Photos Show RAF Typhoons Intercepting Russian Tu-160 Bombers

(Photo courtesy U.K. Ministry of Defence)The U.K. Ministry of Defence has released photographs showing Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jets intercepting a pair of Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers on Thursday near U.K. airspace.

The so-called quick reaction alert aircraft scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, met the two white, supersonic heavy strategic bombers in international airspace and escorted them through the U.K.’s area of interest, according to a press release from the MoD.

The twin-engine Typhoons were refueled by an RAF Voyager aircraft, a variant of the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport, from RAF Brize Norton during the mission, according to the release. Here’s what one of the pilots, squadron Leader Jim Calvert of II(AC) Squadron at Lossiemouth, had to say of the incident:

“Given the Royal Air Force’s enduring commitment to secure the UK’s skies, yesterday’s sortie once again proved Typhoon’s capability to successfully scramble and intercept Russian long-range aviation,” he said, according to the release.

“Protecting our skies is especially poignant in this 75th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain,” he added. “Working together with ground-based radar and air-to-air refuelling aircraft today’s RAF continues to come together as a team to protect our country.”

The MoD even plugged a Sky News documentary about the RAF’s quick reaction alert, or QRA, capability scheduled to air Sunday, Sept. 13.

The incident is the latest example of Russia flexing its military might abroad. A Russian spy ship — capable of cutting undersea communications cables — was reportedly spotted this month off the Eastern seaboard of the U.S.

While some 35 Tupolev Tu-160s were built, only a handful are reportedly operational in the Russian air force. The Tu-160 may be getting more flying time because of the recent Tu-95 crashes that temporarily grounded the fleet of four-engine turboprop-powered aircraft.

Russia wants to develop a next-generation PAK-DA bomber to replace the Tu-160 and the Tu-95.

(Photo courtesy U.K. Ministry of Defence)

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Steiner

    That’s funy. ..because even though they have intercepted them …they cannot follow them if they go at maximum speed. …

  • LOL

    Intercepted a leisurely cruising bomber? Let’s hear how the Typhoons did against the Su-30s in India, and have the Brits figured out how they managed to lose 12-0?

    • Trollspotter

      Pretty sure that was Indian propaganda? I do not see an elite fighting force losing that convincingly to India when they train with the top forces on the planet. They have also claimed to destroyed F15s back in ’04 in an exercise. A little fishy I think.

    • NathanS

      RAF sources say their analysis is vastly different to the Indian’s, and pretty much accused them of lying to the Indian public. It is also believed the Typhoon had much of its high end avionics was turned off to protect confidentiality, and they were happy with it’s performance.

    • Michael Donnelly

      The usaf has also been beaten by the Indian force on several occasions. The typhoons weren’t allowed to use their radars or beyond visual range missiles.

      • Stratege

        “The typhoons weren’t allowed to use their radars or beyond visual range missiles”

        Just like Su-30mki with usaf.

    • Lawler

      Who cares about India? It’s a third world country.

  • Guest

    Try looking up the speeds ,, i know the 160 has the legs but the typhoon’s would catch them if needed ;-)

    • wichitachiefsfan

      Pretty sure that both are rated at just over Mach 2 but that Blackjack is a big heavy son of a gun and will burn a lot of fuel getting there.

  • Robert

    Shoot em down period!

  • John Deere

    The UK would have to drag its F-4 IIs out of a museum to catch a Blackjack at full tilt.

  • Douglas

    Don’t worry, U.K. Uncle Sam has your back with her fighters ready to take your place when you get exhausted. We are, after all, based all over your little “Kingdom”. There is no way those Blackjacks would get away. There is also no way we’d shoot one down, just to do it. It’s much more exciting, and fun, to fly up next to a TU-160 and give that pilot the bird, while the next two interceptors refuel with a tanker and ready for the switch.

  • Chris51

    TU-160 top speed 2,220 km/h. Typhoon top speed 2,495 km/h. no contest.

  • Beef Stick

    No surprise. We can expect more of this nonsense behavior.

  • Sonny

    It’s hysterical when people from a 3rd rate power like Britain ooze testosterone all over these websites. Let’s remember why the US only chose to take on the likes of Iraq and Grenada during the Cold War… and never a single shot was fired at the Soviets?

    24,000 nuclear missiles.

    It’s like India and Pakistan. The side with more to lose, in India’s case a booming economy, a free society, etc., will never start a war, at the obvious risk of being called “weak” or “cowardly”. That’s why the US also never did anything…

    But rest assured, if the Pakistanis decided to fire first… like they’ve done 4 times in the past… the next time they will cease to exist as a country, or at least most of their country in the south and Balochistan… will forcibly be ‘liberated’. The CIA/RAND Corp./US Military did a study on this and it resulted in the formation of an Indian Superstate…

    Let a Typhoon fire on a Tupolev and before the US can come to the aid of the British… again… the Queen will be drinking Vodka and saying “Do sividanya” to London.

    • Cemore

      Russia - the bastion of vodka-drinking insomniacs bloviating over their military, because that is all they have.

      • Sergei

        Hitler thought same way before started war with Russia. And where is he now?

    • ccc40821

      1st rate. They still have nukes.

    • Tad

      A very provocative comment on this forum, but also very true.

  • donbacon

    On language
    -Some news reports call this type of event an “escort” and some call it an “intercept.” It’s really the former, an escort, because there is no forced change in the flight path of the escorted aircraft (in international airspace).
    -Here, the incident is “the latest example of Russia flexing its military might abroad.” When the US does it, it’s a “surveillance and reconnaissance” flight.

    • John Slow

      It’s called propaganda over there and public relations over here. It’s a concept of using mass communications to dis tract , disinformation and control the masses. It’s highly effective.

  • Steiner

    The British jet look so “tiny” and “fragile” near the Russian blackjack

    • Alex

      It’s a fighter, of course it’s going to be smaller than a supersonic bomber.

    • Zed

      Da, it much does.

  • Dfens

    But all we need is subsonic airplanes.

    • Curt

      And yet I doubt the Typhoons ever went supersonic. In fact, had the TU-160s went supersonic, they would have gone from a large slow target to an even easier to hit large fast non-maneuvering target. And they still couldn’t outrun any AAMs. In AA combat, going supersonic may let you shoot from further away but it also makes you a sitting duck, so you better hope the other guy doesn’t have you in range.

      • Dfens

        Hell yeah. The faster the airplane the easier target it is. That’s why we should go back to blimps.

      • Stratege

        Cheap talks.
        The Tu-160 is a bomber. Its strategic role is stand off nuclear Air Launched Cruise Missile carriers. In reality the Blackjack can stand off thousands of mile away from a target and deploy their missiles, for an example the Kh-101 (new Russian stealth cruise missile that have a ~5500 km range). The Typhoons would be absolutely useless against the ALCM attack.

  • Curt

    Wow, who would believe the Russians had two operational TU-160s!

  • Curt

    Wow, who would believe the Russians had two operational TU-160s!

  • BlackOwl18E

    In America, you are fast enough to intercept the bombers. In Soviet Russia, the bombers are fast enough to intercept you!

  • franklin

    After reading some of the comments here I am wondering why I bother to post to this board!

    The Russian smoke screen to project power with a badly maintained and obsolete bomber force is at odds with an easier strategy of wait and see. The new British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to get out of NATO, scrap their nuclear defense, and part with the European Union. The Russians only have to relax, sit back, and wait for him to go to work. Then do whatever they want including taking half of Europe as well as the Arctic circle. If Corbyn continues to act like Nevil Chamberlain then he will simply meet Putin and do a repeat of the Munich agreement for whatever Putin wants.

    If things are not bad enough there is still a strong movement in Scotland to part from England which is planning another vote. That could screw up the whole regional defense posture, and that’s Putin it mildly.

  • eagleye

    cat and mouse game

  • jamesb101

    The Russian Bomber sure looks like a dressed up Concorde, eh?

  • extreme_one

    “near U.K. airspace” AKA international airspace
    NATO has a vast position in the diaper manufacturing company Pampers and they are fear mongering to increase the revenue of Pampers.

  • vestre

    It won’t be long when the unannounced incursions into the UK, Noway, Sweden, even Spanish air space will cause a collision between the commercial ailriner and their bombers and then what? Putin shrugs it off as if nothing happened, blames our side and he goes on a hike or something. There is no conscience, morality or common sense in anything Putin does. And he has the button to the big one?!

  • Alan walton

    That Russian Bomber looks like a Concorde lol.

    Not much left to invent so they copy.

    • Lightingguy

      Probably more a copy of the B-1 then Concorde. Th B-1A model was originally designed to go supersonic before they came to their senses and realized it could only do so at a high altitude where it was a sitting duck, regardless of how fast it flew.

      Recall as well the Russians did produce the Tu-144 supersonic airliner, which had many, many fatal flaws that prevented it ever going into production. That plane, like the Concorde dealt with landing visibility issues the same way, with a hinged nose

  • Joe Sovereign

    “Russia wants to develop a next-generation PAK-DA bomber to replace the Tu-160 and the Tu-95.”

    Why even include this nonsense. Nobody can afford a modern bomber fleet especially the Russian cleptocracy. The Tu-95 Bear Bombers are 1940’s designs that are falling out of the sky, These two planes may be the only 2 operational Tu-160 Blackjacks the Russians have.

    The US Air Force claims to have 158 bombers, 76 B-52s, 63 B-1s and 20 B-2s. Every B-52 is at least 50 years old. The B-1’s may be retired soon because of budget cuts and they are all 35 years old. The US is hoping to build 100 of the Next Generation Bombers for 100 Billion but everyone knows if construction begins at all it will cost 200 Billion and will be lucky to get 50 planes. The US is heading to bankruptcy not a generation of new wonder weapons.

  • Bill

    Alexander the Great once said: “I’d rather fight and army of lions led by sheep than an army of sheep lead by a lion”. The west including the once powerful USA is now led by a collection of socialist sheep masquerading as commander in chiefs. Not a back-bone among them. Putin may have an inferior military but he has the guts to use it because he knows his enemies will never challenge him in any meaningful way. Just empty scoldings and threats. Putin is building his axis powers with china, Iran and every other American hating dictator on the planet. Just a matter of time until we surrender in the name of keeping the peace!!

    • guest

      Maybe YOU will but Vets don’t. I’m a Cold War Vet from the 80’s that was stationed at RAF Greenham Common /Welford.. The job was done was done when I got out but it seems you whiny next generation have no spine. I have no problem serving again if needed and called.

  • JSCS

    Sorry gang. Espionage from the XB-70 program begat the TU-144 and TU-160. Another lesson in keeping your data to yourself.

  • retired462

    You notice that the Airbus tankers are up and refueling and have been for a while,; and Boeing MIGHT get a KC-46 in the air soon.
    If politics didn’t enter into it, we might have had some new refuelers in the air already.