Two UK Royal Air Force jets intercepted a pair of Russian bombers flying over the English Channel near British airspace this week, the British defense ministry said Thursday.
Wednesday’s incident would be the latest in what NATO has said is an increase in Russian military flights near alliance members’ territory.
The British Typhoon jets intercepted the Russian bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, south of Bournemouth, England, over the English Channel, a UK defense spokesman said.
Two jets escorted the bombers for more about an hour and a half until the bombers left the area, the spokesman said.
The bombers did not fly into UK airspace, according to the spokesman.
In November, NATO said its members’ jets had been scrambled more than 400 times in 2014 to intercept Russian military flights close to members’ territories — a 50% increase over the previous year.
The increase harkens back to the days of the Cold War, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said November 20 during a visit to NATO member Estonia.
“This pattern is risky and unjustified,” Stoltenberg said. “So NATO remains vigilant. We are here. And we are ready to defend all allies against any threat.”
In a November report, the European Leadership Network listed more than 40 “close military encounters between Russia and the West” in the eight months from March to October.
Three of those, including a near-collision between a Russian military plane and a Swedish passenger aircraft carrying 132 people, were classified as “high-risk” incidents that could have led to direct military confrontation between Russia and the West, according to the report, titled “Dangerous Brinksmanship.”
UK jets intercepted more than 100 Russian aircraft last year, according to the British defense ministry.