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UK launches largest air drills in 30 years


Britain has launched its largest aerial exercises in three decades over “increased Russian presence around UK shores.”

More than 30 Royal Air Force planes took to the skies for the ‘Rising Panther’ drills.

Operation Rising Panther, the first of six proposed air defense operations due to take place every year, will “show [Russian leader] Vladimir Putin in no uncertain terms” that Britain is ready, willing and able counter increasing Russian aggression should the need arise, The Sunday Express reported, quoting military sources.

The warplanes include 20 Typhoons and Tornado fighter jets as well as a range of ED-3, AWACS, Sentinel and Shadow surveillance aircraft, which took part in the mock attack-and-defense war games over the Northeast of England, as well as ground-based command teams.

British media say Moscow authorized around eight Russian incursions into the UK airspace or Britain's "sphere of influence" every year.  They say more than 100 were known to have encroached European airspace in 2013 alone.

This is while the former chief of Voice of Russia London Bureau, Dmitry Linnik believes otherwise: “I don’t think that the United Kingdom has anything that Russia would be after. Russia would of course pose no direct threat of any kind to the UK.”

He also said: “That seems to be done in the framework of the NATO and of the recent trends towards the perception of Russia as a threat to NATO. In particular, we are of course aware of multiple reports in recent time of Russian planes skirting the borders of UK airspace. I think those instances have been played out of context. But, that’s been sort of information war that has been played out in the past few months, ever since the Ukraine events started developing.” 

Linnik also downplayed the significance of the UK air drills, noting: “I don’t believe that Russia would specifically fear any sort of threat from the UK, and UK will never act on its own. That’s not really the issue.” 

A video emerged last month of Russia’s Tu-95 Bear bomber, capable of carrying a nuclear payload, being shepherded by fighter jets off the coast of Cornwall.  The Russian airplane did not enter UK skies, and Russia has stoutly defended its practice of testing its operational capacity around the world. Moscow did not confirm details of that particular sortie. 

But UK Prime Minister David Cameron accused the Kremlin of “trying to make some sort of point.”


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