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Rishi Sunak vowed to do “whatever it takes” to keep Britain safe as the military was put on standby to shoot down Chinese spy balloons. The Prime Minister said RAF Typhoon jets were ready to act immediately to “police our airspace”.
US fighter jets shot down an “unidentified object” over Lake Huron on Sunday – the fourth object to enter US or Canadian airspace in just over a week.
Ministers admitted it is “possible” that spy balloons have already crossed over the UK.
Mr Sunak said: “I want people to know that we will do whatever it takes to keep the country safe.
“We have something called the quick reaction alert force which involves Typhoon planes, which are kept on 24/7 readiness to police our airspace, which is incredibly important.
“I can’t obviously comment in detail on national security matters, but we are in constant touch with
The UK’s quick reaction alert force, tasked with guarding British airspace, uses the Typhoon FGR4.
They are stationed at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, and at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
Radar sites across the UK and civilian air traffic information are used to determine whether there is a sufficient threat to the country’s airspace before the jets are scrambled by RAF air command. Typhoons have a 36ft wingspan and can fly at a maximum speed of approaching twice the speed of sound. They have a maximum altitude of 55,000ft.
The jet is armed with a series of weapons, including air-to-air missiles, according to the RAF.
On February 4, President Joe Biden gave the go-ahead for the US military to down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast after it travelled over sensitive military sites across North America.
Almost a week later on Friday, they shot down an unknown “car-sized” object flying in US airspace off the coast of Alaska. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Saturday that he ordered a warplane to shoot down an unidentified object that had been flying high over northern Canada.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has launched a security review.
Downing Street said that the UK was “well prepared” to deal with security threats to British airspace, with threats judged on a “case-by-case” basis.
The US military has refused to rule out the possibility of “aliens” as a reason for the unidentified objects in its airspace.
No 10 insisted the Prime Minister is more concerned with “terrestrial-based issues like cancer diagnostics”.
Senior MPs criticised the Government for allowing Erkin Tuniyaz, the governor of Xinjiang province, to visit the UK this week despite the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in his region.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the UK must sanction the governor and urged the PM to stop “kowtowing” to China.
Mr Sunak’s spokesman said China’s status will be assessed when the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy is carried out.
The work will determine how much of a threat foreign states pose and what action the UK should take to prepare.
“China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests,” the spokesman said. “It is a challenge that grows more acute
as it moves to even greater authoritarianism.
“You will know we are updating the Integrated Review and it will take into account some of these evolving challenges we are seeing.”
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, said China was “exploiting the West’s weakness” with the potential spy balloons.
The former defence minister said: “I think this is a testament as to where China is going.
“It is interpreting our wobbly international rules-based order to its own benefit.”
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