New Cold War: “Nuclear-armed” Russian Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ bomber intercepted by RAF Typhoons while satellites monitor growth of Russian air base in Syria

by | Sep 25, 2015 | History, Military space | 0 comments

As the Royal Air Force looked back to its victory in the Battle of Britain* 75 years ago, culminating in RAF Hurricanes and Spitfires flown by “The Few” mauling Luftwaffe daylight bombing attacks on London during September 1940, its modern day pilots were still having to guard the UK’s skies from intruders.  On 10 September a Russian Tu-160 supersonic bomber, NATO Codename ‘Blackjack’, was intercepted by RAF Typhoon fighter jets flown from RAF Lossiemouth in Northern Scotland.   Media reports indicate that RAF signals intelligence resources (likely to be listening stations and signals intelligence satellites) discovered that nuclear weapon first stage arming codes had been sent to the bomber.  The codes are an indication that the bomber was likely to have been carrying a live nuclear bomb or depth charge.

Russian 'Blackjack' bomber intercepted by RAF Typhoons on 10 September 2015. Courtesy: RAF/MoD

Russian ‘Blackjack’ bomber intercepted by RAF Typhoons on 10 September 2015. Courtesy: RAF/MoD

Russian intruder flights against NATO countries have been carried out on an increasing basis during a tense time between NATO and Russia.  This tension has been mainly caused by Russia’s annexation of parts of Ukraine, by the assassination of key opponents of the Putin-led Russian government, and by Russia’s increasing military air support for the Assad-regime in Syria under the guise of attacking ISIL forces.

The latter element is especially troubling to neighbouring countries such as Turkey and Israel.   Russia, whose government originally decried foreign involvement in the civil war, has now heavy intervened itself by constructing a full air base at Bassel al Assad air base near Latakia, Syria.    Western analysts are using both military and commercial satellite imagery to monitor the growth of the base.  From the imagery it is apparent that the base already has crewed Russian Sukhoi Su-30SM and Su-24  fighter-bombers, and Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack aircraft operating from it.

*A paper written by this writer describing the Battle of Britain is at:



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Hyperbola is a technology orientated spaceflight blog written by Flight's technical reporter Rob Coppinger

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