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The Russians Are Coming...More Than Anyone Else

More than half the RAF's sorties have been to intercept Russian aircraft, figures show.

Russian jet

The majority of RAF fighter scramblings were interceptions of Russian military aircraft, new figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show.

Quick reaction alert (QRA) pilots were scrambled on 186 days between 2005 and 2016 - 101 of those (54%) were sorties in response to Russian air activity.

The Ministry of Defence have declined to release exact details of the QRA launches, as they say it would be "prejudicial to the defence of the UK".

An RAF spokesman said:

"QRA are launched to intercept unidentified aircraft because the aircraft cannot be identified by any other means. i.e. the aircraft is not talking to civilian or military Air Traffic Control, has not filed a flight plan and / or is not transmitting a recognisable secondary surveillance radar code.

"The paramount duty of the RAF is to control the air over the UK and, when necessary, UK interests overseas. Our multi-role Typhoon fighter squadrons are completing QRA duties from RAF Coningsby (Lincolnshire), RAF Lossiemouth (Scotland) and in the Falkland Islands."

Last year, the QRA was launched a total of 12 days - five in response to Russian planes.

Kuznetsov
The RAF and Royal Navy monitor Russia's Admiral Kuznetsov carrier in January

The most days it was launched in one year, was 2007 which saw 24 scramblings - 19 of which were in response to Russian military aircraft.

Last month, RAF Typhoons were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth to intercept two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers.

They were then joined by a Voyager refuelling tanker, and further Typhoon jets.

In 2015, the MoD held talks with Russia to find ways of  avoiding a "miscalculation or accident" around UK airspace.

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