Two Russian bombers have been escorted from near UK territory - the latest in a series of similar incidents. How easy is it to spot a Russian plane, asks Jon Kelly.
The Ministry of Defence insists that the Russian aircraft did not enter British airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles from the nation's coast. But it says they were inside the UK's "area of interest", and the RAF scrambled Typhoon jets to intercept them. If the MoD's account is accurate, they may have been flying too far away for ordinary plane spotters to detect them - although a woman in Cornwall claims she saw them flying inland.
Each was a Tu-95 MS, also known by its NATO reporting name "Bear-H", a four-engine long-range bomber, equipped with turboprop-driven propellers and set-back wings that give it an unmistakable silhouette.
|The TU-95 Bear Bomber|
|A Tu-160 strategic bomber|
|A Russian long-range bomber TU-22|
|The MiG 31 interceptor|
"Bear raids" just outside British airspace were a common occurrence during the Cold War, sometimes taking place every week, says defence analyst Paul Beaver. Back then, he says, the intention was to test the RAF's reaction time. Their frequency lessened in the final years of the Soviet Union and stopped altogether when the Berlin Wall fell. Under Vladimir Putin's leadership, however, they have resumed. Yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron said he suspected the Russians were "trying to make some sort of a point", and Bronk agrees. "Essentially, it's rattling the sabre."
Thanks to Nick de Larrinaga of IHS Jane's Defence Weekly for assistance with this article.