RAF Boulmer’s key role in intercepting Russian bombers

One of two Russian Tu-95 Bear H bombers tracked by RAF Typhoon jets after they flew close to Britain without filing flight details or communicating with RAF Boulmer air traffic controllers. Picture courtesy of Ministry of Defence.

One of two Russian Tu-95 Bear H bombers tracked by RAF Typhoon jets after they flew close to Britain without filing flight details or communicating with RAF Boulmer air traffic controllers. Picture courtesy of Ministry of Defence.

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RAF Boulmer played a major part in the interception of two giant Russian bombers in British airspace earlier this week, it has emerged.

Aerospace battle managers at RAF Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) at Boulmer had tracked the military aircraft which had encroached in international airspace on Wednesday without filing flight plans or communicating with air traffic controllers.

They alerted and scrambled Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Typhoon fighters from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, northern Scotland, to intercept the planes. The Typhoon pilots visually identified the Tu-95 Bear H bombers and escorted them through the ‘UK flight information region’. Air-to-air refuelling support was also provided by a Voyager aircraft from RAF Brize Norton.

A Nato spokesman said: “The aircraft from Russia did not file flight plans or maintain radio contact with civilian air traffic control authorities and they were not using on-board transponders.

“This poses a potential risk to civil aviation as civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft or ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.”

The two Bear bombers had been part of an eight-plane formation which was first intercepted by Norwegian F-16s in the early hours of Wednesday, as part of a larger Russian military exercise.

Six of the planes returned back towards Russia, but the two Bears headed south-west towards Britain, where they were picked up by RAF Boulmer, Northumberland.

In total, 26 bombers, tankers and fighter jets were intercepted around Europe in just 24 hours.

Jets were also scrambled by Britain’s allies in Germany, Portugal and Turkey after the ‘unusual’ spike in activity.