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British Fighters 'Escort' Russian Bombers Near U.K. Airspace

A photo taken in October and provided by Britain's Royal Air Force shows a Russian "Bear" bomber similar to the one that grazed U.K. airspace on Wednesday.
Robyn Stewart

The British government has summoned Russia's ambassador to the United Kingdom, asking him to explain why a pair of nuclear-capable Russian long-range "Bear" bombers flew alarmingly close to U.K. airspace.

In a situation reminiscent of the Cold War, British Typhoon fighters were scrambled to intercept the TU-95s on Wednesday. Ultimately, the bombers did not enter U.K. airspace, but a spokesman for the Foreign Office in London said the incident was part of "an increasing pattern of out-of-area operations by Russian aircraft," Sky News says.

According to the BBC:

"The planes were 'escorted' by RAF jets 'throughout the time they were in the UK area of interest', officials added.

"Russia's ambassador has been summoned to 'account for the incident.' "

Reuters quotes an unnamed British government source as saying that:

"[The] incident ... was viewed as 'a significant escalation' and marked a change in strategy since Russian aircraft had previously largely confined themselves to flying close to Scotland.

" 'It was very dangerous. Civil aircraft flying to the UK had to be rerouted,' the source was quoted by Reuters as saying. 'The Russians were flying with their transponders turned off so could only be seen on military radar. They haven't flown this far south before.' "

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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