http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23395635-details/Cold+War+reheated-+Tornados+foil+Russian+spy+in+sky/article.do 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.