- Typhoon fighters scrambled four times in 36 hours to intercept Russians
- Vladimir Putin deployed MiG 31 Foxhound Fighters, bombers and spy craft
- It is thought to be the first time state-of-the-art Foxhounds have been used
- Defence Secretary Michael Fallon warned Putin that ‘this is not a game’
British warplanes scrambled to intercept nine Russian aircraft within hours after they flew menacingly close to the Baltic States in what was described as the biggest act of provocation since the Cold War.
Moscow sent the world’s fastest supersonic fighter jet, along with spy planes and bombers to ‘snoop’ on Nato war games designed to send a ‘warning to Vladimir Putin’.
A senior RAF source last night told the Daily Mail: ‘We’ve never had a period like this in living memory.’
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A Typhoon pilot said it was the first time he had seen Russia deploy the Foxhound Fighter – one of the most formidable craft in its class, capable of firing long-range missiles up to 100 miles.
The Russian planes streaked along the fringes of Baltic airspace in an intense 36-hour period, prompting the deployment of state-of-the-art Typhoons from Amari airbase, Estonia.
The RAF warplanes were forced to scramble four times to intercept the Russian warplanes, the largest number of scrambles in such a short time period since the Cold War.
Defence sources added that this was also the largest number of Russian planes deployed into Nato’s area of interest since the Cold War, as Vladimir Putin was accused of ‘sabre rattling’.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon visited the airbase after the planes had scrambled three times.
In a significant hardening of Britain’s position on the worsening tensions with Moscow, he said: ‘This is absolutely not a game. Britain is standing tall. We mean business.’
Last night RAF sources said it was believed to be the largest number of Russian planes deployed in Nato’s area of interest since the Cold War.
Mr Fallon was visiting the region after observing Exercise Baltops, an annual maritime operation off the coast of Poland, in which nearly 1,000 British troops were participating.
During the huge exercise, Russian warships had come within a mile of British and American vessels, in a move described by a US Navy source as ‘too close for comfort’.
Mr Fallon added on Wednesday: ‘This is a very timely demonstration of our commitment to collective defence.
‘It’s a warning to Putin that his sabre rattling will not undermine Nato or Britain’s resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies.’
On Tuesday night two Typhoons scrambled to intercept two MiG 31s, known as Foxhound Fighters, in international airspace flying towards Kaliningrad.
Flight Lieutenant Oli Fleming said of the incident: ‘We got alongside to see a pair of MiG 31s. It’s the first time I’ve seen this type of MiG.’
The following day Typhoons were scrambled twice and again yesterday morning.
The Russian planes included four Foxhound fighters, two TU-22M3 Backfire C bombers, two surveillance aircraft and an A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning and control aircraft.
One wingman said: ‘There’s a big surge of energy and a big adrenaline rush.’
Last night Sir Michael Graydon, former head of the RAF, said it was ‘absolutely ridiculous’ that the Government had not committed to spending two per cent of national income on defence given the Russian threat.
He said: ‘I don’t think we are surprised that Putin is reacting. What is surprising is the number of planes he’s sent and the type of planes.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who visited the airbase the Typoons were scrambled from, said: ‘This is absolutely not a game. Britain is standing tall. We mean business’
‘It is Putin saying he’s not going to let exercises in that part of the world, which he sees as threatening, going unremarked.
‘I absolutely fail to understand why the Prime Minister won’t commit to two per cent and is sheltering behind the strategic, defence and security review, which is absolutely ridiculous.’
The RAF began air policing missions from Estonia six weeks ago as part of a collective Nato effort to defence the skies above the Baltics.
Four UK Typhoons stationed at the base have been deployed a staggering six times in the last ten days to intercept Russian warplanes observing exercise Baltops.
RAF planes have intercepted Russian warplanes 12 times in the last six weeks, compared to eight times in four months last year.
Mr Fallon added: ‘We are prepared to modernise our defences.’
Estonian Defence Minister Sven Mikser said the Russian planes were ‘unnecessarily provocative’ and said Russia had shown an ‘increased interest in Nato exercises’.
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