Royal Air Force jets were scrambled to intercept nuclear-capable Russian bombers over the North Atlantic.
The aircraft were scrambled after two Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers were spotted approaching UK airspace near the Shetland islands on Thursday morning.
The bombers flew from the northeast and passed along the west of Ireland and France before turning around before reaching the Spanish coast.
A Royal Air Force spokesman said:
"We can confirm that quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby scrambled to monitor two Blackjack bombers while they were in the UK area of interest. At no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK territorial airspace."
The French airforce said in a separate statement that it scrambled two Mirage fighters as the bombers approached Brittany after passing Ireland.
A Spanish F-18 fighter joined the escort over the Bay of Biscay before the Russian aircraft turned around and returned north on the same route.
The RAF says it scrambles jets in response to probing flights by Russian aircraft several times a year.
Tu-160 Blackjacks are supersonic strategic bombers designed to carry both nuclear and conventional bombs. Since 2015 Blackjacks flying from bases in Russia have taken part in long-range bombing missions over Syria.
In September last year Norwegian, British, French, and Spanish fighters were scrambled in succession when two Blackjacks flew from the Arctic to the Bay of Biscay.
- Originally published in Telegraph UK