RAF fighters were scrambled to intercept a pair of Russian long-range bombers over the North Sea yesterday, as Nato marks an "unusual" spike in Russian military flights in European airspace.
Typhoon fighter jets from RAF Lossiemouth were scrambled to track a pair of Tu-95 Bear H bombers through UK airspace when Nato radars picked up several Russian aircraft formations carrying out "significant military manoeuvres" from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
A statement on the Nato website said.
"These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace."
The two Russian Bears headed towards the UK without filing flight-plans where they were picked up by the RAF Control and Reporting Centre at Boulmer in Northumberland, which scrambled the Typhoons.
"The RAF Typhoon pilots visually identified the Russian aircraft and escorted them through the UK flight information region," the Ministry of Defence said.
The Bears continued on over the Atlantic to the west of Portugal, where they were intercepted by Portuguese Air Force F-16s before turning back.
Aviation enthusiasts EGXWinfo Group have posted an audio clip online, which they claim to be a recording of an RAF pilot trying to make contact with the Latvian plane.
In it, the pilot warns that the plane will be shot down if it does not follow his instructions.
To hear the warning from the RAF "....if you do not respond to my orders immediately you will be shot down" visit http://t.co/aAKjoECAbq
The Ministry of Defence refused to confirm or deny whether the audio was genuine.
Audio from SoundCloud/The EGXWinfo Group
The sonic boom created by two RAF Typhoon jets scrambled to escort a Latvian jet has been captured on CCTV in East Sussex.
The sound was picked up by a camera at the home of Iain Dodsworth in Crowborough.
He tweeted: "Thought it was the house collapsing".
Footage credit: Iain Dodsworth
A Latvian cargo plane escorted into Stansted Airport has been checked and can continue its journey to Birmingham, police have said.
Essex Police said military jets were deployed on a precautionary basis when the Latvian-registered cargo plane was diverted to Stansted due to a loss of communication with the aircraft.
The aircraft landed at Stansted at 5.20pm.
All three people on board have been spoken to by officers and it was established everything was in order.
The reason for the short loss of communication was due to a change in airspace jurisdiction, the force said.
A spokesperson said: "Essex Police is not investigating the incident and the aircraft will be able to continue its journey to Birmingham when it is ready."
Jets were scrambled to intercept a cargo plane south of London today as part of the RAF's Quick Reaction Alert system, which has been tasked with defending British airspace since 1940.
Two air bases share this duty: RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire generally covers the south, and RAF Leuchars in Fife looks after the north.
The procedure that would lead to Typhoon jets being scrambled is described here by Flight Lieutenant Noel Rees:
At the start of the scaled QRA response, civilian air traffic controllers might see on their screens an aircraft behaving erratically, not responding to their radio calls, or note that it’s transmitting a distress signal through its transponder.
Rather than scramble Typhoons at the first hint of something abnormal, a controller has the option to put them on a higher level of alert, ‘a call to cockpit’. In this scenario the pilot races to the hardened aircraft shelter and does everything short of starting his engines. From this posture a controller can monitor a situation knowing that a scramble can be conducted in moments.
The RAF has apologised for "startling" residents after typhoons launched to intercept a cargo aircraft were given the go-ahead to fly supersonic over land.
Typhoons launched to intercept a civil aircraft. It was safely escorted to Stansted. Our aircraft cleared supersonic during the scramble.
Apologies if we startled you during the successful intercept this afternoon - we only go supersonic over land when absolutely necessary.
Typhoon aircraft were launched from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to intercept a Russian-made cargo airliner from Latvia which was causing concern to air traffic control, the RAF said.
The Antonov An-26 aircraft landed at Stansted airport and is currently being checked by police officers.
Typhoon aircraft were launched this afternoon from RAF Coningsby to intercept a civilian aircraft south of London which was causing concern to air traffic control authorities. The aircraft was safely escorted to London Stansted. To fulfill their quick reaction role the Typhoons were cleared to travel at supersonic speed, any noise disturbance as a result of this is regretted.
Aircraft monitoring site FlightRadar has tweeted more information on the plane forced to land at Stansted Airport after being intercepted by RAF jets over Kent.
RAF-Avia Antonov-26 was escorted by RAF and forced to land at Stansted at 17:15 UTC . http://t.co/Ro16xgPWXN
A spokesperson for Stansted Airport has told ITV News that the plane escorted to the airport earlier is a Russian-built Latvian cargo plane.
It is understood to have lost contact with air traffic control.
Essex Police officers are currently conducting checks on the aircraft.