PILOTS in one of the two Russian supersonic bombers intercepted near UK skies last week had started the countdown to arm a nuclear bomb, sources revealed last night.
The discovery was made after RAF specialists analyzed a four-second signal transmitted from one of the Tupolev Tu-160 bombers, known by Nato as “Blackjacks”, in the days following Thursday’s incursion.
Analysts at RAF Boulmer, Britain’s Control and Reporting Centre, confirmed that the Russian bombers had begun the sequence to arm nuclear weapons while carrying out the incursion.
It is not the first time they have done this and comparison with a similar signal transmitted by a TU-95 “Bear” bomber revealed Russian air crew had begun the countdown during an incursion last year, as well.
The Sunday Express revealed that the bomber involved in the February 2014 incident had been carrying a submarine-busting nuclear depth charge designed to attack Britain’s Trident-carrying Vanguard submarines.
“All I can say is that we now know it related to the first stage of arming a nuclear device,” said a senior RAF source last night.
“There are several additional arming procedures which, thankfully, were not carried out.”
Last week’s air incursion, which was intercepted by Two RAF Typhoon jets, was the seventh this year by Russian forces.
“Putin does not allow his air force to fly with cruise missiles because he is so worried about defections, but dual purpose bombs such as nuclear depth charges are a different matter. And these are designed to be a direct threat to or nuclear deterrent.
“It is entirely probable that Russian crews have been practicing arming drills. The whole process can take several minutes, and it is important to be able to carry out quickly.”
Most Russian aircraft fly without transponders so as not to give away their positions, making them a safety hazard to other air traffic.
Full article: How close we came to Armageddon: Russian bombers began to arm NUKE near UK airspace (Express)