Page last updated at 20:25 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 21:25 UK

RAF 'intercepted Russian planes'

Eurofighter Typhoon
RAF quick reaction alert aircraft have been launched on three days this year

RAF fighter jets have been launched at least 21 times to respond to Russian military planes in the last year, the armed forces minister has revealed.

Flights rose after President Vladimir Putin reinstated Cold War-style long range air patrols last August.

In a Commons written answer, Bob Ainsworth said that no Russian aircraft had entered UK airspace, although some had penetrated the Nato policing area.

Quick reaction alert aircraft have been launched on three days this year.

Mr Ainsworth said that British fighter planes - such as the Eurofighter Typhoon - took off to inspect Russian aircraft on 21 days between March 2007 and April 2008.

The minister was responding to a query from Conservative defence select committee member Bernard Jenkin.

"In the last 12 months no Russian aircraft have penetrated UK national airspace. However Russian aircraft have approached or entered the Nato air policing area (APA) for which the UK has responsibility," he said.

However, he would not state the exact dates and duration of time that Russian military aircraft had entered the APA because "its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces".

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