RAF jets have been scrambled more than 50 times in six years to intercept Russian military aircraft, it has been revealed.

Obtained through a Freedom of Information request, the figures show there were 102 incidents of Quick Response Aircraft (QRA) being launched between 2010 and 2015.

It comes after two Russian bombers were escorted by RAF jets off the Southampton coastline in the English Channel last year.

As previously reported, one of them was equipped with a missile capable of carrying a “seek-and-find” nuclear weapon.

The pair of 92-ton 500mph Tupolev Tu-95 bombers - nicknamed the Bear - encroached too close to Britain in a highly-unusual manouevre sparking an international incident.

The two bombers did not enter UK airspace but flew in a highly unusual route past the west coast of Ireland before turning east through the Channel.

A pair of RAF jets from Lossiemouth in Scotland escorted them on their flight before ensuring that they returned using the same route.

The Ministry of Defence data indicates 50 of these launches, just under half, were in response to Russian jets - reaching a peak of 10 incidents in 2011 and nine in 2012.

In 2013, 2014 and last year, these instances dropped down to eight. The remaining 52 launches were as a result of civilian aircraft in UK airspace that were causing concern to air traffic controllers.

Typhoon fighter squadrons and QRA are launched to intercept unidentified aircraft when they cannot be identified by other means.

The MoD said during those six years: “All Russian military aircraft remained in international airspace and did not enter UK sovereign airspace.

“The civil aircraft that were causing concern were registered in a range of countries, including those registered in the United Kingdom.”

They said that not all launches resulted in interception, as identification issues were sometimes resolved before that occurred.

A senior RAF source said defending UK airspace and the UK's area of interest within the Nato Policing Area, day in and day out, is “what you pay us for”.

“This is what we have been doing since the start of the Cold War - Russian long range aviation regularly flies into our area of responsibility, when they do we intercept and then escort them until they go home again.”

“It is all posturing,” he added. “One could argue it is their way of saying we are still here, we are still powerful - look at us. They are just reminding the allied Nato nations that they haven't gone away.”

And it is not just RAF jets having to deal with encroaching Russian aircraft.

At the end of last month, Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned Moscow that it will “endure the consequences” if its jets continued to enter the country’s airspace.

The warning came just two months after Turkey shot down a Russian jet crossing over its territory for 17 seconds - despite repeated warnings.

Russia insists the plane never entered Turkish airspace. One pilot and a Russian marine who was part of the rescue party were killed in the incident.

Dr Igor Sutyagin, a Russian analyst at the Royal United Service Institute, said there are two main reasons why the Kremlin stray so close to UK and Nato airspace.

“Firstly, they are sending political messages - that is the main goal,'' he said.

“Secondly is military and technical - it is the ability to check the response and procedures. The combination of the two is probably why the Kremlin sends bombers.”

He also said that Russian jets flying close to Turkey, might be “an attempt to divide Turkey from the rest of Nato - to frighten the Nato allies”.

And that similar action towards Baltic airspace and the Black Sea, where 22 jets were intercepted in July in three different areas, was, he said: “A demonstration of the determination to act without taking account of what Nato thinks.”

A spokesperson from the Russian Embassy in London previously said: “Nato tactical aviation sorties near Russian borders more than doubled in 2014” - reaching a peak at 3000.

Of their military training exercises, they added: ''Russian pilots are training under strict orders to follow the requirements of international and national laws and rules.

“The flights take place over uninhabited areas, mostly open seas, without violating the state borders.

"The Russian aircraft are constantly shadowed by Nato fighters. Russia respects all international and national restrictions, imposed on such activity.”