As the US officially enters the Yemen military campaign, the UK appears ready and willing to precipiate a catalytic event from which there is no going back. With relations between Russia and the West at post-Cold War lows and deteriorating fast, Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots have been given the go-ahead to shoot down Russian military jets when flying missions over Syria and Iraq, if they are endangered by them. The development comes with warnings that the UK and Russia are now “one step closer” to being at war, according to the Sunday Times.
While the RAF’s Tornado pilots have been instructed to avoid contact with Russian aircraft while engaged in missions for Operation Shader, the codename for the RAF’s anti-Isis work in Iraq and Syria, their aircraft have been armed with air-to-air missiles and the pilots have been given the green light to defend themselves if they are threatened by Russian pilots.
“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,” an unidentified source from the UK’s Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) told the Sunday Times. “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.”
Where things get tricky is the qualifier “if he believes he is about to be fired on” – since this makes open engagement a function of threat evaluation in real time during stressed conditions, the likelihood of an escalation that could result in two warplanes shooting at each other, just jumped significantly. Read more