The RAF scrambled Typhoon jets to intercept Russian military jets approaching British airspace last night.
Planes were sent from the air base at Lossiemouth, north east Scotland, after two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bomber planes were sighted flying over the Atlantic towards the UK.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said the Russian aircraft were escorted until they were clear of the UK area of interest. At no time did they cross into UK sovereign airspace, he added.
It is the latest in a number of incidents in recent months in which Moscow has sent planes skirting the edge of British airspace in a legal but provocative move amid worsening international relations.
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RAF Tornado and Reaper aircraft have carried out air strikes in the Iraqi city of Mosul against Islamic State (IS) targets.
In a press release the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said an RAF patrol assisted Peshmerga forces fighting in north-east Mosul on March 19th / 20th by conducting "precision attacks against an IS heavy machine gun and weapon positions".
The statement added that a British military team is also currently based in Baghdad to "train and equip the Iraqi forces to deal more effectively with improvised explosive devices, increasingly left behind by ISIL as they are forced back by government troops."
The Ministry of Defence has released a video showing an attack on Islamic State in Iraq.
The text accompanying the video said: "In the early hours of Friday 27 February, an RAF Tornado GR4 patrol conducted reconnaissance to the north-west of Haditha. An ISIL armoured personnel carrier was located, and destroyed with a Brimstone missile."
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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.