RUSSIAN bombers which were caught flying close to the Cornish coast are likely to have gathered “valuable intelligence”, senior military figures have warned.
The two long-range Russian “Bear” planes – which are capable of carrying nuclear missiles– were intercepted by RAF jets in UK airspace in February.
But they are believed to have gained vital information about UK defences, experts have now warned.
However, five retired senior RAF officers have warned that the operations could have resulted in strategic information being collected about Britain’s nuclear deterrent since the Government scrapped maritime patrol aircraft.
The UK’s lack of submarine-hunting planes following the decision to axe the Nimrod fleet has given opportunities for “intruders” which could “prejudice the security and effectiveness” of Trident, they said.
In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, the five retired senior officers wrote: “The need to reintroduce Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) into the British frontline is now widely recognised.
“With so few naval escorts available, this will be vital if future aircraft carriers are not to be put severely at risk.
“We know that Russian submarines are monitoring the area from which our nuclear missile submarines emerge from the Clyde.
“Without maritime patrol aircraft surveillance, opportunities for intelligence-gathering by such ‘intruders’ can only prejudice the security and effectiveness of our strategic deterrent.
“Indeed, it would be surprising if valuable intelligence had not already been acquired by the Russian Navy since the Nimrod force was grounded in March 2010.”
Full article: Russian bombers flying near Plymouth gathered ‘valuable intelligence’ (Plymouth Herald)