Civilian planes flying over British airspace are at risk from Russian jets playing a highly dangerous “game of chicken” in the skies

February 23, 2015 12:39 pm
Civilian planes flying over British airspace are at risk from Russian
jets playing a highly dangerous “game of chicken” in the skies, a
former head of the armed forces has warned.
Air Chief Marshal
Lord Stirrup, a former chief of the defence staff, said that recent
flights by Russian long-range Bear bombers off Bournemouth and the coast
of Cornwall were part of a strategy to probe UK defences. But he warned
that the new levels of activity posed a risk, not just to the RAF
planes sent to intercept them but also to civilian air traffic.

“They
are becoming more aggressive,” he told Sky . “These aircraft –
Russian Bears, for example – are not going on these flights simply as
joy rides. They are mission rehearsals. These aircraft launch stand-off
missiles against Western targets and just as they used to do in the Cold
War, they are practising those profiles.
“They are testing us,
they are testing our defences, they are testing our reactions and they
are engaging to a degree in a game of chicken and that’s very
dangerous.”

He added: “We are seeing the possibility of mid-air collision,
not between RAF and Russian aircraft, but between Russian aircraft and
civilian aircraft increasing.” Last month the Foreign Office said
Russian bombers flying near UK airspace had caused “disruption to civil
” for the first time, leading to the country’s ambassador being
summoned to explain the situation.
Lord Stirrup said President
Putin was “testing” the resolve of Britain and its Nato allies in the
stand-off in Ukraine and suggested Britain should now consider supplying
arms to the Ukraine government to counter the superior firepower of
separatist rebels supplied by Moscow.
“Nato over the years, in
the eyes of Putin at least, has become weak,” he said. “My concern is
that Nato is not spending enough resource on defence.” Lord Stirrup, who
was head of the armed forces at the time of the 2010 strategic defence
and security review, said the “swingeing cuts” to defence spending had
left the forces “right on the limit” and needed to be reversed.
The
chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, Conservative MP Rory
Stewart, said that all the political parties now needed to commit to
maintaining the Nato target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence.

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