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Quick Reaction Alert, known colloquially as QRA, is state of readiness and modus operandi of air defence maintained at all hours of the day by NATO, mainly involving the Royal Air Force (RAF).

Some non-NATO countries also maintain QRA, although not necessarily full-time. These include Switzerland, Sweden and Austria.[1][2]

A QRA Typhoon from XI Sqn at Coningsby escorts a Russian Bear (Tupolev Tu-95) in August 2008


QRA in the United Kingdom

Pilots on QRA duty are at immediate readiness twenty-four hours a day fully dressed in the Aircrew Ready Room, which are next to the hangars (a hardened aircraft shelter known informally as Q-sheds) which houses the interceptor aircraft, since 2007 the Eurofighter Typhoon. Pilots are on QRA duty around once or twice a month, each a twenty-four-hour shift. Two Typhoon aircraft are on duty, each with two 2,000 litre drop tanks, four Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAM), and four AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles.

RRH Benbecula in June 2004

Civilian aircraft in the UK are monitored by NATS Holdings at:

  • Swanwick, Hampshire with the London Area Control Centre and London Terminal Control Centre (at RAF West Drayton until 2007), broadly known as the London Air Traffic Control Centre, which covers the London Flight Information Region (EGTT). The RAF have a team at Swanwick.
  • Prestwick, which covers the Scotland Flight Information Region (EGPX) which is north of the Solway Firth.

RRH Staxton Wold in May 2009

Military radar in the UK is controlled by the UK Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS),[3] looked after by ASACS Force Command.[4] It has Remote Radar Heads (RRH) at:

  • RRH Benbecula on the Outer Hebrides
  • RRH Buchan off the A90 south of Peterhead
  • RRH Brizlee Wood in Denwick, Northumberland (west of RAF Boulmer) three miles directly west of Alnwick in Hulne Park
  • RRH Staxton Wold off the B1249 in Willerby in the east of North Yorkshire; the Yorkshire Wolds Way passes next to it.
  • RRF Neatishead at Trimingham on the Norfolk coast
  • RRH Portreath in Cornwall

The radars were Type 93, and are being replaced by the Lockheed Martin AN/FPS-117 system.

QRA response

Air traffic across Europe is controlled by Eurocontrol in Brussels. Military aircraft from Russia can be tracked across Norway, and reported to the Norwegian Joint Headquarters near Bodø, or the Combined Air Operations Centre 2 (CAOC UE) in Uedem, North Rhine-Westphalia close to the border with The Netherlands. The Russian Tu-95 Bear aircraft originate from the Olenya base on the Kola Peninsula and the Tu-160 Blackjack aircraft come from the Engels-2 base near Saratov.

A QRA response involves the fighter aircraft being scrambled to investigate an infringement of the NATO country's airspace. This may also be a civilian aircraft that poses a threat, if not sufficiently responding to air traffic control (ATC); incidents of this nature in the UK are monitored by the Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) at RAF Boulmer, which builds a 3D Recognised Air Picture and RAF Air Command, if notified, decides whether to send a QRA response.

A QRA Tornado F3 of 111 Sqn at Leuchars intercepting a Russian Blackjack Tupolev Tu-160 flying west of Stornoway on 10 March 2010

QRA RAF stations

Currently there are two QRA RAF stations, of 1 Group.


Quick Reaction Alert is the current development from scrambling by RAF Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain.

United Kingdom

QRA North was moved from RAF Leuchars to RAF Lossiemouth on 1 September 2014.

2012 Olympics

To cover the security for the 2012 Summer Olympics, part of QRA South was briefly moved from RAF Coningsby to RAF Northolt.

Typhoon of 3 Sqn intercepts a Russian Flanker Sukhoi Su-27 over the Baltic states on 17 June 2014

See also


  1. Fiona Lombardi; The Swiss Air Power: Wherefrom? Whereto?, vdf Hochschulverlag AG, 2007, Page 95.[1]
  2. Georg Mader; "Austria further reduces QRA capabilities", Air Platforms, Jane's 360, IHS, 21 August 2014.[2]
  3. ASACS
  4. ASACS Force Command
  5. QRA North September 2014

External links

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