RAF Tornado jets were scrambled today to intercept eight Russian military aircraft which were approaching British airspace.
It was the latest in a series of incidents this summer in which British fighters have been used to warn off long-range Russian reconnaissance aircraft.
The four Tornado F3 fighters were launched from RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire and RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire in the early hours of this morning, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.
They intercepted and turned back eight Russian Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear" aircraft, which were "approaching but not in British airspace", he said.
Vladimir Putin’s Russia has returned to the Cold War tactic of sending military planes towards Nato airspace on several occasions in recent months.
The tactic reflects heightened tension between Russia and the West over issues including US President George Bush’s decision to position missile defence bases in the Czech Republic and Poland and Britain’s demand for the extradition of the suspected killer of Alexander Litvinenko.
Last month, two of the RAF’s new Typhoon Eurofighter jets were used to intercept and turn back a single "Bear" over the north Atlantic, and in July two Russian aircraft were warned off by RAF jets as they headed towards UK airspace.
In May, two Tornado F3s were scrambled from RAF Leuchars in Scotland to intercept a Tu-95 observing the Royal Navy exercise Neptune Warrior.
Norway scrambled four of its F-16 jet fighters to shadow the eight Russian planes in the Arctic in this morning’s incident, Norwegian armed forces spokesman Lt Col John Inge Oegland told the BBC.
He said that the Bears flew in international airspace from the Barents Sea - which lies between Russia’s northern coastline and the Arctic - to the Atlantic, then turned back.
The Tu-95 "Bear" is a propellor-driven long-range aircraft developed by the Soviet Union as a strategic bomber and missile carrier during the Cold War but now often used for surveillance missions.