In the early hours of Monday, December 10, 2019 the irst operational launch of a Royal Air Force Typhoon ighter carrying the Meteor beyond visual range airto- air missile took place. Two jets launched from RAF Lossiemouth, Elgin, Scotland, to investigate, at the time, unidentiied Russian aircraft approaching UK airspace. They were supported by a Voyager tanker that launched from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.
Chief of the Air Staf Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said: “RAF Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon ighters are now armed with the most advanced air-to-air missile in the world, the MBDA developed ramjet-powered Meteor. Another huge leap forward in capability for the Typhoon Force, which is proud to continue defending the UK and our allies, 24/7.”
The two ‘bogies’ were identiied as Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic bombers with registration numbers RF-94100 and Bort number ‘10 red’, named Nikolai Kuznetsov and RF-94102 ‘02 red’ Vasili Reshtnikov. Both bombers are based at Engels Air Force Base near Saratov, southwest of Moscow. They were on their way to Maiquetia Simón Bolívar airport outside Caracas, Venezuela where the crews were met by a delegation headed by the Venezuelan defence minister, Vladimir Padrino López and the chief of Venezuela’s Air Force, the Aviación Militar Nacional Bolivariana de Venezuela/Venezuelan National Bolivarian Military Aviation. They were provided an escort by Venezuelan F-16 ighters as they approached the airport. Support for the bombers was provided by an Il-62 Classic airliner and an An-124 Condor heavy transport.
The deployment caused heightened tensions between Russia and the United States, who was very critical of the deployment as it sees it as Russian provocation. The two bombers left for home on Friday December 14.