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Huge sonic boom heard over Cambridge

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A huge boom has been heard in the skies over Cambridge and is reported to have shaken buildings.

The RAF has confirmed that the noise was a sonic boom caused by one of their Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon aircraft intercepting a civilian plane that has lost communications.

An RAF spokesman said: “The RAF can confirm Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon aircraft were launched this afternoon from RAF Coningsby to intercept a civilian aircraft that had lost communications; subsequently, communications were re-established, the aircraft was intercepted and safely escorted to Stansted. The Typhoon aircraft were authorised to transit at supersonic speed for operational reasons.”

Many residents have reported on social media hearing the bang at around 1pm today (Tuesday, January 12). And one doorbell camera actually recorded the sound.

The aircraft were scrambled from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire on what is known as a quick reaction alert (QRA).

They flew over Cambridge, Saffron Walden, Bishop's Stortford and disappeared from radar over Sawbridgeworth at around 1.10pm after communication problems were reported with a Bombardier Global Express business jet, operated by FAI Aviation Group, en route from Nuremberg in Germany to Birmingham.

Earlier today, RAF Lakenheath confirmed that the boom was not created by one of their jets.

A spokesperson said: “We have looked into this. We know that two RAF Typhoons are in the air but we have reason to believe they are not ours.”

A sonic boom is caused by shock waves created when an object travels through the air faster than the speed of sound. RAF Typhoons can fly at 1,550 miles per hour (2,495km).

Quick reaction Alert QRA is a routine part of the RAF’s air defence role to protect UK airspace.

The RAF’s (QRA) aircraft are held at immediate readiness to protect the United Kingdom and can take off within minutes.

The RAF explains that QRA are launched to intercept unidentified aircraft because the aircraft cannot be identified by any other means. i.e. the aircraft is not talking to civilian or military Air Traffic Control, has not filed a flight plan and / or is not transmitting a recognisable secondary surveillance radar code.

They add that the paramount duty of the RAF is to control the air over the UK and, when necessary, UK interests overseas. Their multi-role Typhoon fighter squadrons are completing QRA duties from RAF Coningsby (Lincolnshire), RAF Lossiemouth (Scotland) and in the Falkland Islands.

In the UK, under the direction of their Air Battlespace Controllers at RAF Boulmer (Northumberland) and RAF Scampton (Lincolnshire) their fighters can be scrambled to intercept, identify and, if required, intervene aircraft approaching our shores.

QRA procedures entail RAF aircraft and crews being held at continuous high readiness 24/7, so that they can take off within minutes to protect UK / NATO sovereign airspace. In the UK and the FI the RAF hold a continuous ground readiness posture. Fighter aircraft are available at each base all day every day allowing them to provide a rapid response to any possible incident or threat.

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