Two Russian Blackjack bombers were intercepted by Typhoon jets from RAF Lossiemouth over the North Sea as they were approaching the UK, the RAF has confirmed.
The Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) aircraft took off in response to the two Tupolev TU-160 Blackjack bombers as they approached to within less than 50 miles of the UK.
The fighters escorted the Russian aircraft north away from the UK and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that “at no point” did the Blackjacks enter British sovereign airspace.
At their closest the Russian aircraft were within 30 nautical miles (34.5 miles) of the UK’s sovereign airspace, the MoD said – around 40 nautical miles (46 miles) from British soil.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the threats facing the UK were “intensifying”.
He said: “We will not hesitate in defending our skies from acts of aggression.”
He said the RAF tracked the Russian aircraft “every step of the way” and would continue to police UK and international airspace.
— CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) January 15, 2018
It comes at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russia, and it is not unusual for Russian bombers to probe the airspace of NATO countries.
Last September, two RAF fighter jets were sent to head off Russian military planes on course for Scotland.
And in May, two Typhoons were scrambled from Lossiemouth after two Russian planes entered UK airspace.
The RAF also sent aircraft to monitor two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, which passed near UK airspace in February.
The RAF is on standby to intercept any unidentified military or civilian aircraft around UK airspace.