THE RAF has revealed why a huge jet plane was circling in the skies over Herefordshire on Thursday.

The Airbus Voyager is the RAF's sole air-to-air refuelling tanker and was spotted circling over the east of the county.

A flight tracker app showed the aircraft's flightpath, as it circled over Bromyard, Ledbury and Malvern, just over the border in Worcestershire, on October 14.

The Ministry of Defence has now revealed the reason for the unusual flightpath, saying the RAF Voyager had suffered a bird strike, and after an initial assessment returned to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

"We can confirm one of our aircraft was involved in a bird strike over the west of the UK while conducting routine training," a spokesperson said.

"An initial assessment was carried out and the aircraft returned safely to RAF Brize Norton.

"No fuel was dumped and there was no damage to the aircraft or injury to anyone onboard."

The bird strike came just a day after the Voyager was involved in a mission to intercept Russian bombers.

Two armed Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter jets intercepted the Russian bombers which were operating near UK airspace.

A quick reaction alert (QRA) was launched from Leuchars Station in Fife on Wednesday morning in response to the two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, which had been detected by Nato air defence radars.

Fighters from the Royal Norwegian Air Force – Luftforsvaret F-16s, from Bodo Airbase – had initially intercepted and identified the Russian aircraft as they headed south.

As the Russian Blackjacks approached the UK area of interest, a Voyager Multi-Role Tanker Transport was also launched from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

RAF QRA Typhoons were scrambled from their temporary Leuchars base to intercept the Russian planes.

Hereford Times:

One of two Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Typhoons that were scrambled from Leuchars Station in Fife on Wednesday morning to intercept two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers that were detected by NATO air defence radars. Picture: SAC Sian Stephens/MOD/PA Wire

As the Blackjacks returned north, they were handed back over to the Norwegian fighters while the RAF Typhoons returned to their permanent home at Lossiemouth, Moray.

One of the Typhoon pilots involved in the mission said: “We worked closely with units from around the Royal Air Force to deliver another successful intercept, maintaining the safety and integrity of UK and Nato airspace throughout.

“The Control and Reporting Centre at RAF Scampton routed us directly to the Tu-160 Blackjacks so that we could take over the mission from our Norwegian allies.

“Air to air refuelling from an RAF Voyager ensured we were able to stay on task until the two Blackjacks departed from the UK’s area of interest.”