Cold War reheated- Tornados foil Russian spy in sky

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Callidus, May 10, 2007.

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    It could have been an episode from the dark days of the Cold War.

    Britain's air-defence radar system picks up a long-range Russian Bear bomber speeding towards the UK across the North Sea, apparently on a spying mission.

    Within minutes, at a windswept RAF base, four airmen race to their fighter jets and roar away to intercept the intruder.

    Warning: A Tornado (top) escorts one of the Bear bombers

    A tense stand-off in the sky follows before the Russians turn away.

    It is the type of incident which was routine two decades ago. But this took place last week.

    Two Bears were spotted during a major Royal Navy exercise to the north of the Outer Hebrides. Commanders believe they were planning to spy on the warships, including the aircraft carrier Illustrious.

    Two Tornado F3 fighters took off from RAF Leuchars in Fife and intercepted the Bears in international airspace.

    The pilots were close enough to wave but there was no radio contact.

    After shadowing the Russians for some 15 minutes, they watched as the giant bombers turned and headed home to their base in Murmansk. In similar skirmishes during the 1970s and 80s, Soviet spies were sometimes spotted watching from the perimeter of RAF stations to time exactly how long it took jets to take off and intercept Bear bombers, probing the UK's defences and testing the response.

    On guard: Two Tornado F3 fighters were scrambled when Russian planes appeared on RAF radar screens

    Nato pilots in those days were well accustomed to an almost daily aerial game of cat-and-mouse.

    While such visits from the Russians have become extremely rare, the latest one is a reminder that Moscow's long-term ambitions are not entirely clear and that the old Cold War rivalries could well resurface.


    Under President-Putin - a former KGB general - Russia has been flexing its economic muscle by cutting off gas flows to the West, highlighting Europe's growing dependence on its energy.

    The Kremlin has also begun to take a more aggressive stance in foreign affairs.

    Paul Jackson, editor of Jane's All The World's Aircraft, said, "The exercise was in international waters and the Russians have got just as much right to be there as we have.

    "The RAF are telling them, 'We could do this for real if we wanted to, so go and tell your mates.'"

    The Russian Embassy in London declined to comment.
  2. Ahh!

    Just like tho old days...
  3. Hurrah, I'm convinced, we need typhoon after all!

    after all the press coverage of the army and navy recently - do you think someone at the air ministry has been on the phone to his counterpart at the kremlin?

    (cynical, moi?)
  4. This still isn't an uncommon occurence. Oftentimes the missions are conducted by time-served Russky pilots harking back to the good old days. IIRC they sent several aircraft over during the christmas/new year period 1999/2000 just to p1ss off those that were on duty at that time of year.

    They'll get a bit of a surprise once Typhoon is on QRA, it'll get to them a darn site quicker than a F3.
  5. The Russians are still flying Bears? Hmm... wonder if someone was retiring and wanted one more go around?
  6. I can imagine the scene in the Ops Room.

    "2 unidentified aircraft approaching from the direction of Russia. Who's got Standing Orders?"

    Rummage, rummage....

    "Civilian Partnerships... no"
    "Formation of DE&"
    "Potential suicide bombers...perhaps"
    "Can't find anything on Russia - aren't they on our side now?"
    "Oh well, better scramble the aircraft, just in case. Has anyone got the fuel card and can someone find a 1* to sign off the sortie?"

    Good drills though and well done on taking the camera. Just like the old times!

  7. Bar the fact it looks abit stonehenge the bear is still a useful bit of kit, depending on what variant it was they have some pretty good electronics packages onboard. classic case of if it isn't broken don't fix it, or possibly no more roubles left in the bank to replace it we have to keep on using it.
  8. Heh... thought of another scenario... what if a civilian company bought some and are using them for tours? Could see the advertisement...

    "Garaunteed excitement as you relive the Cold War aboard a classically appointed Tupolev "Bear!" Enjoy the experience of seeing NATO aircraft join the formation! Discounts for groups and veterans!" :)
  9. If as indicated they're Tu-142 (as opposed to Tu-95) then I strongly suspect the airframes are newer than the B-52s, KC-135s, maybe even some F-15s and F-16s that USAF operate. Oh, and the C-5s.

  10. Absolute genius.... "Get close up and personal with a Typhoon...."

    Only thing is you would have to time your runs between 0800 and 1630, Monday to Friday (not including Bank Holidays)
  11. I'm with you on this. With the Army becoming everyones best mate The RAF have something of a choice to make. Go the same way as the Navy and fly aircraft into Iran hoping to get captured or Save the day and get some more money to fill the gap they wasted on keeping the F3 and bringing in the Typhoon!
  12. Not sure it's a "modern" Tu-142 One_of_the_strange... it lacks the undernose radom of the Bear-F's and has the belly bulge of the Bear-D.

    Pfft... betcha more variations of this bird have been fielded than of any other airframe out there which makes visual identification difficult (especially since the tail isn't visible.)
  13. Bear D has my vote. Did the boys in blue check the Exercise OpOrder - would'nt surprise me if they were taking part.......
  14. They were both Tu-142M Bear F although I can't see which mod from this pic. Not all Foxtrots retain the chin radome and the ventral radome is for that variants Weteye radar). Meanwhile all the Tu-95 Bear Ds (which had a larger ventral Bigbulge radar) have now been retired. As far as I know, the Russians only have TU-142M Bear F (ASW/ASuW), TU-95MS16 Bear H (ALCM platform) and TU-142MR Bear J (VLF Sub Comms) remaining in service.

    The Bear remains an extremely capable platform, albeit one which can be heard (and felt!) from several miles away!

  15. The Russkies probably used up their fuel allowance for the year pulling that one off.