ONE of the Russian bombers that sparked a military operation when flying over the channel off Southampton was carrying a nuclear capable missile, it has been revealed.

The pair of 92-ton 500mph Tupolev Tu-95 bombers - nicknamed the Bear - encroached too close to Britain on Wednesday in a highly-unusual manoeuvre.

RAF Typhoon jets from Lossiemouth in Scotland were scrambled to deal with the incident, the likes of which an RAF expert said had not been seen for at least three decades.

Daily Echo:

Ministry of Defence sources have now revealed that one of the bombers was carrying at least one “seek and find” nuclear-capable missile, it has been reported.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, New Forest MP and House of Commons Defence Committee member Julian Lewis said it was “blindingly obvious” that Russia was trying to send a signal with the manoeuvre.

He said: “This is part of a sort of war of nerves and as is pointed out, relations between Russia and the UK are very low, partly because of the Litvenenko affair where you have a state-sponsored assassination in public in our capital city using a method which put at risk all sorts of people besides the intended target.”

The planes did not cross into UK airspace but Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko was summoned to the UK on Friday after the exercise.

An RAF spokesman told the Daily Echo: “The only unusual thing about [the incident] was that they flew past Ireland and along the Channel - we encounter aircraft on a regular basis and generally you see them to the north of the UK and in the North Sea.”