RAF Typhoons intercept Russian aircraft north of Scotland

A RAF Typohhon escorts a Russian Tu-142 surveillance aircraft.
Photo Credit: Royal Air Force

Royal Air Force Typhoon fighters based at Lossiemouth were scrambled on Sunday to intercept a Russian military aircraft which was detected near United Kingdom airspace to the north of Scotland.

The intercepted Russian aircraft was a Tupolev Tu-142 Maritime Patrol aircraft, known by the NATO code name as a Bear-F. 

The Tu-142 patrol aircraft had approached from the North-East and was operating in international airspace over the Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic Ocean. 

QRA aircraft intercept


The detected Russian aircraft did not enter UK sovereign airspace and was identified and shadowed by Lossiemouth’s ‘Quick Reaction Alert’ Typhoon aircraft.

Quick Reaction Alert Typhoons are launched to intercept unidentified aircraft flying in the UK’s area of interest. Lossiemouth on Scotland’s north-east coast is a base for the QRA aircraft.

QRA procedures entail RAF aircraft and crews being held at continuous high readiness 24/7, so that they can take off within minutes to protect UK sovereign airspace, should it be required.

Above: QRA Intercept 30/04/2023 Target: Bear F x1. Photo Credit: Royal Air Force

The RAF Typhoons were backed up by a refuelling aircraft. Additional air to air refuelling support was provided by a RAF Voyager aircraft from RAF Brize Norton.

Command and control for the operation came from the National Air and Space Operations Centre at RAF High Wycombe and the Air Surveillance and Control System at RAF Boulmer.

Norwegian F-35A fighter aircraft were also launched as part of NATO’s response to monitor the Russian aircraft.

According to the Royal Air Force release after the incident, a Lossiemouth Typhoon pilot stated:

“After scrambling to intercept the Russian aircraft, we were in close contact with RAF Battlespace Managers, who directed us towards the aircraft and relayed orders throughout, ensuring we could confirm where they were and what they were doing at all times.”

Previous incident in 2022


RAF Typhoons were involved in a similar incident in February 2022, when they intercepted four Russian aircraft operating in international airspace to the north of Scotland.

Quick Reaction Alert operations such as this have been fairly commonplace in the years since the Cold War era. The 2022 incident, however, came at the time of rising tensions prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Tupolev Tu-142


The Tupolev Tu-142 is a Soviet/Russian maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft that was developed based on the Tu-95 strategic bomber.

The aircraft first entered service with the Soviet Navy in the 1970s and remained in service until the 1990s. Today, a small number of Tu-142s remain in service with the Russian Navy.

The Tu-142 is a four-engine turboprop aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of around 188,000 kg (414,469 lbs) and a range of up to 12,000 km (7,456 miles).

Above: An air-to-air view of a Soviet Tu-142 Bear F aircraft. Photo: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to its ASW capabilities, the Tu-142 has also been used for maritime patrol and reconnaissance missions, as well as for search and rescue operations. The aircraft has been exported to a few countries, including India, which operated the Tu-142 until 2017.

The Tu-142 has been an important asset for the Russian Navy and has played a significant role in maritime operations over the past several decades.

The NATO reporting name for the Tupolev Tu-142 is “Bear F.” The NATO reporting name is a naming system used to identify military equipment of the Soviet Union and other countries that use the Cyrillic alphabet.

The system assigns a code name consisting of a word or words that begin with the same letter as the Cyrillic name, to provide a standardized and easily recognizable name for the equipment among NATO countries.

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