RAF Typhoon intercepts Russian TU-95 as it closes on UK airspace

One swallow does not make a summer. Nor perhaps two, three or four. But we are now beginning to see the fruits of President Putin’s announcement that the probing of UK Airspace by TU-95 Bear bombers was to be resumed. What we are seeing is as clear evidence as you could wish that Russia wishes to assert its military and economic strength both of which are rising on the back of its energy bonanza. Only last week new RAF Typhoons went up to intercept a TU-95 as it approached UK airspace.

Where else need one look for the possibility that Russia is a threat to the West? One thing that one might look askance at is the crude bullying and threatening observations issued by Russia to a member of NATO, The Czech republic (Reuters here) to the effect that it was a ‘big mistake’ for that nation to dare to contemplate the installation of a radar system which is to be part of the US Missile Defence Shield. This outrageous threat to an ally should be viewed for what it is: an attempt to browbeat NATO into distancing itself from the US.

Fortunately Russian diplomacy does not seem to have improved much since the days of the Communist Tyranny as they chose the 39th. anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 to issue this piece of nastiness. The Czechs, of course, will be thrilled on this day to be reminded in this way of how the Russians raped their country. The Czechs will not be intimidated, of course, and the probable effect of this menace will be to ally the Czech republic ever more closely to the USA and to NATO.

One is amused, however, by the probing of UK airspace by Russian Bear bombers. The RAF took the opportunity to make a PR point about the coming into service of the new advanced Typhoon fighter. This is an expensive but by all accounts sophisticated and capable aircraft (with one flaw of which more below). Over the years various armchair strategists have routinely denounced our acquisition of this aircraft on that grounds that it was far more sophisticated than we need and anyway the Cold War for which it was designed was over, so who needs it. I can now hear the choking on cornflakes going on all over the place as this White Elephant is pictured in many newspapers doing the job for which it is ideal: intercepting the bombers of a possibly hostile nation that a may be about to enter UK airspace. They were, I am afraid, utterly wrong, as usual, and their discomfiture would be sight to behold, if, that is, they had the courage to come out and admit they were wrong in the first place. I am not holding my breath, however, and nor should you.

On a wider note I commend to readers a short interview on the Today programme this morning (here at 0750 hours) with US General Jack Keane, late of the US Army and lately an adviser to General Patraeus. In a thoughtful piece he made the observation that he considered that our ground forces are too small for the tasks which are being set them and that our army needs to grow in size to meet the challenges of the 21st. Century to help maintain security as the situation in which we find ourselves evolves and continues to challenge the USA and the UK.

The little flaw in the Typhoon is that it does have a gun but it has only been left in the fighter to ensure proper weight distribution and ballast. It cannot be loaded and therefore used. The ludicrous decision not to equip this fighter properly has been much laughed at and much criticised. Other nations using the Typhoon have installed the loading gear for the gun and have used it: it is by all accounts an excellent addition to the weapons platform and gives it much greater versatility and flexibilty of attack. The decision is said to be in the process of reconsideration. Hopefully the MoD will now remove its collective head from the sand.