Four fighter jets drew eyes to the skies across the north of England this morning – as they took part in the biggest ever UK-French training mission.

The four aircraft sighted in formation – two French AF Rafales and two Typhoons from RAF Leeming – were believed to be heading towards Wales.

Aircraft including Typhoon and Rafale jets have operated from RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, in the past.

The dramatic flyover was witnessed by residents in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

The RAF fly with their French counterparts on an earlier exercise

Video thumbnail, RAF and French jets fly together (from 2013)
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It is understood the RAF fighters were part of Exercise Griffin Strike, now in the penultimate day of its two-week span.

A combined training exercise between UK and French forces – dubbed the Combined UK and French Joint Expeditionary Force – more than 5,000 personnel are involved.

Aviation enthusiast David White said: “Perhaps they were flying further south than they usually would because there is so much US military action going on down south ahead of Obama’s visit today.”

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The operation has involved major activity on land, sea and in the air in a demonstration of the force’s full power in case coalition action is needed.

It was formed in 2010 by the Lancaster House Treaty – enabling UK and France to deploy forces rapidly to conflict zones ahead of a wider NATO or other operation – or to meet peace-keeping, disaster relief or humanitarian needs.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “This joint force will combine the might of two of the world’s biggest militaries, backed by our rising defence budget.

“It will enable us to deploy rapidly with our French allies, helping to keep Britain safe while contributing to security in the world.”

A Eurofighter Typhoon jet

French Defence Secretary Jean-Yves Le Drian said: “France and the UK share common security interests. In order to face high level domestic and international threats it is now more than important to continue to strengthen our operational cooperation between our two countries.”

Aircraft including Typhoon and Rafale jets have operated from RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, while at sea warships including HMS Ocean, Bulwark and Duncan will work off the south and west coast of England with French ships including FS Dixmude, FS Cassard and FF La Motte Piquet.

On Salisbury Plain the Army’s 3(UK) Division and French 7th Mechanised Brigade including paratroopers, armoured units and infantrymen, have worked together.

At the same time, more than 3,400 NATO troops from across Europe and the US are taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior, mostly off the coast of Scotland.