A Russian spy plane, an Antonov An-30 military surveillance aircraft, was photographed hovering closely above a hi-tech NATO monitoring station in East Lancashire, UK. The sighting arouses panic among local government officials. The timing of the sighting was especially suspicious now that tensions between Russia and NATO have escalated in a level only seen during the Cold War era.
Russian spy plane flew 30 miles from NATO monitoring station
Photographer Steve Bradley saw the Russian spy plane flying strangely low over the weekend.
“It was a bit scary to be honest. I just saw it flying pretty low and wondered: ‘Should that really be here? My wife was in the kitchen and I just grabbed the camera and took a few pictures. I was dumbfounded,” Bradley told the Lancashire Telegraph.
“Afterwards I looked up the number on the underside of the plane and that confirmed it was a military jet. I suppose some Russian planes must be allowed here but I imagine it’s pretty rare,” he said.
Local MPs were suspicious
Local MPs Andrew Stephenson and Nigel Evans were both suspicious about the Russian spy hovering over NATO station. The timing becomes highly questionable now that tensions between NATO and Russia have escalated.
“I am very concerned about this Russian spy-plane being in East Lancashire’s skies so close to Menwith Hill and BAE Systems military aircraft division factories in the county. Tensions have been rising with Russian aircraft escorted away from our airspace,” Stephenson said.
“I am very concerned and will be tabling written questions to ministers on this flight and whether we should look again at the agreement in the light of recent cases of Russian military aircraft and ships coming close to our shores,” Evans said.
UK Ministry down plays sighting of Russian spy plane
The Antonov An-30 military surveillance craft was flying in the British skies under an international agreement called the Open Skies, UK Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
Open Skies came into force in January 2002 with 34 signatory nations, including Russia and UK. The agreement allows unarmed surveillance flights over the territory of all its participating country. Aircraft flown under Open Skies always have representatives onboard from the countries involved. In this case, the Antonov 30 has RAF representative onboard.
Pilot Officer Leo Collins, working for the Arms Control and Counter Proliferation team, was on the flight.
“The flight in question was pretty routine. The route was first pre-approved by the MOD and RAF and then flown as per the flight plan. Such sorties are commonplace, reciprocal and have been going on for many years. Indeed, at the same time as we were hosting the Russians, representatives from the RAF were conducting a similar flight over Russia,” Collins said in a statement.
“The opportunity to observe each others’ territories is invaluable for transparency and the development of international trust between nations. In addition, aside from observing their work in the sky, we also get to interact professionally and to learn more about the culture of the nation in question; in this instance interacting with our Russian counterparts,” Collins explained.
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