THREE TYPHOON PILOTS at RAF Lossiemouth whose names are being withheld for security reasons have been awarded ’10 BEAR’ patches after achieving that number of intercepts of Russian military aircraft.
Although the ‘Bear’ reference is in relation to the Tu-95 BEAR aircraft frequently intercepted by the Moray-based QRA force, the interception of any Russian aircraft counts towards the award.
Lossie’s air and ground crews rotate through Quick Reaction Alert (Intercept) – QRA(I), or just ‘Q’ for short – on a regular basis from the Moray airbase.
In Spring 2015 the resident 6 Squadron also took part in Operation AZOTIZE, deploying to the Baltic states as part of NATO’s ongoing air policing activity to protect Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia airspace from probing Russian aircraft.
As a result of both activities, the Cold War tradition of awarding a flying suit patch to reflect an individual’s tally of ten such intercepts has been revived after over 25 years.
Similar patches were last worn by F-4 Phantom pilots and navigators when they stood ‘Q’ from RAF Leuchars in Fife. Phantom crews at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire and RAF Wattisham, Suffolk also received the patches, although their southerly locations meant that they sometimes took longer to ‘bag’ the required number of intercepts as Northern QRA(I) and Leuchars bore the brunt of the work.
Lossiemouth’s station commander, Group Captain Mark Chappell, posted images on Twitter this week of the new ’10 BEAR’ patches, depicting a suitable furry beast placed upon a Typhoon over the RAF’s tartan.