LONDON, England -- New photos released this week show British air force jets shadowing Russian bombers over the North Atlantic Ocean in scenes that echo the Cold War and highlight Moscow's growing assertiveness.
A British Royal Air Force Typhoon F2 fighter plane (left) encounters a Russian Bear-H bomber over the Atlantic.
The images from Britain's Ministry of Defence show an encounter outside British airspace last Friday between the Royal Air Force's (RAF) new Typhoon F2 aircraft and one of several Russian Bear-H bombers.
The incident comes as Moscow seeks to raise its military profile. The encounter happened on the same day that Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, announced it was to resume the Soviet-era practice of continuous long-range bomber patrols on a permanent basis.
The move is regarded by analysts as one of several signs of growing Russian assertiveness.
Also Tuesday Putin announced plans to revive Russia's aviation industry after more than a decade of post-Soviet under-funding, Reuters said.
Opening the MAKS-2007 airshow at the Zhukovsky airbase, east of Moscow, Putin said that "Russia ... faces the task of maintaining supremacy in producing military aircraft", according to the agency.
Reuters said Putin made his comments as a formation of two dozen warplanes, civilian craft and helicopters roared past at the event, which is intended as a mark of the nation's aviation ambitions. "The show presents the unique potential of our country," the agency quoted him as saying.
The British jets, from Number XI Squadron and on their first mission since becoming the UK's new reaction force, cover the southern part of England and were launched from RAF Coningsby, in Lincolnshire, eastern England, according to the Ministry of Defence.
The encounter in the skies was not the first this year between the UK and Russia. In July, two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers made unusually long sorties over the North Sea, leading Norway and Britain to scramble fighter jets to follow them. Russia's air force said later it was a routine flight.
And earlier this month Russian air force generals said bomber crews had flown near the Pacific island of Guam, where the U.S. military has a base. U.S. planes were scrambled to track them.
Last week White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said he did not believe the flights posed a threat to the United States.
"Militaries around the world engage in a variety of activities, so this is not entirely surprising," he said.
The encounters follow growing rifts during the past 12 months between Russia and the West on issues including Kosovo, energy, and Moscow's treatment of its ex-Soviet neighbors.
Earlier this year Putin caused a stir by saying Russian missiles would again be aimed at European targets if the U.S. persisted with plans to build a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Tensions between the two countries later cooled after compromise talks between Putin and U.S. President George Bush.
And the UK and Russia have engaged in tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions of diplomats after Russia refused to allow the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, a former security service agent turned businessman. Lugovoi is accused by the British authorities of the radiation poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London last year, a charge Lugovoi has denied. E-mail to a friend
Reuters contributed to this report.