The Russians are Coming

If you have been living on the moon week there is an outside chance you might not have seen the wall to wall coverage of a pair of Russian Tu-95’s on their south coast sightseeing tour.

An MoD spokesman said

While the Russian planes did not enter sovereign UK airspace and were escorted by RAF Typhoons throughout the time they were in the UK area of interest, the Russian planes caused disruption to civil aviation. That is why we summoned the Russian Ambassador today to account for the incident.

Typhoons from both RAF Conningsby and Lossiemouth with support from Voyagers were used for the 12 hour operation. The Russian aircraft had their transponders off, hence the disruption to civilian air traffic.

Several sources reported this as a ‘significant escalation’and that the numbers of interceptions were back at ‘Cold War’ levels.

Nothing to do with SDSR 2015 of course, that would be far too cynical.

Coincidentally, a Parliamentary Question was answered on just the subject;

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many times aircraft were intercepted by Quick Reaction Alert flights in 2014; and what the (a) intercepted aircraft type and (b) location were.

The answer;

Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) aircraft launched to intercept aircraft on 20 days in 2014. The number of days on which QRA aircraft have launched specifically against Russian military aircraft for each year since 2005 is contained in the table below. Not every launch resulted in an interception as some incidents were resolved prior to interception.

Year No. Days Launched Against Russian Military Aircraft
2005 4
2006 1
2007 19
2008 11
2009 11
2010 7
2011 10
2012 9
2013 8
2014 8

 

Ooh, awkward.

 

 

 

 

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monkey
monkey
January 30, 2015 7:37 pm

Putin stretching his muscles to no avail, he is just bolstering the defence budgets of NATO military forces who in these times of austerity need all the help they can get even from Vlad the Invader. Regardless of his domestic issues guiding his International policy he would do a lot better playing the hibernating bear and letting NATO drop their guard but politics is politics and his stance as a hard liner standing by the army trying to recover from his years of strangling their budgets is coming ever nessacary as the Russian federation income stream plummets.

TrT
TrT
January 30, 2015 7:59 pm

Monkey
Displacement activity
Russia wins the war in Ukraine it needs to win, NATO wins the willy waving contest in the north sea that doesn’t matter

monkey
monkey
January 30, 2015 8:13 pm

@TrT
Indeed as far as our respective military and the associated manufactures of shiny kit its a win win. Raised tensions ease the purse strings on both sides but at what cost? Indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilians in shopping centres in the Ukraine’s seaside towns? Airliners brought down ? My other half has flown home for New Year today and booked Aeroflot . In all probabilities the Ukrainians have enough of the bad press of civilians being shoveled into body bags on both sides but who knows which nutter has his finger on the fire button? No news so far , so she should be well on her way from Moscow to Beijing by now so no harm done except to my blood pressure.

as
as
January 30, 2015 9:16 pm

Russia boasts it will maintain military superiority over the West until 2020 at least as it continues to add to its nuclear arsenal despite recession

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2932708/Defence-chief-says-Russia-maintain-military-superiority-Interfax.html

Sparky42
Sparky42
January 30, 2015 9:22 pm

Curious that this is the first time I’ve seen reports that the UK considers Ireland in it’s “defence area” (obvious that it is but I don’t think I;ve seen them say it before)

@AS
Putin’s spending is going to have to slow at some point, the economic situation is only going to get worse for him before it gets better. While he has invested in his nukes, everywhere else is fading, in terms of ship building their rates are bad and nothing more than Frigates have been produced to replace the Soviet hulls (and they get parts from Ukraine), in terms of aircraft, well a significant amount of their helo transmissions are made in Ukraine as well…

Tim UK
Tim UK
January 30, 2015 11:03 pm

I heard our air to air missile stocks are appalling low . Do we actually have enough serviceable missiles for QRA ?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 30, 2015 11:05 pm

@ Tim UK

The very simple answer is yes, do not believe everything you read or at least interpret it properly rather than the daily mail version.

Passerby
Passerby
January 30, 2015 11:05 pm

Tim you hear from where?

Chuck
Chuck
January 30, 2015 11:11 pm

Not sure the table is that relevant. Counts Day’s not sorties, only includes QRA scrambles, which only happens when an unidentified aircraft is detected. If it’s a planned handover from NATO partners it might not involve QRA at all, same on the occasions they bother to file flight plans or use transponders. Doesn’t include the Tiffies in the Baltic which in addition to mounting CAPs are regularly scrambled.

8 times pootling around 200 miles off the cost in the North Sea with a single bird, is very different to flying 4 bomber mock attacks with armed escort 25 miles of the coast or in the channel. The numbers have been pretty steady since they restarted in 2007, I think mostly because that’s just how much they’re capable of sustaining, but the aggression has increased. During the cold war for example the Bears never came so far south as the channel.

Not that this was ever harmless training, Putin was clear about that from the get go. It was restarted after Litvinenko, plastic rocks, BMD arguments and Russian suspension of the CFE Treaty in ’06-’07, deliberately to intimidate us. Russia is the size of Pluto they don’t need our coast for training.

If you only start counting at Crimea it looks like nothing has changed but if you do you’re missing a huge amount of the story not least the annexation of other nation’s territory, now almost forgotten.

Outsider
Outsider
January 31, 2015 1:39 am

If I were a more optimistic chap, I’d say we were deliberately underperforming when it came to QRA flights in order to lull Russians and such into a false sense of security. Especially as these flights not only act as a bit of political… ‘flag’ waving, but also serve to test reaction times and crew response in these flights.

However, from what I’ve seen of the state of the British Armed Forces over the last few years, I can’t really say I think this is the case, to be honest.

Obsvr
Obsvr
January 31, 2015 1:42 am

Aren’t there international agreements about the use of controlled airspace and protocols to deal with violations?

Mercator
Mercator
January 31, 2015 2:02 am

Article 3 a) this convention shall be applicable only to civil aircraft, and shall not be applicable to state aircraft.

http://www.icao.int/publications/pages/doc7300.aspx

So long as the Russians remain in international airspace (effectively outside 12 miles), they can do what they like.

Martin
Editor
January 31, 2015 4:24 am

When did Russia become more militarily powerful than the west? Only interns of nuclear weapons can the measure up but let’s be honest our little bitty pile of 140 is easily enough to glass their entire country. Having 8,000 is a total waste of money.

Their conventional forces are still a joke and even spending $260 billion on them by 2020 would translate into a single year of NATO’s equipment budget.

I agree with TD that a lot of this has do to with SDSR 2015 as does the navy chasing down Russia submarines. That being said politicians to need to be reminded that we no longer live in a totally benign environment.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 31, 2015 7:37 am

I don’t think the A400M is an economic nightmare. The engine choice (political) derailed it for a while.

I link the so called Export Levy, dishing out £175m, and 13 out of the 22 a/c losing DAS (£238m saved).

Export Levy is in fact an equity insertation. But to make it NOT TO be a state subsidy it is payable back from any genuine export orders. Should those not materialise, it will become a cost. NAO has not counted it as one (at least, not yet).

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 31, 2015 7:38 am

Sorry, that was meant for the Open Thread!
– pours more coffee, to wake up

TAS
TAS
January 31, 2015 12:55 pm

Is it me or was Tim UK really Timski? Strange question to ask and then vanish…

Perhaps a reminder that we ought to be careful with insider snippets on a public forum.

Martin
Editor
January 31, 2015 2:10 pm

@ TAS – would not be the first time the FSB has had people on here. That being said we may as well turn a few spitfires out from the aircraft museum to shoot down what the Russians can send to the UK.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 31, 2015 2:19 pm

140 x 100kt, does not even glass half of Russia this side of the Urals, let alone the vast wilderness the other side. That’s why I advocate 192 x 200kt (+20 x 40kt tactical) as a minimum UK deterrent.
Did I read somewhere that Meteor should start to boost UK missile stocks, starting some time this year?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 31, 2015 2:27 pm

@JH

“140 x 100kt, does not even glass half of Russia this side of the Urals, let alone the vast wilderness the other side. That’s why I advocate 192 x 200kt (+20 x 40kt tactical) as a minimum UK deterrent.
Did I read somewhere that Meteor should start to boost UK missile stocks, starting some time this year?”

what on earth are you talking about? You do not deter wilderness, you deter those that make the decisions. Not to mention that if we were going to launch at Russia it probably means we are all dead and there are far more Nukes flying around than ours.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 31, 2015 2:34 pm

APATS What is the point of a deterrent that no longer deters? It has to be powerful/ghastly to do its job. There are plenty of towns/cities in Siberia for Czar Putin & his merry men to move to. I would not put it past him to sacrifice some of his own population. Plenty of previous Russian leaders have done just that.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 31, 2015 2:39 pm

‘That’s why I advocate 192 x 200kt (+20 x 40kt tactical) as a minimum UK deterrent.’

Money?

Chris
Chris
January 31, 2015 2:49 pm

DN – an interesting question, that one. The ‘cost’ of a warhead presumably includes all the R&D effort, integration effort, raw materials, manufacturing costs, transport costs, maintenance costs and storage costs amortised over the number of units maintained? So would a 200kt device be more expensive than a 100kt device (on the assumption both fit the launch vehicle, obviously)?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 31, 2015 2:58 pm

Chris

Do we have a fully designed 200kt warhead waiting to be perched on the top of a trident? plus the 20 tactical nukes that would need to be re manufactured We.177 or probably completely new so as to fit in the F35 bomb bay with new 40Kt warheads (if we wanted to use aircraft) or new tactical missile system.

That is what I mean by money.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 31, 2015 3:05 pm

UK warheads are variants of their American counterparts, so the 200kt warhead I have in mind is the W89 that was engineered & tested in the late 1980s. Public source material says it is the basis for the reliable replacement warhead, where there is a lot of UK/USA co-operation. The 40 kt tactical warhead would probably be a UK version of the B61, that the Americans are talking about modernising. Could also use the Poseidon warhead design, suitably modernised.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 31, 2015 3:06 pm

@JH
“APATS What is the point of a deterrent that no longer deters? It has to be powerful/ghastly to do its job. There are plenty of towns/cities in Siberia for Czar Putin & his merry men to move to. I would not put it past him to sacrifice some of his own population. Plenty of previous Russian leaders have done just that.”

I must have missed the attack from the Russians it did not deter then?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 31, 2015 3:11 pm

Hartley – Even if the Czar and his armies moved east of the Urals, a counter-offensive across the glass desert west of the Urals would be a touch challenging…assuming there was anything left in these parts bar rats, cats and cockroaches. Mind you, CND and the Greens would be happy…having been proved right about the risks involved in maintaining nukes, and seen the whole world bombed back into a low consumption economy (the stone age, with the added benefit of radiation sickness). :-)

GNB

Hohum
Hohum
January 31, 2015 3:15 pm

Comparing nominal defence spending is not very useful. Russian defence spending goes much further than most European spending; for instance Russia can buy three Su-34s for the amount of money we can buy a Typhoon for and that stretches throughout their equipment programme. Equally their personnel costs are substantially lower. What many in Europe consistently miss is the extent to which the continent has lost critical mass in key areas- most notably tactical aviation.

The Strategic Aviation flights are probably running at capacity, the force is limited and increasingly old; there is also an upgrade programme on both the Tu-160s and Tu-22s that keeps a certain number of airframes out of circulation.

The purpose of the Russian nuclear arsenal is very simple; they use it to keep the West at a distance, the deliberate ambiguity over first use is intended to force Western leaders to factor it into their decision making. And it works, no Western European country is going to pursue a policy of direct confrontation with Russia because of the fear of the accidental escalation resulting in a nuclear exchange. It’s old school deterrence theory (Schelling’s “a threat that leaves something to chance”) but it still works.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 31, 2015 3:46 pm

@Hohum, what sort of numbers would tactical aviation need? Let’s remember that up until about 3 years ago all the best new kit in Russia was shipped East, not West. Their A/c are less multirole than those in the West:
Abt half a thousand strike, plus 10% on top capable of deep penetration missions
A good 800 for air superiority (to make the aboveforce feasible) and for air defence
Abt one and a half hundred strategic bombers, many of which though have been tasked with coastal defence

What is your take on tactical aviation in the West of Europe? After all, working together is a key part of the training.

Hohum
Hohum
January 31, 2015 5:14 pm

ACC,

Russian aircraft are rapidly becoming more multirole, the shift is taking place. The naval Tu-22Ms are now under strategic aviation control and it increasingly seems that they are not really dedicated to coastal defence at all rather they are becoming multi-target in the same sense the US bomber fleet is.

Western Europe does not have a tac-air technology problem, it has a force generation/volume problem. We all like amusing ourselves by laughing at what happened to the Russian military after 1990 but we forget that under current plans the UK will have lost 80% of its fast jet fleet by volume (both total airframes and squadrons) by 2019/20 since 1990; much the same has happened in the rest of western Europe (Norway aside). What Europe needs is a few more Squadrons.

davidbfpo
davidbfpo
January 31, 2015 10:59 pm

This report has yet again been “spun” for whatever reason.

Yes this Russain long range mission was different as these turbo-prop TU-95s flew without their transponders being switched on, so were unseen by civilian air traffic controllers responsible in Ireland (from Shannon ATC) and those in the UK. Excluding for a moment those in Iceland and Norway.

Then I was sent a Canadian link which has this sentence: ‘The Russians were flying with their transponders turned off so could only be seen on military radar’. See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/russian-bombers-over-english-channel-raise-stakes-with-moscow/article22714057/

UK air traffic controllers work closely with the RAF, so it is very unlikely that the aircrafts flight path was not passed to them and to the Irish. Civilian aircraft could be diverted above or around the Russian’s flight path – not exactly earth-shattering is that.

Nor would these slow-moving aircraft appear in the English Channel as a surprise. One would expect the NATO military radar network in Norway to notice them flying around the North Cape into the North Atlantic and so hand them onto the RAF.

Would the Russians fly without emitting an electronic signature? I think not. Or were the ELINT & SIGINT networks asleep, maybe even disbanded? Again I think not.

Yes the Russians are reportedly probing around Western defences, we are told there has been an increase – as the chart here shows the evidence is not conclusive. I have yet to read a media report that actually says the Russians have ever entered UK national airspace, as distinct from the UK ADIZ.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 31, 2015 11:06 pm

@DavidBFPO

with transponders turned off they could only be seen on active radar be that mil or civvy. They were tracked and shadowed by NATO forces from well outside UK airspace until well clear off it again.
The simple fact is that they flew at a height and speed with no flight plan and no comms with civilian ATC that required the re routing of civilian air traffic.
They have never entered Uk air space as they are intercepted well before that but you cannot just turn transponders off, criss cross air lanes and think it is ok.

Chuck
Chuck
February 1, 2015 12:27 am

@David: If they actually entered British air space, they would be killed. That’s the point of QRA. After many warnings I’m sure, but once they crossed that line, killed none the less.

The article you linked rather undermines your point before even getting half way down by pointing out it’s the number of total aircraft and the aggressiveness of those aircraft, not the total number of sorties that’s increased.

As I said earlier; 1x Bear far out over the north sea is very different from from multiple Bears with escort coming within walking distance of committing an act of war.

Martin
Editor
February 1, 2015 4:26 am

@ John Hartley – much as I don’t like Putin at all I don’t see him as a James Bond bad guy willing to have European Russia glassed so he can wait out the nuclear winter in Siberia only to repopulate the world it’s his master race of gold jewelry waring gangsters and oligarchs.

The guys is a thug but I don’t see him as being mad like some previous Russian leaders.

Hohum
Hohum
February 1, 2015 11:37 am

Martin,

Vladimir Putin is a return to type for Russian leaders, whatever uniform they have worn paranoia, imperialism and violence have been standard traits. However, none of them have ever been willing to engage in nuclear war. The key to understanding Russia is understanding it is lead by the paranoid; that Paranoia often leads to aggression more than restraint.

Hugh
Hugh
February 2, 2015 12:24 pm

I was jolly unsporting of them to fly up the Channel rather than across the North Sea when we have gone to all of that effort to deploy our Typhoons in Lossiemouth and Coningsby – quite a long commute to the Channel by any standards.

Time to reopen Tangmere?!

Chris
Chris
February 2, 2015 12:45 pm

Hugh – the control tower sort of exists (just the concrete structure) but the hangars and RAF office buildings went some 20 years back; since then its been built over in piecemeal fashion (housing estates where the RAF’s offices once were, acres of hothouses to supply supermarkets with toms and capsicums, new tin & glass offices spreading in from the northern boundary. What little is left of the airfield has been identified by the council as a solar farm site. If you can land your fast pointy jets between all that, and not get complaints from the neighbours, then by all means base some interceptors at Tangmere… http://binged.it/1CpnPq5

Topman
Topman
February 2, 2015 12:58 pm

Not sure if it was put in a jokey way, but Typhoon can cover distances pretty quickly and if a need arises we can move QRA to another base, as we did during the Olympics.

Hugh
Hugh
February 2, 2015 1:41 pm

@ Chris – They did at least give aviation-related names to the roads in the housing estates. When, a decade or so ago a Hunter flew along the coast between Bognor and Littlehampton to commemorate Neville Duke’s breaking of the sound barrier there were complaints from all over the place (even though it was subsonic) – with the notable absence of complaints from the RAFA home at Rustington…

In the mid 1980s Tangmere was where we all went to see how fast we could get our parent’s cars to go.

@ Topman – Yes, it was meant to be jokey / facetious. As a nation we appear to be running very lean. Maybe we could afford some Jasper Maskelyne type dummy Typhoons instead.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
February 2, 2015 1:48 pm

Hugh.

No need. Boscombe Down is a designated alternative QRA location for the south.

Shaun
Shaun
February 4, 2015 12:58 pm

Would be handy to have 3-4x AC-130s flying orbits over Northern Iraq and Eastern Syria, picking off low-value targets with cannon.

Guy
Guy
February 17, 2015 12:36 pm

Amazing stuff. We will also give Indonesia $578 million this ficnnaial year in foreign aid. We spend 10% of GDP on health, Indonesia 2.4%. Education 2.8%and Australia 7 %.Over all Foreign Aid will rise from $4.8 billion in 2011 to $7.8 billion by 2015-16, with the Indonesian proportion rising accordingly.We gave China about $41million in Aid last year. (To show them how to make wine and grow dairy cattle to compete with us in the future)No doubt a lot of the cash disappears.Why do we have to contribute in this case, when Indonesia has more than 28 C130’s most of which are not operable because no money has been spent on them.

Tim W
Tim W
February 19, 2015 12:21 pm

Please can someone explain how it would be that it was apparently only the QRA from Coningsby that greeted the Russians this week? Surely they would have to fly past Lossiemouth on their way to Cornwall?

Thanks