Scramble! RAF warplanes are intercepting Russian nuclear bombers at least once a month
Streaking across the sky in front of a rising sun, the huge Russian jet heads towards Britain.
Capable of carryingat supersonic speeds, it is a potential threat the RAF must tackle - and fast.
Tornado fighters are scrambled. They intercept the Blackjack bomber and shadow it until the Russian pilots turn for home.
Intercepted: A Tornado, bottom, shadows a Russian Blackjack bomber off the Outer Hebrides
But this is no isolated incident. Astonishingly, such high-stakes games of cat and mouse are being played out in the skies off Britain at least once a month.
State-of-the-art British warplanes have taken to the air 64 times since 2006 to head off Russian aircraft, figures reveal.
They are being scrambled to repel the 1,380mph Tu160 Blackjack and Tu95 Bear bombers.
The RAF's elite 'Quick Reaction Alert' force is being called into action following the Kremlin's growing tendency to flex its muscles and test Western response times to its increasingly aggressive incursions.
Tornado F3 fighters from 111 Squadron based atin Fife and Typhoon F2s - also known as - from in Lincolnshire are on 24-hour standby.
The revelations come after the RAF was forced to axe the number of Tornado training flights in a bid to save £80,000 a month on fuel and other costs.
Defence chiefs admitted in March that RAF warplanes were scrambled no fewer than 20 times last year to warn off Russian bombers.
But the latest statistics, revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, uncover the true extent of Russian premier Vladimir Putin's sabre-rattling.
International experts believe the missions are an attempt by Russia to re-assert itself as a superpower after crippling budget cuts forced it to scrap the flights in the 1990s.
The supersonic Tu160, nicknamed the White Swan by its pilots, can carry up to 40tons of weapons including cruise or short-range nuclear missiles.
Mr Putin, himself a former Blackjack pilot, is suspected of ordering the training missions to the fringes of UK airspace.
Now the RAF has released a series of dramatic pictures taken by British airmen who tracked a Blackjack warplane for four hours as it snaked along the Outer Hebrides.
British fighter pilots intercepted the Russians in international airspace near , on the Isle of Lewis, and took photographs of the planes in the dawn light.
The two Tornados shadowed the bombers forbefore they turned away.
An RAF spokesman said that the revival of the training runs was not seen as a threat.
But Matthew Clements, Eurasia analyst of Jane's Defence News, said: 'Although ostensibly these are for training purposes they also provide Russia with a symbolic show that it is able to project its power beyond its own borders.'
Defence aviation analyst Mike Gething said: 'Each side is doing what it's supposed to do: they're training.
'The Russians have got a bomber force that they need to train, and they like long flights to this part of the world.
'But make no mistake - when those aircraft meet one another each side is taking pictures and monitoring radio conversations, and other emissions, from each other's aircraft.
'It's an intelligence-gathering exercise as much as a training exercise.'
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy said: 'It's just training flights - nothing more than that.
'As any other country, Russia has the right to conduct patrol flights in the international airspace-strictly abiding by the corresponding international regulations.
'Russian strategic aircraft have never entered into sovereign UK airspace or that of other states.'