RAF fighter pilots have been given the all clear SHOOT DOWN Russian planes if they come under attack while carrying out missions over Iraq.
The shocking order has been given as it emerges British ministers have warned Russia is making the situation in the Middle East “much more dangerous”.
RAF jets will be armed with advanced short range air-to-air missiles and British and Nato pilots have been told to fight for their lives if they are fired upon by Vladimir Putin’s air force.
Senior defence sources said British fighters are likely to be involved in a deadly air battle with Russian aircraft sooner rather than later.
Speaking to the Daily Star Sunday, a source said: “We need to protect our pilots but at the same time we’re taking a step closer to war. It will only take one plane to be shot down in an air-to-air battle and the whole landscape will change.”
The RAF Tornados will each carry up to four supersonic weapons that cost £200,000 each and are capable of blasting any aircraft out of the sky.
The missiles can fly at three times the speed of sound – 2,300 miles an hour – and lock onto their targets using an infrared heat seeker.
Each one is filled with 22lb of high explosives and can be programmed to blow up upon impact or a certain distance from its target.
Defence chiefs believe there is a real possibility a British jet could be attacked or shot down in a dogfight with a Russian pilot.
A second source said: “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.
RAF crews have dropped more than 250 bombs on Islamic State (ISIS) targets in Iraq.
He said it was “illogical” to attack Islamic State fighters in Iraq but not in Syria.