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A QRA is a military response to the threat of a ‘rogue aircraft’ entering British airspace.

An RAF refuelling tanker is heading back to its base at RAF Brize Norton, after what aviation spotters reported as a possible Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) in the skies north of Lewis this morning (Thursday 29 February).

Two Lossiemouth-based Typhoon jets and a Voyager refuelling tanker were reportedly active in the skies north of the Butt of Lewis.

The Voyager took off from RAF Brize Norton at 6.21am and headed directly north, before turning west and taking up a circling pattern over a large area of the Atlantic north of Lewis.

Some amateur commentators reported that a Russian Navy TU-142 aircraft was also in the vicinity. The Tupolev TU-142 aircraft is used for maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare and is referred to by NATO as ‘Bear.’

The reported incident happened at the same time as Russian president Vladimir Putin was giving his annual state of the nation address, in which he warned that Western rhetoric threatened ‘conflict with the use of nuclear arms and consequently the destruction of civilisation.’

In their explanation of how a QRA is co-ordinated, the RAF says: “Using information from radar sites across the UK and from civilian air traffic and intelligence agency, the surveillance team in the Control Reporting Centre at RAF Boulmer identify and share (a threat) with the National Air and Space Operations Centre (NASOC) at RAF air command in High Wycombe.”

“The NASOC decide that the threat is sufficient to scramble Typhoon jets and pass the order to RAF Boulmer, who have direct contact with the pilots at RAF Lossiemouth and pass on the scramble message.

“Pilots at RAF Coningsby are ordered to stand by in the cockpits of their Typhoons.”

The images show the route of the RAF Voyager north of Lewis this morning (Flightradar24.com)