspace at least 35 times in the past five years.

LBC's findings come with a stark warning that Moscow is using these flights to carry out mock bombing attacks on Britain.

According to Ministry of Defence figures seen by LBC, planes from the UK's QRA (Rapid Reaction Alert) station have been deployed 66 times since 2018, the majority of times in response to Russian aircraft.

The QRA is designed to respond immediately to potential terrorist threats to commercial airlines, technical failures and the presence of hostile nations in UK airspace.

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LBC visits RAF Lossiemouth

Earlier this week LBC was invited to visit RAF Lossiemouth in the north-east of Scotland, one of only two QRA bases in the UK, where Captain William Cooper, RAF Typhoon Wing Commander at Lossiemouth, warned that his men had witnessed a “busy drumming sound” of Russian aircraft spying on British airspace.

“We have seen instances where Russian aircraft have engaged in flight patterns that simulate some form of air-to-ground attack.

“Not only is that extremely worrying in itself, but of course it means they could be coming quite close to the UK mainland and our territorial waters, which is a further security concern for us.”

“I think we all understand that globally, particularly in Europe and the Middle East, we are living in a very dangerous decade.”

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But Wing Commander Rob McCartney, head of the anti-submarine unit at Lossiemouth, said these concerns were leading to “striving to make the UK Defence Forces stronger across the board”.

“Increasing our lethality is part of deterrence. The RAF is certainly working to become more lethal and more agile. We are procuring new torpedoes, Stingrays, British-made torpedoes, which will give us new options for the strike mission.”

RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, England, 1990. Home to the U.S. Air Force's 20th Tactical Fighter Wing.

RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, England, 1990. Home to the United States Air Force's 20th Tactical Fighter Wing. Photo: Alamy

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alamy

Amid growing instability around the world, the Chancellor is under increasing pressure to increase defence spending in the upcoming Spring Statement, and last week LBC reported that former Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is lobbying the Prime Minister to set a specific date for the UK to spend 3% of GDP on defence.

Moreover, Britain's defence capabilities are facing further scrutiny after it emerged last month that Trident missiles were not fired effectively during tests of the UK's nuclear deterrent. Despite these concerns, the Ministry of Defence insists it has “total confidence” in its nuclear deterrent.

Speaking of the specific threat posed by the Kremlin, Air Marshal Edward Stringer, assistant chief of the Air Staff, told LBC that Russian aircraft were coming dangerously close to violating the 12-mile boundary around the UK coastline that forms British airspace.

“I know they'll get within a few miles and then turn around and come back. I imagine what they're doing is trying to monitor our intercept capabilities.”

“Russian aircraft [have] They're coming down into the North Sea and preparing what appears to be an attack plan involving a simulated air-launched cruise missile launch.

Christopher Steele, who headed MI6's Russia division from 2006 to 2009, believes LBC's findings reflect Russia's “deep interest in the UK as an intelligence target”.

He added that these interests include the “very hostile aerial intrusions, surveillance and threats” detailed in the LBC data, as well as the UK's status as “Ukraine's staunchest ally” in the Kremlin's eyes.

As for the possibility of the conflict spilling over into NATO territory and sparking a global conflict, Steele said the biggest threat could be the reelection of President Donald Trump, who compiled the infamous “Steele dossier” alleging that the then-presidential candidate had been “compromised” by Russia's FSB.

“I think the biggest danger is that Donald Trump is re-elected as president or he questions or weakens or walks away from our mutual defense obligations under Article 5 of the NATO treaty. I think that's probably the most dangerous scenario.”


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