The UK has scrambled its fighter jets to intercept two Russian bombers in the international airspace, claiming that they were flying on the edge of British territories.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) confirmed that its Typhoon Eurofighter aircraft were sent to “monitor” Russian Tu-160 “Blackjack” bombers flying in Britain’s “area of interest,” UK media reported Thursday.
“We can confirm that quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby scrambled to monitor two Blackjack bombers while they were in the UK area of interest,” a RAF spokesman told the Evening Standard.
“At no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK territorial airspace,” he admitted.
A Voyager air-to-air refueling aircraft accompanied the Typhoons during the hours-long flight.
The Russian Blackjacks flew between the Shetland and Faroe islands, then down the west coast of Ireland and over the Bay of Biscay, the Independent reported.
The bombers were reportedly intercepted by French and Spanish fighter jets too. They did not violate the French airspace either.
The Soviet-era Tu-160 is the world's largest combat aircraft and has been modernized to carry long-range nuclear cruise missiles. It has yet to be confirmed if any of the Russian planes were armed during the Thursday encounter.
Surprised that the flight is even news for the RAF, Russia's Defense Ministry said the bombers did not violate international rules.
“They flew over neutral waters in the Barents and the Norwegian seas, as well as in the Atlantic Ocean,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Major Gen Igor Konashenkov.
“All flights by the Russian military aircraft are carried out in strict compliance with international regulations on the use of airspace over the neutral waters, without violating borders of other countries,” he added.
The spokesman added that he couldn't understand why RAF pilots “view monitoring Russian jets and warships as an extraordinary event and the main news of the day.”
The UK and Russian military forces have had several close contacts over the past weeks, with London sending jets and warships to escort Russian fleets passing through the English Channel.