RAF jets were scrambled today to intercept a Russian ‘Coot’ spy plane after it was seen approaching NATO airspace over the Black Sea.
Typhoon fighters were dispatched from Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near Constanta on the Black Sea coast amid reports of a Russian IL-20 heading west.
Crew were airborne ‘within minutes’ of being alerted having ‘sprinted’ to their planes, RAF chiefs revealed. The Russian military plane was monitored by Typhoons and tracked as it departed North East.
RAF jets were scrambled today to intercept a Russian ‘Coot’ spy plane seen approaching NATO airspace over the Black Sea
Typhoon fighters were dispatched from Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near Constanta on the Black Sea coast amid reports of a Russian IL-20 (file picture) heading west
However, the British and Russian aircraft – code named ‘Coot’ – did not come within visual range of each other.
Russian Il-20s are believed to perform frequent spying missions around the Baltic region and, with a range of more than 2,200 miles, are said to have been deployed during the Syria conflict on reconnaissance missions.
The operation was confirmed on the RAF’s official Twitter feed shortly after 12.30pm this afternoon.
It comes amid heightened tensions between the two countries over Russia’s role in the Syria conflict and after the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March.
The current RAF mission in Romania is part of measures brought in four years ago aimed at countering the threat of Russian aggression against NATO Allies.
The current RAF mission in Romania is part of measures brought in four years ago aimed at countering the threat of Russian aggression against NATO Allies. Typhoon Force Commander, Air Commodore Mark Chappell (left) gives a speech at the Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase in Romania in April
II (Army Co-operation) Squadron pilot, Squadron Leader Roger Cruickshank was on Quick Reaction Alert duty when today’s scramble was called.
He said: ‘I received the order and alerted the team that we were scrambling.
‘Sprinting to the aircraft, my wingman, Flight Lieutenant Pilbeam and I were able to get airborne due to the incredible job the ground crew did and within minutes, well within our NATO approved response timing, we were airborne.
‘Quickly climbing to height and nearly supersonic, it was down to the superb collective response alongside our Romanian partners that we were able to successfully complete our mission.’
In January, footage emerged showing the moment two RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Russian planes approaching UK airspace.
The planes took off from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray on the coast of Scotland just before 9.30am on January 15. They were said to have been flying towards two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers at about 28,000ft off the east coast of Scotland.
Two RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Russian planes approaching UK airspace in January. Above, Russian planes (pictured middle and right) were tailed by an RAF Typhoon (left)
Two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers came within about 28,000ft of the east coast of Scotland in January
The Blackjacks approached to within less than 50 miles of the UK, but the Ministry of Defence said that ‘at no point’ did they enter British sovereign airspace.
At their closest the Russian aircraft were within 30 nautical miles (34.5 miles) of the UK’s airspace, the MoD said – around 40 nautical miles (46 miles) from British soil.
Officials would not confirm how many Typhoons were involved in the operation. The fighters were supported by a Voyager air-to-air tanker.
The incident joined a series of aerial stand-offs in previous months over the North Sea between the Royal Air Force and the Russian Air Force.
Typhoon by numbers
- Engines: 2 Eurojet EJ200 turbojets
- Thrust: 20,000lbs each
- Max speed: 1.8Mach
- Length: 15.96m
- Max altitude: 55,000ft
- Span: 11.09m
- Aircrew: 1
- Armament: Paveway IV, AMRAAM, ASRAAM, Mauser 27mm Cannon, Enhanced Paveway II
On January 8 it was reported HMS Westminster, a Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate, was tasked to intercept two of Vladimir Putin’s warships and two supporting vessels as they passed close to UK waters.
RAF jets were also scrambled from Lossiemouth to intercept Russian bombers in September. The Russian pilots subsequently turned around.
A Voyager aircraft was also scrambled from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on that occasion to refuel the jetsas they guarded British airspace over the North Sea.
Other instances where RAF aircraft have been scrambled to meet Russian bombers in UK airspace include an incident in May when two Typhoons responded to a ‘quick alert’.
An Airbus Voyager KC3 tanker was also dispatched from Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and was tracked heading north before going into a holding pattern off the Aberdeenshire coast.
Another incident took place in July when a Typhoon was launched from a base in Romania as a response to a nuclear bomber operating near NATO airspace over the Black Sea.
Operating from the Romanian Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near Constanta on the Black Sea coast, the RAF Typhoon responded to Russian Federation Air Force TU-22 Backfire strategic bombers heading south near NATO air space.
The Russian military jets were flying over the western Black Sea and were monitored by the Typhoon.
The Tupolevs – the first supersonic bomber to enter production in the Soviet Union – were tracked as they departed south but the jets did not come within visual range of each other.