Russian Tu-95 bombers escorted by Mig-31 interceptors skirt UK, get intercepted multiple times

Two Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers performed a 19-hour mission over the Atlantic Ocean. They were intercepted multiple times along the way.

On Jan. 29, two Russian Air Force Tu-95 strategic bombers from Engels airbase successfully completed a 19-hour long range mission over neutral waters near the Barents and Norwegian Seas, the Atlantic Ocean.

The Bears, accompanied by Mig-31 Foxhound long-range interceptors, were refueled twice by Il-78 Midas aerial refuelers and were intercepted and escorted by RAF Typhoons, Norwegian F-16s and French Mirage 2000s at various stages of their trip.

Even though according to the Office of Press and Information of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation “All flights of the [Russian] Air Force were carried out in strict accordance with international regulations on the use of airspace over neutral waters, without violating the borders of other states,” during their tour, the strategic bombers flew quite close to the UK airspace, causing “disruption to civil aviation”.

The Russian Tu-95s flew within 25 miles of the UK without filing a Flight Plan (FPL), without radio contact with the British ATC agencies and, obviously, without transponder switched on, and were shadowed by Typhoon jets scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby supported by a Voyager tanker.

This was not the first time Russian bombers skirted the UK airspace and it won’t be the last one. However, the UK summoned the Russian ambassador after the latest “dangerous” episode.

Image credit: Russian Federation MoD



About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. 19 hrs is a long time in that plane! Crew comfort was not a priority :( What happened to the Tu95 that was up for sale on ebay in the end does anyone know?

    • it was not a priority in 1952 when it was constructed,but they have been modernized many times over since.It is also one of the safest planes on the record in history.

  2. The proper NATO response is obvious.

    1. Take small civilian jet aircraft that are inexpensive to operate and modify them so they create a larger radar signature (using corner reflectors). If one aircraft looks like several, all the better.

    2. Every time Russia makes a flyby, count the aircraft involved and respond with five equivalent NATO flybys. Make sure each aircraft sends back a continuous stream of position data placing them in international waters and cockpit audio. Heck, they can even make regular on-the-air statements that they’re collecting weather data. The Russians will still have to intercept.

    Given the contrast between those pricey Russian flybys and the inexpensive, five-fold NATO response, the financially strained Russian government will soon feel the pain.

    I’d suggest using one of these cute, low-operating-cost jets for the flybys, but I suspect they don’t have the range.


    For the record, I took a similar approach in a legal dispute where I was going pro se (defending myself) against one of the largest literary estates on the planet (the Tolkien estate).

    I had enough legal training, I wasn’t worried about the usual ‘be your own lawyer’ dangers. When mattered was that they had lots of money and I had almost none. I simply flipped that around. They had to operate in a high-cost environment. I didn’t. Illustrations:

    * It might take me three times as long to respond to their filings given my limited experience, but their legal costs were probably around $450 an hour, making my time the equivalent of $150 an hour and my actual costs almost zero. I have a knack for copyright law, so countering their claims was a barrel of fun.

    * The lawsuit was in federal court in Seattle where I lived at the time, while they were in Manhattan.. That meant that a conference with the judge cost me literally a single bus fare ($2.25). They had to use their NYC lawyer as well as hire a Seattle lawyer to provide a local legal presence. I could play that $2.25 versus roughly $1000 game forever.

    * It was a copyright dispute and given that their other legal arguments carried no weight in the 9th circuit (west coast), in desperation they were paying an English professor to spend hundred of hours finding alleged plagiarisms, meaning similarities in wording between obscure books written by Tolkien’s son and remarks in my Lord of the Rings chronology, mostly by making heavy use of ellipses. My response to those hundreds of hours was to tweak away any similarities in language and place a single short paragraph in my reply noting that those claims were now moot. That took about half-an-hour. Again I could match my no-cost half hour with their paid several hundred hours for as long as they wanted. Of course, as the dispute went on, it became harder and harder to find those alleged plagiarisms.


    What both techniques have in common is that they use asymmetric warfare, meaning fighting in ways that cost the other side more. Normally, it’s the little guy who fights in non-traditional ways, but there’s no law that NATO has to play that game. With the proper planning, it can make five low-cost flybys, with the resulting Russian air defense frustrations, for far less than one by the Russians.

    If the Russians, with all their economic woes, want to continue to play that game, NATO can keep in up virtually forever.

    –Michael W. Perry, Chesterton on War and Peace

    • what “economic woes”-all they need is fuel to fly,and Russia has one of world’s largest reserves of oil!Also,pilots are happy to fly,so it is only the cost of keeping planes in good conditions, which they have to do anyway even if they sit in an indoor storage facility.

    • Brilliant! However, I’m not sure that they would go baknrupt, but they sure would be mightily pissed.

  3. I hear all the time its a common occurrence but its happening everywhere..something is definitely up. With the POTUS displaying such weakness it could be the moment..

  4. Please,can anyone confirm is it the truth that all NATO planes also fly near Russian borders with thwy transponders turned off,without giving any plan of flights to Russians?
    I believe that it is truth,somehow I can’t imagine US air force who gives details of their flights to Moscow!?
    If this is OK, why it is wrong when Russians do it,it is a big news and”great danger”?

    • The US routinely violated Russian airspace from 1947 to about 1975 or so. Multiple US aircraft were shot down on these missions which ranged from photo reconnaissance to electronic ferreting to simply measuring Russian response time. There are multiple good books on it, one titled, as I recall, “By any Means necessary” is one of the best. Some aircrew were captured and remained in Soviet prisons until they died or were worked to death.

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