RAF brings back Cold War emergency drills over Russia surprise attack fears

The Royal Air Force is to reinstate a Cold War training amid the threat from Russia, the service's chief clams.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said he wants the RAF to relearn skills not practised for 30 years, and to carry out a series of "no-notice" scatter drills called Exercise Agile Stance.

During the drills, fighter jets will be ordered to disperse, meaning they leave their bases to land at civilian airfields or even on motorways. The more spread out they are, the harder the target is for enemies.

Speaking to the Telegraph, ACM Wigston said fixed RAF bases would be as vulnerable to a surprise attack in any future conflict as US forces had been when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

The Chief claims that over the last 15 years Russia has been forcing military leaders to be innovative in the face of an increasing threat.

"We'll be relearning how to disperse," he said, adding that if "the arsenal [of advanced cruise missiles] Putin has been bragging about" were moved to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, "we'd be in range".

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He added: "I'm not interested in paving over Lincolnshire again and there will be the challenge of having armed aircraft on civilian airfields.

"Instead of two bases if all my Typhoons were on 12 bases, that's a harder target. We should look at this as a national challenge and look at the wealth of airstrips we have in the UK.

"It sounds a bit Cold War-ey, but we have a pressing requirement to remember how to do it."

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No civilian airfields have yet been identified.

Larger airports such as Heathrow and Glasgow would be unlikely locations, but smaller sites such as Teesside, Southend and Liverpool are possible.

The practice of landing jets on motorways, such as Jaguar fighters used to do in the Cold War, could also be an option, ACM Wigston said.

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