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UK jets shadow Russian bombers

Thursday, September 6, 2007

F-16 fighter jet
Image: Joshua Davis.

Four F3 Tornado fighter jets were launched by the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force to intercept Russian military planes. The eight Russian jets were flying in airspace patrolled by Nato, officials from the UK claimed. The long-range bombers were initially followed by Norwegian F16 jets, after Russia's recent decision to reinstate Cold War-style long-range patrols.

14 strategic bombers were flying on long-range patrol, according to Russia's Defence Ministry. They also confirmed that none had approached a foreign state and had been shadowed by aircraft from Nato countries.

The Ministry of Defence in the United Kingdom released a statement that the Russian Tupolev Tu-95 Bear aircraft, flying in four loosed pairs, were tracked by Norwegian aircraft before entering Nato airspace on Thursday morning. The UK currently holds responsibility for the Nato airspace, and launched four F3 Tornados from RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, UK, to identify the bombers. The bombers eventually left the Nato zone, under tracking by UK aircraft and RAF radar in Northumberland.

An MoD spokesman confirmed that Russia was entitled to its long-range patrols, adding 'The motivation behind any Russian military activity is a matter for the Russian government.' Lt Col John Inge Oegland, spokesman for the Norwegian armed forces, said there had been several similar incidents in recent months, but that the Russian flights were not causing alarm in Norway.

Relations between Britain and Russia have worsened recently, particularly after Russia's refusal to allow the extradition of a former KGB bodyguard suspected of murdering emigre Alexander Litvinenko in London last year. Relations with Russia would "continue as normal outside the unresolved extradition request", a UK Foreign Office spokesman said.


Sources