British RAF fighter pilots were told that any hostile Russian planes could be shot down. It’s a “green light” that concerns everyone – but the policy change is for RAF jets in Iraq, not Syria, where Russia is operating. However, one trigger-happy pilot could start something everyone would regret.
“The first thing a British pilot will do is to try to avoid a situation where an air-to-air attack is likely to occur — you avoid an area if there is Russian activity…. But if a pilot is fired on or believes he is about to be fired on, he can defend himself. We now have a situation where a single pilot, irrespective of nationality, can have a strategic impact on future events.” unidentified source from the UK’s Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ)
The green light that could be a lit match
The UK’s Sunday Times was the first to report the change in RAF policy. They wrote,
RAF Tornados bombing Isis targets in Iraq are to be armed with air-to-air missiles to protect them from attack by Russian aircraft — as a senior cabinet minister warned that Britain was prepared to shoot down Vladimir Putin’s jets.
Combat aircraft involved in Operation Shader over Iraq will be fitted with Asraam heat-seeking missiles, which can destroy any military aircraft flying today.
A senior defence source said: “Up till now RAF Tornados have been equipped with 500lb satellite-guided bombs — there has been no or little air-to-air threat. But in the last week the situation has changed. We need to respond accordingly.”
Asraam missiles are heat-seeking, Advanced Short Range Air-to Air Missiles (AIM-132). They are specifically designed for air-to-air combat. Each weapon can fly about 2,300 miles per hour. They cost about $306,820 each. Expensive and deadly.
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For its part, Russia was concerned enough to demand a clarification:
“We are concerned by media reports as far as they refer to senior members of the Cabinet. We urgently requested UK Foreign Office’s clarifications. At the same time, the hypothesis itself of a potential conflict between British and Russian aircraft in the skies over Iraq is incomprehensible. As it is known, the Russian jets are not involved in attacks on ISIL targets on its [Iraqi] territory.” Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador in the UK
It only takes a spark
It is highly unlikely that the RAF fighters and Russian planes will cross paths over Iraq. The pilots have been told to avoid Russian planes at all costs. But the RAF arming their planes with Asraam missiles is disconcerting.
“No one knows what the Russians will do next. We don’t know how they will respond if they come into contact with a Western jet…When planes are flying at supersonic speeds the airspace gets crowded very quickly. There could be a collision or a Russian pilot might be mistakenly shot down…” unnamed source to The Star.
As with many incidents during the cold war, it only took one fool to start a problem. If the nations knew how close WWIII was during that period of time, they would have a heart attack. With every tick of the clock, we march closer and closer to disaster. It literally will only take a spark.
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